Deep Tissue Massage: What is it and do I need it?

by Candice Reimholz | 7 Comments

It seems like people who call to get a massage fall into 2 camps: those who want a deep tissue massage, and those that are afraid of it. I have heard a lot of interesting stories of people getting a massage on vacation and barely being able to move the next day. Or people who think they should be sore for a week after a massage “if it’s a good one”. Well I think it is time we went over what Deep Tissue Massage (DTM) is, and when it is indicated.

Deep Tissue Massage: What is it, and do I need it?

What is DTM:

Muscles are layered on top of each other and over lap. Some muscles are right on the surface like your rectus abdominis (six pack ab muscles), and some are much deeper in the body like your Psoas muscle (deep hip flexor). So a DTM implies that the therapist is not just working on the superficial musculature, but reaching layers of muscle and fascia (connective tissue) further below the surface.

The Problem with DTM:

There is absolutely a time and a place for DTM, the problem is that everyone has a different idea of what this means. Some therapists go after deep fascial layers, some therapists think this means trigger point work, and some just increase pressure as much as they can. If the client and therapist don’t have an open dialogue with clear instructions of when ‘enough is enough’, the client can experience a lot of discomfort and we don’t want that.

Does it have to hurt:

No. Bottom line, massage should never hurt if you don’t want it to. Some clients specifically say that they do not want to be in pain, and that should be respected. However, there are certain techniques that might cause discomfort. If the client and therapist communicate and agree on increased pressure, you can incorporate these deeper or more aggressive techniques into the massage. They can cause a little pain at the time, and a little bit of soreness the next day. I like to compare it to how you feel after a good workout. A good Massage Therapist will also be very skilled at warming and softening the tissue layer by layer to decrease the amount of pain felt by the client.

When is DTM suggested:

DTM can be useful to those that are recovering from an injury (once the client/patient is out of the acute phase), for athletes, for people with postural strains, or people with chronic pain. Typically there is an area or a few areas where this type of work is needed. For example, a person who has chronic postural pain/tightness from sitting at a computer, might need DTM to their shoulders, chest, and upper back/neck. They likely, do not need DTM on their whole body. Some therapists might disagree with me here, but I rarely think a full-body, DTM, is needed. It can simply be too much. I would rather see a client more often, for less-intense sessions. It is simply more effective. It is the same as Physical Therapy- it is more effective to do it regularly.

Why Massage is good for everyone:

Massage Therapy, whether Swedish, DTM, Trigger Point, or Clinical, is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Not only does Massage decrease pain, it improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, improves sleep quality, decreases stress, and simply makes you happy!

If you are unsure what type of massage is right for you, call a Massage Therapist and ask. A good massage therapist should be able to discuss your goals, ask the right questions, and come up with a treatment plan that everyone is comfortable with.

If you would like to learn more from an Athletico physical therapist, please use the button below to request an appointment!

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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7 Comments

  1. Gayle Tabor

    I totally enjoy deep tissue massage because it gets to the trigger points and where you are actually having discomfort.
    Does Medicare and Medicare Supplement pay for these amenities because I would certainly your facilities for this. I am located near the Wheeling area.

  2. Candice Reimholz

    @Gayle- At Athletico we do not bill insurance directly for Massage Services, unless they are a part of your Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy treatment plan. On its own, Massage is fee-for-service. We would be more than happy to provide you with a receipt that you could use to submit for reimbursement. We have a Massage Therapist in Glenview and in Buffalo Grove- they are both awesome!

  3. Haws Deborah

    Can I have the name of the massage person in Buffalo Grove, Il., since I live close by and I suffer constantly from Trigger Points. At present, I am receiving P.T. for releasing them. Also, getting exercises for strengthening my chest and scapula areas to prevent them from reoccurring. I am constantly lifting heavy loads on a daily basis.

  4. Candice

    @Deborah- The massage therapist at Buffalo Grove is Andre and he is one of our most experienced therapists. You will be in good hands. Phone # is 847-215-0022. Thanks for reading!

  5. Kristine

    I am a massage therapist and its like god’s gift. Somehow similar to swedish massage but in deep massage, more focus is on releasing muscle tension.

  6. Tina

    At which Athletico locations do you offer massage therapy? I live near O’Hare. Is it at all locations? Thanks!

  7. Sharon Elleen

    Great article and very well explained. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Many thanks for your share.

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