Sometimes pain and pleasure go so well together.
This is the case for me with deep tissue massages.
In a recent article I discussed how I attack projects in obsessive spurts, but take preventive measures to keep from burning out.
Getting a massage is one of those preventive measure I take.
I think massages are great, not only for reducing muscle soreness, but for recharging the mind.
Deep Tissue vs Other Forms of Massage
Deep tissue massage is massage therapy that addresses muscular tension in the sub layers of the muscles and fascia. Gentle stretching and myofascial trigger point therapy techniques are used to reduce pain in the body associated with soreness and tension. Deep tissue massage may assist with chronic muscular pain, rehabilitation from an injury or reducing inflammation related pain.
Deep tissue is my favorite, but it might not be for you. Here’s are some brief summaries of other popular forms of massage:
Swedish massage is a system of therapeutic techniques designed to soothe and relax the body to restore or maintain health and overall well being. The purpose is to increase circulation toward the heart. Swedish massage may help relax tense muscles, aid in lymphatic drainage and circulation, increase joint range of motion and reduce inflammation from the swelling in the extremities.
I like Swedish massages and find them very relaxing.
Shiatsu is derived from the words “shi” meaning finger and “atsu” meaning pressure. Shiatsu is acupressure along the meridians of the body which correspond with certain organs. It may assist in restoring balance in the body by encouraging the movement of energy. Shiatsu may reduce stress by promoting healthy functioning of the nervous system.
I’ve had massages where the therapist mixed Shiatsu techniques in, but never had it done exclusively. I like it, but it’s not my preference.
Reflexology consists of application of pressure to various points and areas on the feet (also hands and ears). The theory is that reflexology affects all organs in the body, from the stomach to the kidneys, in addition to all systems in the body, from the musculoskeletal to the endocrine system. Reflexology uses a roadmap of the feet, in which certain areas correspond to certain organs, glands or areas of the body.
Reflexology feels nice, but I personally feel that the benefits are a bit exaggerated – at least that’s been my experience.
Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage
- Reduces chronic pain (lower back, carpel tunnel, osteoarthritis, tennis elbow)
- Improved recovery from injury
- Improves mobility (helps with posture imbalances)
- Reduces muscle soreness, tightness and spasms from physical activity
- Triggers the release of oxytocin and serotonin (boosts mood and relaxation)
- Reduces cortisol and heart rate (lowers stress)
What to Expect (The Good and The Bad)
If it’s your first time, and especially if you workout on a regular basis, you can expect to be in pain.
You can always tell the massage therapist at any time to be more gentle. There’s a big difference between an inexperienced therapist being rough because they don’t know any better and a skilled therapist really digging in deep.
Personally, I enjoy the pain.
Aside from massages from girls I’ve dated, I had only had 1 professional (Swedish) massage before getting my first deep tissue massage. I thought I knew what a rough massage felt like, but I realized very quickly that those were all soft in comparison.
My first time I went to this spa place in the mall. This is when I was doing 5×5 training and hadn’t really made stretching and foam rolling a solid habit yet – so I had a LOT of tension in my muscles.
I scanned the room, sizing up the staff. I wanted a woman to give me the massage, but I wanted her to be strong cause I wanted to get the full experience of a deep tissue massage. Then I was approached by a little Vietnamese woman with grey hair who didn’t speak English.
Great, the only person available is this little old lady. I figured I was in for a pretty gentle massage.
I was wrong.
The brute strength contained in this little woman was incredible. The next 30 minutes were pure torture. I didn’t tell her to take it easy, cause I’m sick in the head, but my god I almost tapped out several times. I was really impressed at how she would move my arms around to target smaller muscle groups and work on my joints.
After she worked the knots out it really became very relaxing and no longer hurt. In fact it became euphoric at that point.
I was hooked.
I’ve never had a massage that hurt as bad as that first one. But if I go a long time without a massage, the first one back in the game usually hurts a little more. I always feel euphoria towards the end and after a good deep tissue massage. It’s a great natural high.
Potential side effects of deep tissue massages:
- General aching
I usually don’t feel any negative side effects. If a massage therapist had to spend an extra amount of time in a particular area, I’ll be a little sore there afterwards. Similar to the soreness of working out.
After a good massage I usually feel very energized. However, some people get sleepy afterwards which is completely normal. I sometimes get sleepy a few hours after receiving the massage.
I’ve seen people say they feel a little sick following a massage. This is supposedly due to the movement of toxins that had laid dormant in the lymphatic system and muscles. I can’t say that I’ve experienced more than just a general sluggish feeling a few hours after a massage. However, you probably don’t need to worry if you feel achy after a massage.
Where to Get Massages
There’s really 2 ways to go about this. You can go for convenience or go for the full experience.
For the convenient route, you can find a reputable chain spa like Massage Envy and just walk right in.
Don’t be turned off by the chair massages in the mall either.
I’ve actually had countless chair massages in malls that have been excellent.
The downfall to the chair massage is that it isn’t a full body massage. Also, you usually aren’t in a private room and that makes it difficult for some people to completely relax. On the other hand – they are typically cheaper, more convenient and still good massages.
I don’t have a problem relaxing and I tend to store the most tension in my shoulders, so these are great for me. I think out of 50+ chair massages I’ve had 1 bad massage and a handful mediocre massages.
All that said, these kind of places are a little more hit or miss.
For the full experience, you want to do a little research through Google and Yelp to find a legit massage therapist in your area. They typically will charge more and you will have to book an appointment in advance, but it’s worth it.
Legit massage therapists have a full understanding of the human anatomy and it reflects in their work. Their facility will be clean, private and professional.
Ideally you want to find a massage therapist that you can visit on a regular basis for the long term. After a few massages they will learn which muscle groups need the most attention and you’ll get more personalized service.
If you can spare a little extra cash, massages are a great investment for your health and longevity.
To really top it off, follow up your massage with a relaxing Epsom salt bath.
Work hard and play hard, but don’t forget to recover hard.
That’s the key to a balanced life.
Until Next Time,
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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