Deep Tissue Massage Definition
Massage, specifically “deep tissue,” is a certain style of massage therapy that concentrates on restoring the muscles and tissues found deep below the surface on the skin. Deep tissue massage can help manage chronic pain conditions where body aches and stiffness have developed. Major areas affected that benefit from deep tissue work are the back, shoulders and neck and leg muscles. Deep tissue massage does not wildly different from other forms of massage, like Swedish or classical, but the therapist will mainly use a greater pressure and slower stroke to focus on the areas of tension in order to work out the “knots” that develop in connective tissue and muscles.
In the fascia (connective tissue) massage therapists will be able to work out the rigidity, giving the client more flexibility. One session may not be enough, although the clients usually feel better after the initial treatment. Fascia knots can be blockages to circulation, and pain from injury can cause inflammation, as well as overcompensation from another limb or area.
It is best to relax and allow the therapist to be able to perform enough pressure to relieve areas of tension, although deep tissue work may sometimes feel painful if the area is too tender. Always verbalize to the massage therapist if it is too painful and they will adjust the pressure. After the massage there can be some soreness as well, which mostly is alleviated with ice on the area.
The nature of deep tissue will focus on a problematic area or issue, such as injury or chronic conditions including:
- Lower back pain
- Sports injuries
It can also help by:
- Reduces fatigue
- Reduces Muscle tightness
- Mood increase
- More flexibility and range of motion
Reports have shown that people believe deep tissue has helped relieve osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and sciatica more than physical therapy or medications.
A typical deep tissue massage session will last 60 to 90 minutes in length. The massage therapist can use a combination of pressures coming from their hands, fingers, knuckles, palms, elbows and sometimes feet during deep tissue work. There may also be the use of gadgets that the therapist will use for additional pressure into areas, specifically designed for tension release. You will be lying on a massage table which will have a headrest adjusted for your neck, and clean sheets on you.
You will have most, sometimes all of your clothing removed, though this is up to your comfort level. It is always best to ask the massage therapist what their customary practice is. Deep tissue massage is performed by a licensed therapist and will never have anything sexually related during a session. If your therapist touches you in a sexual way, you should immediately stop the session, ask for their credentials and make the necessary calls to stop them from practicing. If you are looking for a type of massage that involves sexual touching, it will not be from a deep tissue massage therapist.
The harder the pressure does not mean that all the muscle soreness will be worked out, however, and it’s best to pay attention to other facets of your health that support the massage- like nutritional intake, exercise, and the proper use of posture during activities. Ultimately, it also might be good to mix up the types of messages you receive in order for maximum help.
Deep Tissue Massage and the Addict
When someone admits into rehab, it takes time to return to homeostasis, or normalize. It is very helpful during initial detoxification that the client receives any massage treatments available. Massage can create endorphins, which are biological chemicals created to help us feel good. Often in addiction, we look to find endorphins through substances and massage can help replace drug seeking treatment.
Depending on the severity of substance use, it takes a length of time for one’s system to create endorphins on its own and during which time a person is most susceptible to relapse. People will seek out ways to create healthy endorphins which make them feel good, and it is helpful that a treatment center provides ways of doing so, including massage. Continuing this practice can substitute an unhealthy choice for a healthy one, as it can be beneficial in the transitionary stages form treatment to maintenance.
In addition, relationships are almost always marred by substance abuse, and people tend to isolate. The connection to others, especially through touch, can be healing both physically and emotionally. Massage can reduce cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone and can lead to a lessened anxiety level, irritation, mood swings, and cravings.
Many addicts, like many non-addicts, have a neurological chemistry of the limbic area which creates a reward system of pleasure. However, it has been studied that the addict’s mesolimbic system is overly stimulated to “pleasure seekers” and that it constantly searches for a dopamine response. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter chemical which connects an activity in feeling good. When addicts are faced with detox, withdrawal, and tapering the use of drugs, dopamine levels drop. Replacing dopamine levels for a person going through detox is an important factor for relapse- prevention.
A healthy form of substitution is massage therapy by the body’s way to natural increase dopamine and decrease cortisol. It can help normalize the person in recovery faster due to the feeling they receive during massage therapy. It is a powerful tool for a client who is ready for their life to change.
Massage helps on the three levels of the welfare triad: physical, emotional and spiritual. In addition to what has been listed on this page, massage can help the circulatory and lymphatic system, allowing an increase in oxygen to heal the body’s tissues, thus assisting toxic substance to release more efficiently. If a client has swelling or joint pain, massage therapy can also assist in the reduction of specific areas. When muscle tissue is relaxed and restored, nerve compression can be reduced, and pain reduction is apparent. Relaxation through massage therapy can directly improve blood pressure, stabilize heart and respiratory symptoms, and any stress-related issue.
