Deep Tissue Massage Benefits and Side Effects

In this day and age, especially if you play any kind of competitive sports, chances are you may be somewhat familiar with massage. There are many different types of massage available depending on the situation. In usual circumstances, massage offers a welcome relief to stress and tension build-up which can occur in the muscles. This is something that is not exclusive to only competitive sports people.

That said, deep tissue massage is an intensive step up on the massage scale. This brings with it a host of benefits for many individuals. For many, the term “deep tissue” and thought of this type of massage may strike an intimidating proposition. However, with a more extensive explanation of the process and its benefits, we hope to remove any anxiety from the treatment.

What is Deep Tissue Massage?

This will be the first question on the lips of many. To the layman, a massage is just that. However, there are actually a multitude of options when it comes to receiving a massage. The most commonly known to most of us is in fact a Swedish massage, to give its correct name. This is the treatment we have come to expect from the term “massage”. This type of massage is in-fact a multi-billion dollar industry, with research showing that almost 9% of Americans have had at least one massage treatment in the prior year. 

Deep tissue massage on the other hand is similar in name but quite different in terms of both process and result. The purpose of a deep tissue massage is actually to break down scar tissue disrupt rigid tissue, referred to as knots or adhesions. These can be disruptive to circulation within the body and cause a variety of painful symptoms ranging from inflammation to chronic pain.

Usually the process of deep tissue massaging begins slowly and with a lower degree of pressure applied. This is the starting phase during which the muscles are warmed up. The treatment will then usually progress into two stages. The therapist will apply a deep pressure with a smooth action involving almost their entire forearm. This pressure is applied in conjunction with a rolling or gliding motion, along the muscle.

The second stage of the treatment which usually occurs is when pressure is applied across the muscles, this is the part of the process which helps to disrupt knots in the area and can provide great relief once completed.

Most deep tissue massages primarily focus on the major muscle groups and those which are more prone to injury. The lower back and neck are common areas of concentration since chronic conditions can frequently cause great pain in these regions. Studies have shown the effectiveness of deep tissue massage in treating such pain.

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

The benefits of deep tissue massage come mainly in the form of pain relief for suffers of chronic conditions. This is the primary area of benefit for deep tissue massage, though it has shown other benefits throughout the body thanks to its function of improving blood circulation and stimulating muscle fibers.

Reduce Muscle Tension

This is a key benefit which enables deep tissue massage to work effectively in the variety of other areas which it does. Sure, most types of massage will succeed in reducing muscle tension.

In this case, however, deep tissue massage stimulates the muscles on a most intensive level. This allows the process to achieve even more profound results when it comes to relieving muscle tension. Research has shown that massage can be successful in releasing the bodily hormone oxytocin. This acts as an excellent form of pain relief for those suffering from chronic conditions.

A knock-on benefit of reducing muscle tension is the positive impact that also has on joint mobility. Increased joint mobility can also serve to reduce pain in chronic sufferers. A huge benefit for those especially who suffer from conditions such as osteoarthritis.

Lower Blood Pressure

A surprising benefit to note is the reduction in blood pressure which can be obtained as a result of a deep tissue massage. Recent clinical trials prove the validity of this point. It is likely to be attributed to a combination of features of deep tissue massage.

First, the deep stimulation helps to increase blood circulation around the body, this can help in alleviating many stressful build-ups of tension and restricted blood flow around the body.

Secondly, the reduction of pain achieved from undertaking a deep-tissue massage, coupled with the increased levels of oxytocin as we have discussed, can have a very calming impact on the individual undergoing treatment. This calming effect would ultimately serve to reduce the heartbeat and blood pressure to that of a more rested state.

Arthritis Relief

The chronic joint pain experienced by arthritis sufferers is often contributed to and worsened by inflammation and tension within the joints. This can cause a severe depletion in range of movement and crippling pain as the condition progresses. Massage is officially recognized as one of the beneficial treatments which should be sought by arthritis sufferers to assist with pain relief.

The intensive nature of a deep tissue massage mean that it may not be suitable for all sufferers of the condition. However, with its ability to penetrate deep into the muscle fibers and greatly improve joint mobility, it works extremely well for those who can withstand some temporary discomfort from the increased pressure.

Side Effects of Deep Tissue Massage

While the impact of deep tissue massage is largely positive on individuals, especially those with chronic pain conditions or injuries. It should be noted that some negative side effects can be seen in a limited number of cases.

Pain and Muscle Soreness

Due in the most part to the intensive nature of a deep tissue massage, it is logical to expect there will be some amount of pain in the time following the treatment. This should not last for more than a few days after you have completed the massage.

