In our quest to deal with pains both acute and chronic, we come across a lot of “magical” techniques that are “guaranteed” to work. We understand that in your search for healthy solutions to pain, you don’t need pie in the sky promises, but actual information.
To that end, we’d like to talk about both the advantages and disadvantages of deep tissue massage as a therapeutic technique.
What is a Deep Tissue Massage?
To quote Dr Axe,
“Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer.”
Deep tissue massage (DTM) has been linked to a number of benefits, though as we say it is not a magical cure-all for physical ailments. There can be negative side effects, especially if it is performed by an inexperienced or untrained practitioner.
Further, deep tissue massage does not “cure toxins” in the body. The body does not retain toxins apart from very specific heavy metals, and a massage to the outside of the body wouldn’t treat them even if it did. We intend to provide you the real information, not made up woo.
With all that said, let’s get started.
Deep Tissue Massage Benefits
Some of the benefits of DTM include the following:
1. It can help with High Blood Pressure
Studies have shown a distinct link between Deep Tissue Massage and a lowering of blood pressure. In patients suffering from moderate to severe muscle strain who were given DTM therapy for 45 minutes to an hour, blood pressure had been reduced significantly and observably.
The specific way that DTM can help lower blood pressure is not known at this time, but the link is consistent in correlation. It may be linked to the massage adjusting deep-body tissues that are linked to the circulatory system, or it might be linked to the stress reduction that accompanies a thorough massage. Regardless, it means deep tissue massage can be included in a multi-approach system for treating hypertension.
2. It can help reduce the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a poorly-understood condition with no specific cause, and no known cure. It leads to pain, exhaustion, and other deleterious effects. What is known is that it has a deeply negative impact on sufferers’ lives.
Studies have observed that DTM can help temporarily alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia pain and tenderness. While this is not a cure, as with the treatment of blood pressure it can be included as part of a holistic approach to keeping symptoms under control.
3. It can reduce the Impact of Stress and Anxiety
Stress and tension can have serious, long-term negative effects on the mind and body. Living in a high state of tension, or even a low-grade tension of an extended period, can harm our bodies in all sorts of ways.
For example, perhaps you clench your jaw when stressed, unconsciously. Imagine the headaches this causes when done, day after day and year after year. Imagine the damage done to the tendons and muscles in your face.
Deep Tissue Massage can help reduce some of these symptoms. The massage takes place in a relaxing environment, and the intensity of the experience prompts the body to release oxytocin, one of the “happiness hormones” of the body’s endocrine system. Patients typically leave DTM sessions feeling newly refreshed and quite relaxed. This interruption in stress symptoms can help mitigate their impact on the body.
4. It can help Manage Labor Pain
Labor is an intense, painful, and emotional process. The sheer level of pain has been known to cause serious injury to the mother, whether through emotional trauma or damage to the body when contorting from the pain.
Deep Tissue Massage administered throughout their pregnancy resulted in significantly less pain during the labor process, reduced the rate of premature births, and greatly reduced anxiety around the birthing process.
The tests done spanned 5 weeks in duration, so it does require a significant commitment to the process, but anything that can help ease the birthing process is a major advantage for mothers and doctors alike.
Massage chairs built on a deep tissue massage principle are ideal for those looking for a consistent home-based approach such as a 5 week course of massage for treating labor pains.
5. It can Treat Back Pain
Back pain has an intrinsic link to the opioid crisis and its tragic side effects in our nation. In short, opioids are one of the common go-to prescriptions for chronic back pain. Since chronic back pain is rarely completely curable, long-term prescriptions lead to addictions, which can lead to overdoses.
Deep tissue massage therapy, on the other hand, can significantly reduce lower back pain. It doesn’t carry the risk of addiction, though it may be habit-forming simply because it produces such a pleasant effect. It cannot cure the underlying issues, but it can help manage the symptoms without the risk of becoming dependent on potentially dangerous medicines.
6. Reduces the Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis is a miserable condition because it affects literally everything. A muscle strain can be rested, but arthritis makes any activity hurt. This causes people not to move their joints, which causes more pain when they finally do move, due to the stiffness. Even minor activities like having a glass of water can become painful. This leads to stress, depression, and a sharp reduction in quality of life.
Studies in Deep Tissue Massage therapy in arthritis patients showed improvement in level of pain, stress, range of motion, and grip strength in multiple patients. As we saw with back pain, DTM doesn’t involve the use of medication, so avoids the risk of addiction when treating a chronic condition.
Side Effects of Deep Tissue Massage
As we said, people who make miracle claims are not telling the truth. Those who claim DTM has no side effects are lying by claiming knowledge they do not have.
Common side effects include:
Deep Tissue Massage is well named, your masseuse will press deep into the body. This can cause pain and residual soreness, sometimes for several days. It almost always fades, but it will be present in most cases, so give it some thought.
Caused by situations such as resting your head at an awkward angle during DTM sessions, a headache rarely lasts more than a few hours to a couple of days after your sessions.
Nausea is the result of the release of toxins, but as we stated, the body doesn’t just “store up” toxins in tissues. It is more likely related to the pain of a thorough massage treatment, and a psychosomatic reaction. Still, it is a potential side effect.
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