Deep Tissue massage therapy is a manual method that uses a systematic application of pressure, and very slow movements, to relieve muscle problems such as tension, contracted tissue, and adhesions. That is, as they used to say, a mouth-full. Let’s break it down.

Muscle tissue is compartmentalized by fascia (connective tissue). There are over 656 “compartments” of muscle tissue in the average human body. We know them by their many names; such as: biceps brachia, semitendinosus, triceps, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and on and on. Some muscles are big and some are small. Some lay superficial (on top of others), and some are deeper and lay underneath other muscles. Our physical activities are made possible by the elastic, or contractile, quality of muscle tissue. This contraction and release function allows us to extend and flex arms, hands, legs, or even to wink our eyes.

Sometimes when we contract muscle tissue a failure to release can occur at the microscopic cellular level. If enough of this contractile failure takes place in the same neighborhood a clump of knotted muscle fibrils can develop. Over time, a building up of this condition will effectively shorten the length of a muscle. Think of a rubber band that can be stretched out six inches; then tie thirty knots in it, and it can no longer reach that distance. As a result we can lose range of motion; feel stiff, and experience burning sensations, and aching pain. The muscle compartment can grow to feel hard and no longer elastic.

Fascia, connective tissue, is the covering that wraps and separates muscles at the macro and micro levels. It’s analogous to the function of the skin of a sausage. We’ve all seen fascia tissue when we buy a roast, a steak, or chicken. It’s always the tough, white material that we sometimes try to cut away from a roast.
Another quality of fascia appearance can be seen on a chicken when you pull the skin off; this slick, viscous material is also connective tissue. Fascia is both slick and very strong. When doctors suture a wound they punch the needle through the superficial layer of fascia because its strength will hold the suture in place. It’s slick, viscous quality allows muscle compartments

to move easily and slide past and against another muscle. The thigh, quadriceps, muscles are a good example of a group of muscle compartments that must move and slide past one another so that we can walk across a room. So long as our connective tissue functions healthily, we are better off for it. But fascia, like muscle tissue, is susceptible to injury as result of normal aging,
physical trauma, over-use, body patterns (poor posture), and even poor hydration. Lack of hydration can retard the viscous quality of fascia. This “drying out” can leave a connective tissue feeling hard and less mobile. Physical trauma can effect muscle fascia (the skin holding the compartment together) to adhere to an adjacent muscle; causing sticking points to develop. If enough of these adhesions develop, again, range of motion will be degraded. We will feel stiff. If the adhesions are occurring in the sides of our body the simple act of reaching over head will no longer feel simple. If in our hamstrings, straightening out our legs might cause discomfort and require more than normal effort.

Deep Tissue manual therapy (massage) attempts to correct these malfunctioning problems. Where there are hard and/or shortened muscles, and often painful, deep tissue work applies direct and escalating pressure to affect a mechanical, forceful, release of contracted fibers. As awful as that may sound, it can be, time allowing, quite effective. Yes, uncomfortable, but effective. Where there are connective tissue adhesions, when muscle compartments “glue” together, so to speak, and refuse to separate, direct and escalated pressure can force a separation and improve range of motion and muscle function. The number of treatment sessions required for success is a necessary consideration dependent on a condition’s severity. Small and recent problems will require less treatment. Large and older problems will demand more time, patient, and consistently regular treatment. Given all this, Deep Tissue can be very effective with relieving our aches and pains, but the root problems, over a normal span of life, can reoccur. Count on it.

Author's Bio: 

Claude Ratliff, is a retired Social Worker and Army Reservist. Massage is a third career and part-time hobby. He spends three days each week caring for three beautiful grandchildren, and two and half days practicing his favorite hobby, massage therapy, at H2O Salon and Day Spa in Frankfort, Kentucky.