Deep Tissue Massage: The Complete Guide For New Clients

Hey there!

Have you been wracking your brains over which type of massage treatment to book?

Been noticing that you aren’t as flexible as usual? Or, maybe you’ve got a nagging pain that just won’t go away?

If so, deep tissue massage is a sure bet!

At Deserved Massage, it’s by far the most popular treatment we offer and for good reason…

So many people sit and stand with poor posture, causing tension to build up in their back, neck, and shoulders, making them feel stiff and uncomfortable.

In simple terms, a deep tissue treatment is the best way to alleviate that tension and get back to feeling ‘normal’ again.

In this guide, I’m going to give you a deeper look at how this treatment works - it’s actually quite interesting - however, if you fancy skipping ahead and just booking yourself in with one of our therapists, just click here and select your nearest location.

deep tissue massage

What Is A Deep Tissue Massage?

Alrighty, what is deep tissue therapy all about?

I really want to keep this super simple so you can get a proper grasp of what this type of massage is all about and how it helps you.

In your body, there are different layers of muscular tissue.

Closer to the surface are softer areas of tissue which are surrounded by a whole mix of different systems such as blood vessels and nerve endings.

Lighter massage treatments such as Swedish massage and lymphatic drainage are great for helping to circulate these various systems.

As you go deeper down, the muscles get firmer as their job involves a bit more ‘heavy lifting’.

These deeper areas can get extremely tight and inflexible if strained for long periods of time - if you hunch over your desk at work, then you’ll be familiar with how this feels!

As the name suggests, a deep tissue massage will work on those layers of muscle to release the tension, allowing you to feel flexible again.

Naturally, because these layers are further down, it takes a greater amount of pressure from your therapist to reach them, so they need to apply more advanced techniques to prevent injury for both you, the client, and for themselves too (thumbs are more delicate than you think).

Understandably, that extra pressure comes with more pain, so be prepared to feel mild levels of discomfort during your session.

In the massage world, this discomfort has become known as ‘the sweet pain’ because of the cathartic feeling that comes with it.

Although you’re aware it’s uncomfortable in the moment, you know it’s going to be good for you in the long-run.

Benefits Of Deep Tissue Massage

Although there are hundreds of benefits, the following are the most commonly noticed after clients leave our treatment room:

✓ Pain Relief

Nobody likes to be in pain - especially if it’s constantly nagging away at you and distracting you from going about your business.

Deep tissue massage helps alleviate it through what a process called gate control theory.

The simplest way of thinking about it is that nerves carry data from your body to your brain. However, these nerves can only carry a limited amount of information at any once. By replacing these pain signals with an alternative (massage), it closes the gate, providing you with relief.

A recent study found that deep tissue massage helped to significantly reduce pain for people suffering from chronic back pain. In the study, the level of pain relieve was compared to ibuprofen!

✓ Improved Range Of Motion

Caused by scar tissue and knots, that inflexible feeling can be a real pain in the neck.

It’s like you know what you want your body to do, it just won’t do it!

Not only is it frustrating being unable to move properly, but it’s also usually quite painful too as neighbouring muscles and joints take on more strain to support the weakness.

This can reduce your range of motion, leading to pain elsewhere in the body, as nearby muscles and joints take on more work.

Deep tissue massage helps you to regain your range of motion by releasing those knots, allowing your muscles the freedom to move again.

✓ Faster Recovery From Injury

An injury can be one of the most frustrating experiences in your life; just when you’re pushing the limits, something comes along and stops you from making any progress!

By manipulating the connective tissue, deep tissue massage helps to increase the blood flow around the area in question, removing waste that may delay recovery.

Note: if you have a particularly sporting injury, we’d recommend looking into sports massage, which is more focused on helping rehabilitate specific areas by working on trigger points.

✓ Improved Function Of The Heart & Lungs

Another interesting benefit is the impact of deep tissue therapy on the cardiovascular system.

A 2007 study found that massage produced a substantial reduction in heart rate and blood pressure after sessions lasting 45-60 minutes.

