What is Deep Tissue Massage?

When I entered massage therapy practice a few years ago I started hearing a very puzzling term from advertising and from clients: deep tissue. Never in my two years of intensive study had I heard this term before. At first I just brushed it off as marketing. Boil that down, and really what people are really saying is ‘push harder’. I’ve since come to understand it as more than just a marketing buzz-word. It hints at the kind of experience a client is seeking.

No Pain, No Gain?

Sometimes people need a heavier hand. I’ve had clients who ask for very heavy pressure. Along this same thread, some tend to associate pain with progress. The adage ‘no pain no gain’ comes into play here. Navigating that can be tricky though, since it’s an RMT’s mandate to provide effective and SAFE treatment.

My clinical experience has shown me (many osteopaths might agree here) that pressing harder doesn’t always help in the short or long run. Our bodies react to what they experience. Connective tissue can toughen up from the kind of repeated micro-trauma consistently employed by some modalities like Rolfing or Systemic Deep Tissue Therapy. That’s why the use of deep pressure needs to be carefully and intentionally applied. I often find it necessary to use deeper techniques to treat the tightness that for instance runners, clerks or mail carriers have in their calves; however this needs to be followed up with cold over the area to reduce the resultant inflammation and soreness.

Together you and your RMT find what works to get you feeling better.

On the other hand, I have come to value when someone asks for a deep tissue massage because it tells me something about their needs and experiences. It’s an invitation to ask more. Have they had therapists in the past who didn’t give them the experience they were looking for? Are they very experienced and know what works for them?

Ultimately a therapist should approach every session with the intention to serve their client’s goals. Sometimes Deep Tissue is the right tool for that job, and sometimes it isn’t.