What is Deep Tissue Massage?

Posted by Kirby Strissel on October 31, 2022

There are many different types of massage. One type you may have heard of, but not understood, is deep tissue massage. With deep tissue massage the goal is to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. Often times this deep tissue work is geared more toward rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes instead of general relaxation.

Deep tissue massage often provides pain relief. This can be for a variety of problem areas such as shoulder, back or neck pain, headaches, plantar fasciitis or tennis/golfer’s elbow just to name a few. Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and arthritis can be eased with deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage can also help to break down scar tissue from injuries and surgery. Finally, it can be used as a tool in athletic performance and recovery by promoting increased blood flow and reducing inflammation.

Additionally, there are some less obvious benefits to deep tissue massage that do not involve the muscles and connective tissue. Deep tissue massage can help to reduce stress and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. It can improve relaxation and help with increased production of oxytocin (feel good hormone) levels. A person’s heart rate and blood pressure can be lowered with deep tissue massage along with increased blood flow from blood vessel dilation. Immune system function can also be improved.

The techniques utilized in deep tissue massage can be similar to other types of massage. The biggest differences are they are typically slower, more forceful strokes and/or gentle sustained pressure on the fascial layer. Due to these techniques, it is not unusual for people to experience some lingering soreness for a day or two after deep tissue work.

Deep tissue massage techniques can be viewed as the opposite of Swedish massage techniques. Deep tissue will use the slow and firm strokes to work on the tissue while Swedish massage will use lighter pressure. Typically deep tissue will be used for rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes while Swedish massage is geared toward relaxation purposes.

Studies have found the deep tissue massage can be beneficial for a conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Insomnia
  • Low back pain
  • Myofascial Pain Syndrome
  • Nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ)
  • Upper back and neck pain

While beneficial, deep tissue massage may not be appropriate for everyone. There are some conditions where you should consult with your doctor first to see if deep tissue massage is recommended.

Always inform the massage therapist about any of the following conditions:

  • Bleeding disorders
  • Taking blood thinners
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or a history of it
  • Active infection
  • Broken bone(s)
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
  • Cancer diagnosis
  • Currently being treated for cancer

If you or someone you know is looking to try deep tissue massage, please contact the Activities Desk at (507) 287-9300 to set up an appointment with one of our RAC massage therapists.


DeBusk, Christina. “An In-depth Guide to Deep Tissue Massage.” Massage Magazine, July 12,   2018, https://www.massagemag.com/guide-to-deep-tissue-massage-89900/

“Health Benefits of a Deep Tissue Massage.” Find a Top Doc.        https://www.findatopdoc.com/Healthy-Living/benefits-of-deep-tissue-massage

“Massage: Get in Touch With its Many Benefits.” Mayo Clinic.      https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-     20045743

Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. “What is Deep Tissue Massage?” Health Line, September 29, 2021,            https://www.healthline.com/healthy/deep-tissue-massage

Kirby Strissel

Kirby Strissel

Kirby is Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB). He received his training at Sister Rosalind Gefre School of Professional Massage. Upon graduation in April 2004, he was hired on as a therapist. Kirby joined the RAC staff in January 2006 as a Massage Therapist.

Contact Kirby Strissel

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