Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is the elixir of athletes across the globe, a therapy that has been used to fight the pain of muscle injury and wear for more than three thousand years. Indeed, modern anthropologists have found evidence of the treatment in artifacts and drawings from both ancient Egypt and China. Although it didn’t reach North America until the mid-nineteenth century, DTM has now become a widely-accepted therapy for many debilitating conditions.
Unlike some of the more common massage techniques, such as acupressure, or Swedish massage, each of which leverage a much lighter touch, deep tissue massage targets the muscle fascia and connecting tissues well below the surface of your skin, using slow, firm movements. When you go for a deep tissue massage, your therapist will position you comfortably on either your front or back, and then use cross-grain movements (moving across the muscles rather than along their length) to knead your muscle fibres, stimulating blood-flow, and releasing tension by ‘lengthening’ the strands.
Here are just a few of the more common uses of deep tissue massage:
- Pain. Two different studies have shown that DTM on its own can over-perform other types of massage and in some cases, even NSAIDs, in the treatment of pain. One of them, published in ‘Studies in Health Technology and Informatics’ tracked a group of patients suffering from lower back pain over a ten day period. Each day, half the subjects received thirty minutes of DTM, while half enjoyed a regular massage. The subjects who received DTM reported a significantly greater improvement versus those with regular massage.
- Stress. While the main purpose behind DTM is reducing pain and discomfort, the therapy also dramatically reduces psychological stress. The rhythmic pressure of the therapy triggers a natural lowering of cortisol, and a release of seratonin and oxytocin, often referred to as ‘happy drugs” for their ability to leave you feeling relaxed and euphoric. DTM helps the body heal itself.
- Blood pressure. Another study on the effects of DTM tracked more than 250 adults with severe muscle strain and found that DTM helps reduce diastolic, systolic and general arterial blood pressure. After an hour’s massage, the study subjects had substantial pressure reductions of 5.33mm/Hg, 10.4mm/Hg, and 7.7mm/Hg respectively. This is great news for everyone suffering from high blood pressure.
- Arthritis. There has been a significant amount of research which has shown that firm massages such as DTM can have a sizable impact on arthritic joint pain, stiffness, range of motion, and anxiety.
Of course, DTM is also a major contender in injury recovery and rehabilitation. Often referred to as ‘sports massage’, it is regularly used in all sorts of sports to limber up athletes’ bodies before games. A warm, loose body is much less likely to be injured. According to an article in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, use of DTM before an event helps stave off muscle fatigue and soreness, and can greatly affect the likelihood of an injury. Moreover, players have experienced enhanced confidence and an improved ability to focus. In high-stakes professional sports, that’s good news for coaches and players alike.