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Deep muscle massage is a form of therapeutic and corrective massage created by Therese Pfrimmer from Canada. Deep tissue massage techniques are mainly used for more specific therapy work such as breaking up and eliminating scar tissue etc.
Deep tissue massage techniques derive from traditional massage therapy first used by ancient Egyptian, Greek and Far Eastern civilisations. Deep tissue massage uses similar techniques to Swedish massage developed in the 18th century by Swedish physician Per Henrik Ling.
The principles of deep tissue massage were developed in the 1940s by Therese Pfrimmer, a Canadian physiotherapist. Pfrimmer began her own 'deep tissue therapy' after suffering paralysis in her legs. After three months of massaging the affected limbs using a 'digging' technique to reach deep into the deteriorated muscles, Pfrimmer managed to reverse her paralysis.
Pfrimmer used her methods to successfully treat other patients suffering with paralysis and by 1949 had established the first 'deep tissue therapy' clinic. Twenty years later she published a book on the subject titled "Muscles - Your Invisible Bonds".
Deep tissue massage aims to improve muscle function by allowing tense muscles to move freely. In cases of injury, or chronic muscle tension caused by disease or disorder, painful adhesions in muscle connective tissue builds up preventing movement. Muscles that are not able to function properly can also block circulation and cause inflammation through a build up of toxins.
By applying pressure and friction across and along the muscle fibres, the deep tissue massage therapist breaks down adhesions in the connective tissue and restores range of movement. The release of this muscle tension will then improve circulation and aid pain relief.
Although many of the techniques used are similar to Swedish massage, deep tissue massage is a more intense therapy and focuses on the specific area of the body causing a problem.
Be prepared - It is advisable to choose a deep tissue massage practitioner who is a member of, or is accredited by, an association or professional body. This ensures your therapy session is carried out in a suitable environment and by someone who has received formal training and ongoing development. Members are also bound to a code of ethics and practice. The main deep tissue massage organisations are listed at the foot of this article.
As deep tissue massage will release toxins from the body you should avoid alcohol on the day of your appointment and drink plenty of water before and after. This will help with flushing the toxins from your body. Have a light snack (nothing spicy or fatty) a couple of hours before you see the practitioner and if you can, consider taking a short walk beforehand to warm up the muscles.
Be aware that deep tissue massage requires the practitioner to be hands-on and you will need to be fully or partially undressed during the treatment. Your deep tissue massage therapist will provide you with towels, a robe or blanket.
Your deep tissue massage therapist will spend time during your first appointment questioning you about your medical history and general health. They will then examine your body for muscle imbalances and from this be able to diagnose your problem and recommend a course of massage treatment.
The therapist will use their fingers, knuckles, hands and elbows to apply various massage techniques on the specific areas that need treating. They will begin by applying pressure and stroking movements (called 'effleurage') using their fingers and palms. As the session progresses, deeper pressure (called 'petrissage') is applied to stretch out and separate muscle tissue and encourage better circulation of fluids in the body. The final method (called 'frictions') involves breaking down built up scar tissue and separation of muscle fibres. You will be asked to breathe deeply during the session when tense muscles are being worked on. Be aware deep tissue massage can be uncomfortable but you should inform your therapist if they go beyond your comfort zone.
After your session you may feel slightly sore or tired but this is normal. Deep tissue massage will dehydrate the body and release toxins so drink plenty of water afterwards. Your therapist will discuss the treatment with you and then make recommendations for any further sessions. They may also suggest ice packs to apply on the areas that have been treated.
Your first session with a deep tissue massage therapist may take longer than subsequent sessions as your practitioner questions you about your medical history and then recommends a course of treatment. Expect this session to last 60 - 90 minutes and follow-up sessions 30 - 60 minutes.
The cost for a deep tissue massage varies so check with your local practitioner before making an appointment. Expect to pay £30 - £50 for your first session with subsequent sessions costing £15 - £30.
Many people feel the benefit of deep tissue massage after one session. More chronic conditions may need further sessions to fully break down adhesions that have built up over a longer period. The number of sessions you'll require will depend on your circumstances.
Deep tissue massage is a safe therapy that is beneficial to overall health and can aid stress-relief (often the cause of muscle tension). Deep tissue massage is not recommended if you have any wounds, infections or bruising on the skin. If you have a muscle tear it is advisable to wait for the tear to heal before having massage on it. If you are diabetic or pregnant, inform the therapist before starting any treatment.
Consult with your GP and deep tissue massage therapist about any medical problems or concerns you have as they are trained to recognise what can and cannot be treated with the therapy.
We always advise with any conditions, ailment or health problem you take independent medical advice from your GP before considering a complementrary therapy, alternative medicine or alternative treatment.