Emotions are a big part of what appears in treatment. For most addicts, drugs and alcohol are a way to not “feel the feelings” and are a defense mechanism for pain and emotional trauma. Addicts want to “check out” and flee from issues which might bring up memories and undesired feelings. When people get sober, they will work with a mental health therapist to identify the thoughts that cause them to want to escape from their feelings. Most addicts stop awareness of what emotions arise when being touched, held, or hugged. It can be uncomfortable and feel awkward. Massage is a bridge for the recovering addict that can help them towards relating to their body and the feelings which arise through touch; subsequently become aware of fears and assistance. When fears arise, the immediate response is to lessen the fear, a “fight or flight” and often the addict runs from this feeling. With the help of massage therapy, the recovering addict and alcoholic can reduce the flight response and acknowledge the healing power of touch in a safe environment which can lead them back towards emotional health.
Some of our muscles and areas of our bodies store emotional memories, and if these are triggered, especially if they have been repressed, it is beneficial to have a mental health therapist session shortly after a massage treatment to mentally process what came up during the session. Massage helps on a spiritual level by providing a time for clients to relax, find a sense of peace, and feelings of serenity. It gives an opportunity for reconnection of self, allows rushing thoughts to cease, and the client to feel more grounded. By doing so, it becomes a part of an attractive new life that the addict can experience, as normalization through self-awareness during a time of relaxation is developed and maintained. Having tools such as massage, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness techniques are important for relapse prevention.
Different Massage Styles
Though deep massage therapy is often beneficial for the recovering addict, it may be too intense for some. Some clients due to their physical needs and sensitivities may receive other techniques with more success. Many licensed massage therapists are learned in several different styles and can adjust, change, or combine whatever suits your needs. If you find you are too sensitive for deep tissue, there are an alternate technique you may enjoy. Just like recovery group meetings, if you don’t resonate with a particular meeting, it’s not a sign to use again, it’s a sign to change meetings. Some popular massage styles are:
- Swedish Massage: a very common, widely popular style, Swedish massage work focuses on the relaxation of the entire body. The therapist uses long, slow, guided strokes in the direction of blood flow. While doing this, it increases blood oxygen levels, relieving overall tension, and reduces stress. Toxins stored in muscles are released, and a general feeling of well-being is accomplished with this modality. Many clients find themselves dozing off or falling into a deep sleep during a Swedish massage session. Swedish massage technique is a series of kneading the muscle, stretching areas of the body, applied palm pressure, gliding, and tapping through fingertips. People who haven’t received a massage, or who have overall muscle soreness, tightness if the limbs, anxiety, or sensitivities will benefit from this style. Studies of volunteers who went through a 45-minute Swedish massage were found to have decreased levels of cortisol significantly, while it also found their immune systems increased in lymphocyte levels (white blood cells).
- Structural Massage: this type of massage is used for realignment of a body which has become injured or stressed due to life events and is now out of alignment. People with poor posture, which can be from driving to leaning over computers, or bad habits, will benefit from structural massage. Structural massage is often used in combination with other techniques.
- Craniosacral Therapy: this type of massage and therapy is a gentle approach to focus the work on the head and neck area through proper realignment helps the entire body. Other areas may be manipulated including specific points on the body as well. Craniosacral clients do not remove
clothing and the practitioner creates a light finger pressure contact on the client. It is not to be confused with chiropractic or osteopathy. The craniosacral system is defined as the membranes and fluid which cover the brain and protect the spinal cord. While working in craniosacral, the therapist is focusing on the improvement of the central nervous system. Craniosacral is
beneficial with chronic headaches, including migraines, chronic pain, and traumas of the mind and body. This type of therapy can be useful when going through the recovery process.
- Trigger point massage: this style will focus on areas of the body which are triggering pain in other areas, such as a knee injury causing aches in a hamstring, or an area in the shoulder and neck to cause headaches. This type of massage concentrates on the triggers areas for release and realignment.
- Reiki: Reiki is not traditionally to be a massage practice but may utilize the elements of touch. It is considered a relaxing, peaceful treatment where just like massage, you would lie on a massage table, though fully dressed. Reiki works on energetic fields to heal the body and mind. The Reiki practitioner is trained to pull out “negative” energies and replace them with positive ones. Reiki is a well established healing practice originating in Japan and one that has been used for a hundred years. Due to the nature of this practice, Reiki can also heal “remotely.”
- Chair Massage: sometimes clients have physical limitations where they cannot lie on a massage table comfortably. A massage chair has been designed to assist with people who need a seated position but who still want the benefits of massage Some clients also express that while ridding major toxins, lying down as opposed to sitting in the chair releases so much that they become nauseous. If this is what you experience, a chair may be the best option. In addition, chair massage is fully clothed which makes it a good alternative for people who are uncomfortable with receiving a massage in partial clothing.
At the end of any massage session, remember to drink a lot of water! This will help flush the toxins from your body and help you feel even better.
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