Soft Tissue or Deep Tissue Massage?
Relaxation & Well-Being: Swedish or Soft Tissue Massage
What is the difference between a Soft tissue or a Deep tissue massage treatment?
Swedish or Soft Tissue Massage is the traditional form of massage practiced in this country and most commonly used for general relaxation. It uses a variety of movements, predominantly long and flowing strokes, which most clients find to be extremely relaxing. It usually works with all of the soft tissues of the body and so can also be considered a soft tissue treatment.
The Benefits of Swedish Massage
Swedish massage can help:
- Stretch muscles
- Flush metabolic waste
- Release toxins from the muscles
- Increase lymph and lymphatic flow
- Increase oxygen flow
- Boost circulation
- Stimulate skin
- Stimulate Parasympathetic Nervous System (Relaxation: ‘Rest and Digest’)
- Soothe Sympathetic Nervous System (Stress: ‘Fight and Flight’)
- Cleanse and nourish the soft tissues
- Body and Mind to relax naturally, many clients reporting:
- increased well-being
- improved sleep
- stress reduction
The Five Main Swedish Massage Techniques
• Effleurage: long, flowing strokes
• Petrissage: squeezing and kneading of the muscles
• Friction: deep, penetrating strokes in circular movements
• Pressures: pressure is applied to small, localized areas
• Tapotement: tapping the muscles with fingers or hands
Deep Tissue & Clinical Massage Techniques
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is a therapeutic technique designed to relieve severe tension and congestion in the deeper tissue structures of the muscles and the connective tissue or fascia that surround them. It is usually recommended for people who experience consistent pain and stiff muscles due to heavy physical activity and clients who have sustained physical injury.
Unlike other methods that are for pure relaxation, the deep tissue massage techniques are more intense, and apply slower, deeper pressure on the problem areas. The methods comprise many of the Swedish massage therapy movements, but the pressure applied is more intense and works to release chronic muscle tension or knots, known as adhesions. They can also stretch and lengthen the musculature to open out the body.
Musculoskeletal pain is usually due to a cycle of cause and effect within the body. It beings with a spasm in a specific part of a muscle, that may spread further with time. As a result of these spasms the blood circulation to the affected area is decreased, causing a lack of oxygen and nutrient supply, and a build-up of lactic acid. These effects, in particular the lactic acid deposition, in turn cause further muscle spasms and soreness. The deep tissue massage processes use friction and compression of the muscles to first restrict further and then increase the flow of blood and nutrients, which can allow the muscle to naturally relax. Hence, the techniques are very effective for pain relief, especially for chronic conditions and sports related injuries.
Trigger Point Therapy (TPT)
Deep tissue massage techniques can be used on trigger points to help gain relief from their symptoms in a method known as Trigger Point Therapy. Trigger points are usually associated with chronic musculoskeletal disorders and may develop in any skeletal muscle and associated fascia. They are often described as a hypersensitive nodule or bundle of taut muscle fibre, which is contracted and abnormally harder than normal muscle and thus remains tight. This can cause weakness, pain or restriction of movement in the muscle as well as the points where the muscle is attached.
Apart from causing local pain and tenderness at the site of the trigger point, they may also cause pain in distant locations via the connective tissue within the body – known as referred pain. Another feature of trigger points is local twitch response, in which there may be a momentary muscular spasm or twitching reaction of the taut muscle when it is subjected to pressure. Trigger points can be classified into active and latent ones. The active trigger points can cause local as well as referred pain, even during rest. The latent trigger points are usually associated with muscle weakness, and sometimes with restriction of movements. Pain is experienced only when the point is subjected to some sort of pressure.
Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT)
Neuromuscular Therapy is a form of massage technique that is primarily focussed on the trigger points, rather than on massaging the whole body as in Swedish massage. I use my fingertips, hands, elbows and occasionally knees, to explore the tissues and apply perpendicular pressure to the affected muscles. This can be done with the assistance of the client, to locate any trigger points and apply direct pressure using specialized techniques.
This type of massage is similar in some respects to deep tissue massage and is aimed at alleviating muscle stress, and facilitating healing by applying concentrated pressure. As well as bringing relief to trigger points it may also be effective in treating tingling and numbness of limbs due to trapped nerves, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, and repetitive motion injury.
Fascia is a web-like structure of connective tissue that surrounds and penetrates everything in the body – veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, ligaments and organs. It helps to both hold everything in place and to enable effective movement. Myofascia is the name for the fascia surrounding muscles in particular, which is why the term is used in massage therapy. I incorporate Myofascial Release techniques into most of my massage treatments and can offer focussed Myofascial Release treatments on request.
Fascia is made of:
- Ground substance = a gel-like substance which acts as a type of shock absorber
- Elastin = to give it elasticity & return back to shape after stretching
- Collagen = to give it strength
To put the role of fascia in simple terms:
- More Movement = more we move & stretch = more elastin created = more flexibility
- This is why acrobatics, gymnastics, or practicing yoga or pilates leads to greater flexibility
- Less Movement = less we move and stretch = more collagen created = less flexibility
- This is why the more sedentary we are, the more restricted we can become
- Water & Lubrication: all that ‘dew like’ liquid on the fascial web is actually water. The human body is 70% water and much of it resides in the fascia assisting to keep it well-lubricated and flexible. This is why keeping well hydrated and drinking plenty of water is so important for maintaining a good range of movement
- Flexibility & Massage: however, in order for any water to reach it you have to keep the fascia, muscles and soft tissue flexible and open in the first place. This is where massage treatments & myofascial release become part of the process for improving your overall fascial, muscular and body condition