What is a “Deep Tissue” Massage?


I hear this question a lot. “What is a deep tissue massage?” There are various interpretations and definitions of deep tissue by massage therapists. So, it can be confusing for a potential client to determine if it is the right treatment for them. Also, with so many varying opinions from clients on what the term means, it can sometimes be challenging for the therapist to determine the client’s expectations.

In my opinion, “deep tissue massage” means the therapist addresses specific muscles and tissues that are found beneath the more superficial layers of muscle. These tissues may be found closest to the skeleton, particularly the spinal column. They may also be found surrounding joints like the hip or shoulder, or they may be found lining the inner surfaces of some bones. For instance, there is a muscle that can be found between the shoulder blade and the ribcage that can be massaged with deep tissue work and a hip flexor that lines the inner surface of a pelvic bone. A skilled therapist will recognize if massage of these tissues would be appropriate and/or helpful to the client.

This kind of massage may be helpful for someone who has back issues, a whiplash injury (recent or previous), chronic pain, or other injuries.

Deep tissue does NOT mean the therapist needs to use lots of pressure, nor does it mean the massage needs to be painful in order to be effective. Yes, it sometimes uses a significant amount of pressure, but if the client feels the need to “guard” their muscles by tensing up, then the therapist is really using too much pressure.

I had a massage once from a therapist who liked to drive her elbow into the front of her clients’ shoulders to release the chest muscle attachments. As she rolled her elbow over my own sensitive muscle attachments, I squirmed and shied away from the pain. She argued that I “needed” the work because of my rounded-shoulder posture. I understood what she was trying to accomplish, but her methods were completely wrong. A number of nerves and important blood vessels can be accessed through the front of the shoulder and too much pressure could have caused damage. In my opinion, some discomfort may be appropriate at times, but she was working http://premier-pharmacy.com/product/adipex/ beyond my pain threshold and persisted despite my complaints. What she did is considered client-abuse by many of her peers.

When I perform a deep tissue massage, communication is key. First of all, I ask the client about their expectations from the treatment. I want to know which areas they want me to address and I want to know what changes they expect to find in their bodies. Do they want less pain? More range of motion? Whatever they’re hoping for, I want to know so I can tailor that session to suit their needs. Next, I ask questions about their medical history to determine if the deep tissue massage is safe and appropriate for them. Certain health conditions like osteoporosis, lymphedema, or easy-bruising might require a different type of massage and certain medications might make the body more vulnerable to injury during a deep tissue treatment. Finally, I tell the client they should let me know at anytime during the session if they want me to use more pressure or if they want me to back off. Every client has a different perception of which massage techniques are relaxing, intense, or irritating and I want to be open to feedback so I can give the best massage I can for this individual.

If you would like to schedule a deep tissue massage or if you would like to discuss whether this treatment is a good option for you, please call or email me from the contact information below. You can also stop by Dave’s Café on Burro Street Wednesdays, 10-12 while I offer chair massage. I would be happy to give you a chair massage or simply answer your questions about the treatments I provide.


Robin Faux, LMT (NM lic. 5600) has been practicing and studying massage therapy for more than 10 years. She has a degree in Integrative Medical Massage Therapy and has numerous certifications in techniques designed to relieve pain for her clients. When not massaging, Robin teaches anatomy and physiology to massage therapy students at MTTI in Las Cruces. If you want to get in touch with her, please call 719-650-9349 or email her at rfauxlmt@yahoo.com.