Deep tissue massage was designed to loosen muscle tension and relieve stress. An added benefit of such massage is that it can smooth out scar tissue. The focus is on connective tissues and the deepest layers of muscle mass in the body. Interestingly, while massage itself has been around for centuries, deep tissue massage is actually less than 200 years old.
People in the Far East, as well as ancient Greeks and Egyptians, were the first to discover the benefits of deep tissue massage. Today's Swedish massage is closest in technique to that used by these ancient civilizations. In the mid-1800s, Canadian physicians first developed the technique. In 1949, the Canadian doctor Therese Phimmer developed guidelines for the technique, which she set forth in her book, "Muscles - Your Invisible Bonds." From that time forward, deep tissue massage slowly started finding its place in sports medicine and physical therapy as a way to control chronic pain and treat soft tissue injuries.
A combination of friction and pressure, using fingers, hands, elbows and sometimes other implements, works to "break up" the tension, or "knots," in muscles, providing greater freedom of movement. The muscle tissue is stretched and separated, providing for better circulation of blood. This technique helps to relieve pain associated with muscle spasms, whiplash, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and muscle strain associated with injury.
Chair massage is popular in business environments, offering executives and other employees the opportunity to experience the technique as used on the neck, back, arms and hands for a time period ranging from 15 minutes to an hour at a rate of about a dollar a minute. The patient remains clothed and sits face forward on a specially-designed chair, where the therapist may easily work on each muscle group.
A popular spa treatment, the table massage typically requires that the patient remove all clothing and remain covered from the neck down by a sheet while lying on the padded massage table. The therapist then uncovers the body part she wishes to work on, while leaving the sheet covering the rest of the patient's body. Scented or unscented oils are usually used in order to facilitate movement of the therapist's hands over the patient's body. The massage table has a padded opening in one end for the patient's face, so when the therapist is working on his back, he need not twist his head uncomfortably to either side.
The massage may cause some discomfort as muscles are forced to relax; however, the patient should not feel actual pain during the massage. It is important to keep a dialogue open with your therapist so he can get a feel for your pain threshold. Persons with blood vessel issues, certain heart problems and weakened bones should ask a medical doctor whether they should seek deep tissue massage prior to doing so, given the pressure exerted on the body during practice of the technique.