Everything you need to know about deep tissue massages

Sarah Pelham

Whether you’re a budding athlete, F45 regular or a keyboard warrior, everyone at some point can appreciate the benefits from a deep tissue massage. Let’s be honest, sore traps and stiff lower backs don’t discriminate.

So, if you’re contemplating on whether or not to go deep, we’ve outlined all the ins and outs so you can decide whether it’s right for you.


What is a deep tissue massage?

A deep tissue massage is a specific technique that focuses on relieving muscle tension and strain. This particular style focuses on the deeper muscle tissue and the connected tissue known as fascia (1) and for those that skipped biology 🙋it’s pronounced fei.shee.uh. This particular type of service sometimes requires firmer pressure to reach the key areas. Making it essential that you know your particular pressure preferences - this one isn’t for the faint-hearted.

What are the benefits of a deep tissue massage?

Besides giving yourself some well-deserved self-care (our personal favourite hashtag trend) a deep tissue massage can sort out a range of issues and concerns. We suggest you always chat to your therapist to make sure this service is a “swipe right” for your concerns. If you decide to saddle up, you can expect some of the following benefits:

Relief from muscular pain

Depending on the particular area, deep tissue massage is a go-to for many that suffer from muscle pain, chronic or mild. Even the major muscle known as the heart - if it’s taken a beating a bit of TLC can go a long way 😉.

“The study showed a significant improvement with regard to the experienced pain and the self-reported disability, both in the TG (deep tissue massage) and in the CG (deep tissue massage together with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which may suggest the effectiveness of deep tissue massage in back pain.” - Marian Majchrzycki, Piotr Kocur, and Tomasz Kotwicki, 2014, p.4) (2)

Extending your range of motion

Scar tissue and gummed-fascia (built up or sticky tissue that attaches itself to a muscle or ligament) can debilitate and affect the amount of range you have. Working out those areas with some intentional pressure can really improve your range of motion.

Assisting in recovery from injuries

Getting some firm love into the tissue and fascia increases blood flow whilst encouraging waste debris to flush out from the affected scar tissue or injured area.

Improving heart and lung function

A less expected benefit of massage is a reduction in both heart rate and blood pressure. Studies have highlighted how treatments that last between 45 to 60 minutes can result in improved functionality (3). We told you, a little tough love can go a long way.

Encouraging lymphatic drainage

Through pressure and movement the lymph is naturally encouraged to drain toxins and waste (4). Well, it won’t get rid of your Saturday night regrets but it can’t hurt to try, right?

Assisting with de-stressing

Good for the body, but also good for the mind. Taking the time to focus on numero uno will help centre your chi 💆.

Good for the body, but also good for the mind. Taking the time to focus on numero uno will help centre your chi
Through pressure and movement the lymph is naturally encouraged to drain toxins and waste (4). Well, it won’t get rid of your Saturday night regrets but it can’t hurt to try, right?

So, all in all you can head in for a deep tissue massage and expect to receive a little more than just muscle relief. It can assist with your mental health, heart and lungs, recovery and prevention of injuries, as well as draining out some nasty toxins.

What types of deep tissue massage are there?

Just when you thought the variants couldn’t get any spicier. We’ve listed some of the types of deep tissue massages you can expect:

Transverse friction

Traverse friction is a style of massage that is essentially moving across the skin with an applied pressure to the muscle. This type of deep tissue massage is commonly used to break up adhesions or muscle knots in the tissue, increase blood flow, circulation and flexibility.

Trigger point therapy

Trigger point therapy focuses on isolated and centralised muscle pain. There is pressure applied to the trigger point, which at first can be slightly painful, but then results in a release of restricted tension.

Positional release therapy

Positional release therapy (5) generally goes hand-in-hand with trigger point therapy. A trigger point will be stimulated whilst an appendage or part of the body is manipulated. So, in other words, there will be pressure applied to one point whilst a body part is being moved at the same time.

Soft tissue release

Soft tissue release is practised when a specific body part needs to be stretched out to release muscle tension. Sometimes an assisted stretch can just get you moving in the right direction.

Rolfing Structural Integration

Rolfing is a whole body technique that primarily focuses on the connectivity of the fascia (that funny term for the connective tissue). This style of massage looks at the tissue as a network and aims to bring balance to the body as a whole.

So there you have it, the world of massage is wide and far. We’d say to expect each treatment to be slightly different using a combination of the different types of deep tissue massage techniques. Your therapist may recommend any style from trigger point therapy, rolfing, soft tissue release, positional release therapy or transverse friction. In other words, no two sessions will be the same, but who likes predictability anyway?

What can I expect from a deep tissue massage?

Before your therapist begins, they’ll ask about your general health and problem areas (we’re talking physical, not with where you’re at in life 🔮). A little FYI, you should always disclaim any medical conditions or if you’re uncertain about anything you should speak to your health professional beforehand.