Additionally, systolic blood pressure was averaging at 10 mm/Hg lower, and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by an average of 5 mm/Hg. The average heart rate also dropped by 10 beats per minute.

Another study showed that massage can increase lungs function, especially in people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. 

✓ Stress Relief

We all know the feeling of being stressed. Your heart rate goes up, your body heats up and your muscles tense as you prepare for a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

When you think of massage therapy generally, it’s almost synonymous with the alleviation of stress. However, when you add on ‘deep tissue’ then suddenly the notion that it can provide any kind of relief goes right out the window.

Surprisingly though, a deep tissue treatment has been shown to be effective in relieving stress. The reasoning is as follows…

When you feel stressed out, it causes you to tense up your muscles. This tension often gets people worrying and results in more stress, which results in more tension. A tension-stress cycle, if you will.

By releasing the tension in your body, it allows you to break that cycle and feel relaxed again.

Techniques Involved

A lot of people get confused about the application of deep tissue treatments. Are they the same as Swedish massage, but just a bit deeper? Are they completely different? In fact, a lot of massage therapists even get mixed up.

In essence, Swedish massage was the basis for all Western massage techniques, including deep tissue. And, while the truth is many of the strokes are the same, but with a slower pace and with higher levels of pressure.

It’s also important to realise that these techniques had to advance in order for therapists to deliver better treatments for their clients.

You see, it can be hazardous for massage therapists to apply constant pressure on their thumbs risking repetitive strain, tenosynovitis or arthritis.

As such, therapists are taught to use hands, forearms, elbows, fingertips, and knuckles as well as various tools in order to break-up adhesions with extra levels of pressure.

Often, massage therapists will develop their own unique techniques over time, which makes the industry so interesting.

That said, there are several types of techniques that most deep tissue therapists are likely to use:

✋ Transverse Frictions

It’s easy to get confused by the names of massage techniques, especially with a name like ‘transverse friction’.

In simple terms, transverse means to go across and friction means to apply pressure to the muscle underneath the skin. So, transverse friction massage means to move the skin with your fingers across muscle fibres.

Point being, to break up adhesions and knots in the tissue as well as increase circulation and flexibility.

This is done by bringing the joint into a fully stretched position then taking your fingers and moving them across the muscle fibres.

✋ Trigger Point Therapy

Yet again, trigger point therapy can be a somewhat daunting name for a massage technique. A common misconception is that trigger points relate to acupuncture, however, this is false.

Trigger points are simply tender spots that occur around the body that trigger pain and discomfort, hence the name.

Trigger point therapy involves pressing and holding those areas until they become released.

Often, it will be painful at first as your body reacts to the pressure, however, this tends to subside after around 60 seconds when the tension loosens out.

Although the knuckles are regularly used for this technique, it’s not uncommon for massage tools to be used for extra leverage.

✋ Positional Release Therapy (Strain Counterstrain)

Massage therapy often uses the stretching of muscles in order to obtain greater access to certain areas. However, Positional Release is very much the opposite.

In this technique, the muscle tissues are pushed together, twisted, compressed and manipulated to take tension away.

Positional release therapy is often done alongside trigger point treatment to achieve even greater results.

✋ Soft Tissue Release

Soft tissue release focuses, as the name suggests, on the softer muscular tissues in the body such as the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia.

Although working on soft tissues is more commonly associated with lighter treatments, it does have a valuable place in deep tissue treatments too.

Not only does this gentler touch help to circulate the blood as well as other systems, but it also helps you to relax you prior to the use of more pressurised techniques.

✋ Stripping

This technique involves applying pressure along the entire length of a muscle to break up knots, increase circulation, and provide a passive stretch to the affected area.

Stripping is one of the most painful massage techniques, particularly when applied to the outer thighs which are often extremely tight and sensitive.

Comparison with other massage types

If you have read any of our other massage guides, you may have noticed that deep tissue isn’t too dissimilar to other treatments we offer.

