Deep Tissue Massages addresses the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. The basis for tissue change lies in part with muscle and the fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that is found everywhere in the body and connects everything to everything else and also gives muscle form.
Stressed and tensed muscles often are oxygen and nutrient deprived. Deep Tissue Massage works to restore the flow of nutrients and oxygen, break up scar tissue and will release metabolic waste stored in the tensed tissues. The releasing of metabolic waste is what usually results in the sore feeling a day or two after the session.
Unlike a Swedish massage, Deep Tissue massage does not use quick-flowing strokes. The deeper the stroke, the longer the duration. Because the therapist is going into deeper layers of the muscle and affecting connective tissue, the therapist has to wait for the tissue to "invite" them in. The reason is because when getting into these deeper layers, there may be some resistance or trigger points (knots) which may lead to a sympathetic (fight or flight) response. The goal is to minimize this response as much as possible. Tense tissue will not release and the struggle can make matters worse.
To give you a brief history regarding the interplay of function and form, Buckminister Fuller who was a visionary architect, writer and mid-20th century thinker coined the term, "tensegrity" to describe this interplay both in architecture and in nature. What he observed was that seemingly fixed members in a structural system are supported by its soft members. This analogy holds true when fixing a tent in the ground with poles and guy wires. So to say the positioning of the tent poles to support the tent is analogous to the tensing and lengthening of our muscles and fascia.
Overtime, we may experience injury, overuse, and lack of use. All of these are equally debilitating to overall health and well being. When tissue is stuck or adhesed, it never just impacts the area of the tissue. Because the effects of connective tissue is far reaching and systemic, other bodily systems can potentially be impacted.
With injury, the body attempts to repair the tissue by laying down scar tissue. This tissue isn't as tensile as regular tissue. Aside from repairing tissue, its job is to immobilize the affected area to allow for the body's natural healing process. Oftentimes, the immobility remains well after the body's repairing efforts with the individual due to fear of the area being re-injured. Not only does this reduce functionality of the impacted limb, but also affects surrounding tissues. Good physical therapy coupled with deep tissue massage can assist with breaking up the stuck tissue (adhesion) and improve mobility.
Overuse or repetitive stress injuries can also result in unhealthy muscle tissue. Just think of someone with tennis elbow or a golfer with chronic back pain. Just sitting at a desk typing on a computer now results in injury! The constant dysfunctional pulling will not only pull bones out of alignment but also impact functioning organs surrounding the area of overuse. The goal of the therapist in conjunction with the client is to retrain the tissue away from its dysfunction.
Lack of use results mostly from a sedentary lifestyle. More time will be spent on this topic as this is has become quite the modern-day epidemic because of constant sitting. Constant sitting results in shortening of the necessary hip flexor muscles. Spending too much time in a chair under stressful conditions is a recipe for tight hip flexor muscles which results in low back and hip pain. A trained massage therapist will be able to rehabilitate the hip flexors. Because of the location of the psoas muscles, (a major hip flexor underneath the visceral organs) working this area is often an unpleasant experience for the client. It will often require the client to participate by way of "homework" in the form of stretches and hip movement exercises. Here's a link to a very informative video on how to help retrain your hip flexors (psoas muscles) Overtime, the hip joint becomes dysfunctional due to the misalignment of the hip joint and cartilage grinding.
In closing Deep Tissue Massage can not only help individuals with serious conditions but can help restore overall balance by cleansing the body of toxins, releasing scar tissue and retraining dysfunctional tissue. The relaxation benefit of regular massages also helps to improve mood, reduction of stress hormones, lowered blood pressure and improved immunity to name a few.
David Lauterstein, "The Deep Massage Book, How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork" pgs 4 - 5