In fact, many patients reported this side effect. However, much like going to the gym and experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness, the underlying positive effect garnered from the treatment should far outweigh the negative. This side effect is also subjective in nature depending on the pain threshold of an individual. The more frequent you get the treatment, the more accustomed and durable your body will also become.

Skin Redness

This can be quite a common side effect of deep tissue massage as a result of the increased circulation and pressure applied to specifically targeted areas of your body. This is a very normal side effect and nothing to become alarmed about.

It may also be natural to experience a heat sensation around the muscle area for some time after receiving the massage. Actually, this can be a positive sign that the muscle is well stimulated and positively reacting to the treatment.


Headaches are a rather uncommon side effect of a deep tissue massage. That does not mean they will not occur. They could be caused by one of a number of factors. Awkward or uncomfortable positioning of your head during the treatment is a leading cause. Many people are apprehensive prior to and during the treatment, especially the first time. This can lead to increased tension in the neck area which may result in a headache.

If your pain tolerance is on the low side, a headache can be the result after a deep tissue massage. This will usually disappear quickly within the hours after the treatment. Staying relaxed during treatment is key. Distracting yourself with other thoughts is always a good strategy.

Although there are several side-effects, the likelihood of them occurring is very limited and not something which should dissuade you from trying a deep tissue massage.

Who Can Benefit from Deep Tissue Massage?

Long-Term and Chronic Pain Sufferers

Massage therapy is proven to be a very effective treatment for those suffering from chronic pain. Lower back pain in particular has shown very positive results when treated using massage therapy. Deep tissue massage again takes this level of treatment to a new level. Increasing stimulation among the muscles and producing excellent results.

Deep tissue massage is also effectively used to reduce pain and increase mobility among sufferers of carpal tunnel syndrome. Almost all chronic pain conditions show a positive correlation when treated using massage therapy.

Stressed and/or Tense Patients

As is the case with many massage treatments, deep tissue massage helps abundantly in removing tension from muscles. This alone is of great benefit to those who feel stiff and tense during a particularly hard or stressful time. Coupled with this are the psychological benefits of deep tissue massage.

Improved circulation which is brought on by the intensive nature of the massage helps to both relieve stress, pain and boost energy levels in patients. This in turn releases positive hormones into the body which can further help relieve stress or anxiety.

Deep tissue massage has also been shown to significantly reduce heart rate during a session, this too can helpfully contribute to a feeling of relaxation among individuals.


One more significant benefactor of deep tissue massage are sports players. The stimulation provided by a deep tissue massage can markedly improve recovery time as well as promote a greater range of motion within the joints of sports competitors.

On one side, this means a faster return from injury for those afflicted players, while on the other, an improved range of motion and greater joint mobility helps to reduce the risk of further injury. A winning situation for any sportsperson.

Self Massage Tools

Naturally, we are not always available to attend the services of a professional massage therapist. Thankfully, there are a wide range of self-massage tools available. These come in all manner of shapes and sizes to assist you to perform the key functions of deep tissue massage from the comfort of your own home or office.

Starting from the most basic, ball style foot massagers which are excellent for sore feet and helping to combat conditions such as plantar fasciitis and generally helping to increase circulation. All the way through to the cane shaped self-massage tool, ideal for the back, shoulders and other difficult to reach spots when you are flying solo. In between, there is the more traditional and widely used foam roller. This is a very versatile tool which can be used to great effect on the lower back and in the shoulder area to relieve tension on the shoulder joint.

These are widely used and for good reason. Their highly convenient nature allows the user total freedom to self-massage almost any area of the body they want to release tension at their convenience. This offers a brilliant time and money saving alternative than attending a professional therapist on every occasion. Secondly, keeping your muscles constantly loose and stress free not only helps you feel great but prevents an excess build-up of stiffness.


While we can observe some minor side effects from individuals who experienced deep tissue massage, it is safe to say that the benefits significantly outnumber the drawbacks in this case. The frequency and size of any negative side effects is almost negligible in comparison.

It is clear that when performed correctly and for a balanced duration of time, deep tissue massage can be highly beneficial to groups of individuals who may otherwise struggle in constant pain. For many, the source of intense relief, even temporarily from their symptoms provides a blissful experience.

With its ready availability thanks to a growing number of inventive tools, everyone can now experience the positive impact of deep tissue massage. Future statistics will surely show that this proved advantageous through a reduction in injury rates as we continue to advance in age.

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