What exactly is Deep Tissue massage, and how can it get you out of pain?

Deep tissue massage is a combination of techniques your massage therapist uses. Usually, these methods use slower, firmer strokes focused on the deeper muscle and fascia layers. This approach goes to the source of your aches and pains to help you feel better fast.

Skillful deep tissue massage can significantly improve a variety of common painful areas quite quickly, from head to toe.

 For example, deep tissue can help:

  • Stiff, painful neck and shoulders, often from long hours at the computer or driving
  • Low back pain from bending over, lifting heavy boxes, shoveling gravel, etc.
  • Sore legs following a long hike or bike ride
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness after painting your kitchen or playing weekend sports

Whatever activity brings on your pain, the process is usually the same: you perform certain movements or sit in fixed positions for long periods. This causes certain areas of our body to become tight, tense, and painful. 

Deep Tissue Massage gets you out of pain by softening your tense, tight fascia, and shortened muscles.

As we go about our day, working, playing, and hopefully exercising, the muscles we are using slowly get tighter, making them shorter. 

Or, the opposite happens; we sit for hours staring at a screen and becoming tense, which cancels out the body’s main tool to heal itself: movement. 

BOTH of these things – activity or lack of activity – plus our usual quota of stress – can cause our muscles to get tight and painful. 

This uncomfortable feeling can increase as the same shortened tissues restrict our proper joint alignments and compress our joints together. At this point, we begin to have joint pain in addition to muscle pain. 

Now is the time to seek out the best deep tissue massage therapist you can find, so they can:

  • Work into the deeper muscle and fascia layers, as deep as you can comfortably tolerate, to create lengthening and softening.
  • This lengthening will, in turn, open up the joints, so they have the proper amount of space for pain-free, unrestricted movement.
  • Open up the deeper tissue layers so that blood and lymph fluid circulation can flow easily and nourish and rejuvenate overused muscles. 
  • Locate the places where stress and tension have lodged into your body and soften and relax those areas. 

How deep is deep tissue? Skillful deep tissue will NOT be painful!

For the last 30 years, most massage therapists have been taught NOT TO ADD trauma to the body. Trauma is never beneficial to the person receiving the massage. Instead, massage therapists know to only go as deep as you can comfortably tolerate and receive. No one receiving a massage wants to be in pain during their massage!

Sometimes massage clients will joke that the pressure hurts GOOD … 

… which means they really like how it feels. They know they are getting fabulous benefits from the work, even though it may be slightly uncomfortable. It is never painful, though.

Long ago, people getting a massage may have unknowingly asked for extreme deep pressure, thinking that more is better. A few bodyworkers would accommodate them and go deeper than was necessary. This is how the rumor began, that deep tissue is painful, which it’s not. That was just a rumor.

For massage therapists nowadays, we know not to go beyond your comfort level. We will ALWAYS check-in and ask you how the pressure is. 

How is Deep Tissue Massage different from Swedish or Sports Massage?

The massage techniques utilized in both deep tissue and sports massage are often quite similar.  Deep tissue and sports massage usually use slower, firmer strokes, focused on the deeper muscle and fascia layers, to break apart micro-scar tissue and adhesions that restrict our movements.

These restrictions can come from exertion, overuse, an injury, or just staring at a computer screen for way too long!

The differences between deep tissue and sports massage are:

a deep tissue massage is often given as a full-body massage to provide its benefits to the whole body. In comparison, Sports massage is usually much more targeted towards specific areas of the body than a regular deep tissue massage. 

The specific areas that sports massage focuses on could be tight, sore legs, painful hip joints, or problems with limited range of motion in a shoulder, to give a few examples. 

You can read more about Sports Massage in our recent blog. 

Sometimes people prefer Swedish massage over deep tissue massage because their main goal is just relaxation and stress relief. Swedish differs from deep tissue massage due to a somewhat different set of techniques along with the lighter pressure therapists will generally use.

When is deep tissue the most helpful for me?

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and notice the back pain you were feeling yesterday is getting worse. Or you are still having trouble walking due to foot pain. When this happens, you probably feel you are dealing with a problem that needs attention. It’s probably not going away. 

This is the time to book a deep tissue massage – ASAP!

The problem spots you are feeling will not necessarily be hard to remedy. In the training room of almost every professional sports team in the world, they know that the annoying pain an athlete complains about today could quite possibly be gone by the end of the week.

That’s because the pros know the power of skillful deep tissue massage and how quickly the pain can go away once the tight, shortened muscles and tissue are lengthened back out.  

The pros also know to use their common sense. If the pain is the result of a significant injury, if it’s getting worse, or if there are other warning signs, like swelling, redness, extreme pain, etc., you go see a doctor. Today. You don’t wait for it to develop into a serious emergency.

If you have any of the warning signs mentioned above or are in doubt, go to urgent care today. It’s a hassle, yes, but not nearly the hassle of missing an opportunity for a quicker recovery.

The best massage in Portland!

Voted “Best” in Willamette Week Newspaper Readers’ Poll, 2017 & 2021

When you search for the best deep tissue massage near me, you will usually end up at East Bridge Massage. That’s because our clinic is known as a place where every single massage therapist is a deep tissue massage expert. 

Why deep tissue massage is more effective at EBM

Portland loves East Bridge Massage because all of our therapists are at the top of their field in deep tissue massage, plus many other styles and techniques we can use to enhance your massage experience.

We can add in techniques such as Ashiatsu, cupping, prenatal pregnancy massage, and medical massage to sports massage, Swedish massage, craniosacral, lomilomi, and myofascial release. And this is not the whole list we use to make your massage the very best!

This is why East Bridge Massage won the Willamette Week’s Best Massage rating in the 2017 Readers’ Poll and another Best rating again in the Willamette Week’s 2021 Quarantine Edition, Readers’ Poll. 

Our staff of deep tissue professionals helps our clients every day with:

  • Back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder (joint) pain
  • Knee pain
  • Foot pain
  • Arm, wrist, and elbow pain
  • And everything in between!

Our regular patients and clients are still amazed at how much better they can feel after just one session. 

Make an appointment today! Come on in and give us a try! 

Discover why we are the home of the best deep tissue massage in Portland!


Writing by P.D. Black, LMT, Freelance Writer