So What Is Deep Tissue Massage Anyway?

21 June 2019

massage therapist Willow Chiropractic

With so many different types of massage out there, it can be difficult to understand what’s what, and what it’s for. I spoke to two of Willow Chiropractic’s massage therapists, Glen Schmidt from the Nailsea clinic and Lizzie Cox from Emersons Green and Yate clinics, to find out more.


Hello both! Thank you so much for joining me.

First things first: at Willow we offer Sports and Deep Tissue massage, but what are they and how are they different from each other?

Glen: So, as it states, Deep Tissue massage works with the deep tissues – basically the muscles. This kind of massage works to relieve, release and soften tension in that muscle.

Lizzie: Yep, essentially that. Deep Tissue massage works with smaller, more focused areas of newer tension, whereas Sports massage works on breaking down older, larger knots that may be a result of injury. Sports massage uses passive stretching techniques alongside the techniques you might find in a Deep Tissue massage, so it’s about tackling the more long-term issues.

Glen: Exactly – a massage therapist will generally use Deep Tissue techniques as part of a Sports massage treatment. They’re not two entirely separate things in terms of skills and techniques, but moreso in the nature of what they aim to achieve, and what combination of skills and techniques they apply to get there.

What can a patient expect during these types of massage?

Lizzie: If it’s your first massage with us, we’ll ask you to fill out a short piece of paperwork and will take some time at the beginning of the appointment to run through a consultation with you to establish your needs. It’s important for us to know about any prior injuries, and to understand your current problem areas, so that we can treat appropriately. Then we’ll get right into it!

Glen: Typically the therapist will warm up the muscles with lighter pressure to start with, before increasing intensity and pressure to work down into the muscles and release the tension there. We use a range of creams and oils too to help with the muscle warming and relaxation.

Quite a lot of people expect Deep Tissue and Sports massage to hurt, is that true or a misconception?

Glen: This is actually probably the biggest misconception – we’re not here to beat people up! It’s about working together to get the pain and tension clear.

Lizzie: We do not want our clients in pain! This is probably my golden rule when going for a therapeutic massage; communicate with your therapist throughout. It’s important to let us know if the pressure is too much – we will always adapt and work within the range of whatever is comfortable for you.

Glen: If the muscles are very tight and uncomfortable, you may feel a little discomfort initially as we begin to work on them – this should ease as the therapist works with the muscles. As Lizzie said, we don’t want you in pain! That said, it’s important to understand that this is a therapeutic massage that works with deep tissues and muscles – it’s not a Swedish massage, the type you would find in a spa. The point is to get down into the muscles, which may be an unusual sensation but it’s an essential part of the treatment. So whilst we don’t want you to be in pain or too much discomfort, don’t expect it to be a light rub!

back massage therapy
Physiotherapist massaging female patient with injured lower back muscle. Sports injury treatment.

Are there any other misconceptions around Sports and Deep Tissue massage that you would like to address?

Glen: Yes – I would like to challenge anybody who says “I don’t play sport so Sports massage isn’t for me”. Sure it’s called Sports massage, but it’s for anybody, at any age, who has muscles – simple as that!

Lizzie: I find that patients don’t expect to see such significant results from massage, and are pleasantly surprised when they do. It definitely gets underestimated.

Glen: I’ve had people come to me and say that they hadn’t even realised how much their aches and pains had been interfering with their mental health until the pain was gone. When you are in pain or restricted in your movements, getting disrupted sleep, it really takes a toll on your overall wellbeing. That’s a big one – massage is about improving your quality of life overall, not just pain management.

Are there certain conditions or areas of pain that you tend to see a lot?

Lizzie: Most often I see patients with issues around back and neck ache. In the modern day we put a lot of stress on our bodies – working on desks, sitting in cars for long periods, etc. – which in turn puts a lot of strain on your muscles and structures supporting you.

Glen: I would agree, I see a lot of back and neck ache but also knee and shoulder pain. I tend to find that they’re all linked to one another, too. Computers and desk-based jobs have an awful lot to answer for!

Any final words or tips? Top “Do” and “Don’t” when coming in to see you for a massage?

Lizzie: I said it before, but it’s really important – DO make sure you tell your therapist about any previous injuries! It’s all relevant, and it will surprise you how much the body can compensate for an injury in other areas. Make sure you are well hydrated, too.

Glen: I would say DO come in appropriate clothing – the area we’re working on will need to be exposed bare. We do have towels to cover you if you would feel more comfortable in something like shorts, make sure you come prepared. Also, try to be as clean as possible!

Lizzie: As for a “don’t”, I would say please don’t try to be a ‘helper’. Patients often try to be helpful to me by actively moving their muscles, but it’s best for you to just relax and allow the therapist to do the work for you. When the muscle is tense it can be difficult to work deep enough into the tissue, so just lay back and let us sort it.

Glen: Don’t take painkillers before you come, it’s important for you to be able to communicate your actual levels of pain or discomfort to us as necessary. Also don’t consume alcohol before or after a massage – hydration is super important to the treatment.


If you would like to book a massage at Willow and are a new massage patient, you can take advantage of our £30 introductory offer for a 30 minute massage. Click here for more information, or give us a call on 0800 511 8966.

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