The truth is that all forms of massage involve a degree of manipulation and stimulation of the muscles and skin so naturally, there will be comparables.

With that in mind, there are a couple of treatments in particular that lead to more confusion than others, namely Swedish massage and sports massage.

For that reason, it’s worthwhile explaining what separates them here.

Vs. Swedish massage

Swedish massage is much gentler, flowing, and more superficial. It’s mainly used to help relax your mind and body and follows a predetermined routine covering the whole body that lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

Deep tissue massage is much more prescriptive in nature. During the consultation, your therapist will take notes on the areas of discomfort and design the solution in a manner that resolves those issues.

Vs. Sports massage

Sports massage is very similar to deep tissue massage, however, the techniques used are specifically designed to enhance recovery between workouts, improve athletic performance and for the prevention of sporting injuries.

A sports massage normally focuses on the larger muscle groups involved in sports, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, back, and shoulders, and often involves a full body treatment.

In contrast, deep tissue massage is more commonly used to treat a more varied range of ailments and clientele, and just not those related to sports.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most commonly asked questions we get in relation to deep tissue therapy:

1. What Happens During The Treatment?

Before your treatment begins, your massage therapist will go over a consultation card to highlight any problem areas as well as any health issues that require attention. This means that you will have a goal to work towards over the course of the session.

When your therapist is happy that they have a clear understanding of your needs, they’ll explain what they plan to do then leave the room to allow you to undress and get ready. You will then lie down on the massage table either on your front or back depending on the required treatment and cover yourself with the provided towels.

Your therapist will then re-enter the room and begin the treatment. Throughout, they will talk you through what they are doing and ask if the level of pressure they are giving you is too much or too little allowing them to modify it accordingly.

At the end of your treatment, your therapist will leave the room allowing you to re-dress. Once they re-enter, they’ll sit you down with a glass of water and help you to understand what you should do for the next few days following your treatment to prolongue the benefits and avoid any further discomfort.

2. What Should I Wear?

You really just need to bring yourself. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing. Your therapist will need access to the area that needs to be treated and as such, some clothing may need to be removed.

Deep tissue massage usually involves the use of lubricating oils. Make sure you don’t mind getting your clothes a little oily.

3. Is Deep Tissue Massage Painful?

Although there is a mild to moderate degree of discomfort involved in deep tissue massage, it’s important to realise that it’s pain with a purpose.

In order to get rid of deep-rooted knots and nodules, your massage therapist needs to purposely damage the area in question allowing it to be manipulated into a more natural position.

Therefore, it’s normal to expect a degree of pain during the course of your treatment.

With that in mind, it’s important to realise that the level of pressure can be increased or decreased to reflect your ability to tolerate pain which is why it’s vital that you let your therapist know how you’re feeling throughout.

If you are in too much pain, your body may start to resist the treatment and tense up, preventing you from realising the benefits.

4. What Should I Do After My Session?

After your session, your therapist will return to the room and give you tailored advice so make sure you listen to avoid undoing the benefits.

5. How Long Does The Session Last?

Deep tissue massage treatments tend to last between 30-60 minutes depending on your needs. At Deserved Massage, we always include extra time to allow for changing and discussion prior to the session.

6. How Often Should I Get A Deep Tissue Massage?

It’s impossible to say without knowing the severity of your muscle tension and your body’s ability to recover.

Some of our clients need a weekly session because of the intensity of their jobs while others just book in for a monthly maintenance session.

The truth is, the best person to figure out your needs is your therapist.

8. I Am Ill. Can I Still Get A Massage?

If you’re ill, the best thing to do is to reschedule your treatment

By putting your body in extra strain (through deep tissue massage) it could make things worse.

It’s far better to get some rest then come back in at a later date.


Deep tissue massage is an incredibly effective treatment for helping people to overcome muscular tension and feeling more energised - which explains why it’s so popular.

If you would like to schedule a treatment with us, just click here to choose your nearest location.