Medical conditions to be wary of:

  • A history of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis.
  • You are taking blood thinners.
  • Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia.
  • If you have been diagnosed with cancer or are currently undergoing cancer treatment.
  • You have osteoporosis.
  • Currently have an open wound or infection.
  • You have lymphedema.

Depending on your problem area you may or may not need to get a little nakey. Your therapist will talk you through this and will either get you to lie down on a massage table or settle you into a massage chair. A deep tissue massage will normally combine hands, fingers and possibly elbows. The strokes are generally long and quite slow to ease in and out of the muscle.

We can’t guarantee there will be a whimsical forest soundtrack playing in the background. However, we can guarantee there will be pressure. Make sure you’re communicating to your therapist if things become too uncomfortable.

What are the side effects of deep tissue massages?

You should be feeling elated … in a couple of days. Have no fear though, the good stuff is in the long game (we’re pulling out all the clichés). Anything good is worth waiting for - said someone, somewhere at some point.

You can expect a few niggles and slight side effects after having a deep tissue massage. For instance, your muscles are already in a bit of a state pre-massage, so applying extra pressure may cause muscle soreness for a few days afterwards. This is nothing to be alarmed by. As mentioned, the good stuff comes later.

Your problem area should feel looser and more relaxed in the days to come, as well as accompanied by better sleep and a clearer mind.

Deep tissue massage comparisons

Deep tissue vs sports massage

Even though these two massages are solution-focused, they are varied and serve different purposes. The main difference between the two is what tissues and fibres they’re targeting. For instance, a sports massage focuses on manipulation of the soft tissue (not as sinister as it sounds we promise 🖤). Whereas, a deep tissue massage is focusing on those deeper layers. A sports massage is primarily encouraged for prevention or existing sports injuries.

Deep tissue massage vs Swedish massage

If there are any two types of massage we hope you don’t get mixed up, we’d say it’s these two. Even though the strokes can be familiar in both types of treatment, they’re usually delivered differently. Swedish massage is primarily for maximum relaxation, when you really need to be washed over with a de-stresser. And, even though deep tissue massage has been found to promote relaxation afterwards, you’re generally not expected to doze off mid-treatment.

Deep tissue massage vs Thai massage

The style of massage is the biggest difference between these two. Thai massage can be at the same intensity as deep tissue massage. However, Thai massage generally focuses on the whole body and includes elements of stretching and yoga-esque maneuvers towards the end. If you’re looking for something that is energising as well as relaxing, Thai Massage could be right for you.

Deep tissue massage vs relaxation massage

Well, we would want to hope with a relaxation massage you are heading in for the right reasons. Expect to walk in and potentially float out. We’d say therapists that offer relaxation massages are acquainted with their client’s rumbling snores. Whereas a deep tissue therapist is probably used to something less rhythmic. Remember, deep tissue massages are for those that don’t mind a bit of a nudge 😉.

As we touched on earlier, there’s an abundance of good things to come out of a deep tissue massage. However, if you’re looking for specific health benefits, slap a celery juice in your hand and let’s take a trip down wheatgrass lane.

What are the health benefits from a deep tissue massage?

As we touched on earlier, there’s an abundance of good things to come out of a deep tissue massage. However, if you’re looking for specific health benefits, slap a celery juice in your hand and let’s take a trip down wheatgrass lane.

  • When the heart is pumping over time - take the time to slow it down. Deep tissue massage can have positive side effects on systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure readings in adults who suffer from pain and high blood pressure symptoms (6).

  • It doesn’t matter if your athletic journey begins and ends with a walk to the fridge, if you’re suffering from season binge strain, a deep tissue massage can be the cure! Keeping on top of injuries with a deep tissue massage can make a world of difference (7).

  • We’ve mentioned it before and we’re mentioning it again because we think it’s very important. Your mental health (8) is one of the biggest players in the game. If your mind isn’t clear, then how is everything else meant to function? Make sure you’re adding in the time for you.

Lowering your blood pressure, relief from injuries and mental health improvements are just some of the many health benefits you could experience from having a deep tissue massage. It’s not to say you won’t experience anything else health-centric, but like a Picasso, it’s all a bit subjective. However, if you’re looking for something that may assist with your mental clarity, high blood pressure or an injury, go ahead and book yourself in for a deep tissue massage.


  1. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-fascia-in-anatomy-definition-tears.html
  2. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/287597
  3. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/manual-lymphatic-drainage
  5. https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/what-is-positional-release-therapy
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3733180/
  7. https://www.powerphysiotherapy.com.au/benefits-deep-tissue-massage/
  8. https://www.discovermassage.com.au/blog/5-ways-massages-can-reduce-stress/