Many people get a deep tissue massage to help relieve chronic aches and pain. Some feel the benefits of a deep tissue massage in minimizing lower back pain, releasing tension in a stiff neck, sore shoulders, upper back, or loosening tight muscles in their arms and legs.

It is widely assumed that if you want effective relief from muscle tension, deeper must be better.

What this ignores is that Swedish is not a lighter or a more superficial massage, although it may be taught as such at many schools.

Is Deep Tissue Massage Always the Best Option?

The false assumption underlying bad and common deep tissue work is that to get a great therapeutic effect, therapists need to apply a lot of massage pressure. This is false—in fact, it is as naïve as assuming that for music to be effective, it needs to be loud—because the relaxation of muscles is largely not a result of massage pressure; it is the result of the nervous system turning off the message for the muscle to be tight.

Not everyone should receive a deep tissue massage. It is the responsibility of the massage therapist to determine if a deep tissue massage is necessary by way of thorough health history and evaluation.

Massage therapy does not need to be ‘deep’ to be effective. Slow, careful, and properly applied techniques and treatment strategies that incorporate the patient’s values, treatment goals and the expertise of the massage therapist are all needed to achieve longer-lasting and beneficial therapeutic benefits.

Deep tissue massage is more than just a massage with deep pressure. The goals and techniques are different from a Swedish massage. While it may help with certain conditions, remember that massage doesn’t always have to hurt or make your body sore to be effective.

Moving beyond the belief that deep means effective while less-deep means superficial will help create a future in which the best possible results of massage therapy are realized—and that can only be good for massage clients, employers and therapists alike.

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