massaging with elbow on back

Deep Tissue Massage: What It Is & What to Expect

Last week I spoke in an interview with Caroline Ruderman about this type of massage.

Deep tissue massage is appropriate for many different people with various health concerns. From chronic low back pain to an acute knee injury, to managing an autoimmune condition, massage can help alleviate pain while reducing stress. And from my own experience, sensations in the physical body are often associated with emotions and our current mental state. And vice versa.

Techniques that utilize deep-tissue massage affect the deep layers of the muscle and fascia, which is the connective tissue surrounding the muscles. This type of massage is intended to break up scar tissue and break down adhesions (also called “knots” by clients and therapists alike) which can sometimes feel like hard, stiff spots or rigid bands that cause pain in a concentrated area or can send pain to another area of the body when receiving pressure to the area of focus.

At the beginning of the session, I don’t apply firm pressure. I start with long, gliding strokes to warm up your muscles and tune in to where your body needs specific focus.

After a few minutes, I use my fingers to locate sore areas that promote pain and where stress is held. Typically, this is in the shoulders, neck, and lower back. However, trigger or tender points are not just limited to these areas. There are points of tension throughout the body that cause pain.

To work out these adhesions or trigger points (areas of stress that refer pain to another part of the body), I use my forearms and elbows to break up the hard and stiff spots to decrease muscle stiffness and lessen pain. I maintain static pressure and hold the point for up to one minute. Then, I’ll move to another nearby area and apply pressure to further release pain and tension. I finish with long strokes to end my work in that area with a sense of calm and balance.

When working in particularly challenging areas, I take deep breaths to signal to my clients to breathe through the discomfort. I also check-in about the pressure to make sure you are receiving what feels best for you.

It isn’t necessary to feel pain to receive the benefits of deep tissue work, but it may feel a bit uncomfortable. It depends on your condition and if you are okay with feeling some discomfort at the moment to feel relief later (either directly after the session or the next day).

After a session, you may feel a little sore. Or, you may feel amazing! It’s very individual.

I’ll check in with you within two days after your massage to see how you’re feeling. I may suggest some stretches to do in between sessions to maintain flexibility and decrease pain.

I hope this provides some insight into what to expect when receiving a deep tissue massage. Remember to communicate with your therapist about your needs before, during, and after your session. And, don’t forget to tune into your body and BREATHE!

Scroll to Top