The Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage in Integrative Medicine

All massage practitioners are, I’m sure, aware of the myths surrounding Deep Tissue Massages.

Some of the myths are that deep tissue massages are painful, “no pain, no gain”, involve intense pressure and discomfort, etc.  I’m sure all of the massage practitioners reading this understand that it is nothing more than a myth that must be debunked.

In fact, deep tissue massages have been demonstrated to help patients with specific pain points, which in turn has ultimately helped athletic injuries, chronic pain of specific points, and more specifically the treatment of fibromyalgia after several sessions.

deep tissue massageAs stress of the body builds up due to physical activity and overall health, adhesions (painful tissue) build up in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments (2). Deep tissue massage works these adhesions out, and allows blood to circulate more efficiently. In turn, pain is relieved, and motion restored.

Further, deep tissue massage has been proven to improve overall bodily and physiological health. Paul Reller L.Ac. cites a 2010 New York Times article that reported on a clinical trial by the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles that was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Reller remarks, “To the surprise of the researchers, the beneficial physiological changes measured in the deep tissue physiotherapy group were dramatic” (1).

Specifically, the clinical trial showed that deep tissue massage decreased the amount of cortisol circulating throughout the body. Coritsol is known as the stress hormone, but not becuase it relieves emotional stress. It functions to “counter the ill effects of acute physiological stress in the body” (1).

Coritsol is in a “feedback” system, as Reller would suggest, and it is responding to a number of physiological stressors, such as “decreased blood sugar, immune system function, blood loss, and fever or tissue burns” (1). The general drop of coritsol in the body suggests that deep tissue massage is promoting a number of physiological benefits, in a truly holistic fashion.

This overall drop would also suggest that deep tissue massage could very likely be a beneficial treatment to able patients with fibromyalgia.

Now, because of the amount of pressure applied during deep tissue massage, communication between the patient and practitioner is integral. The patient and practitioner need to talk before and during the session to insure that the patient is benefiting and is not in pain, because if they were, the session would be counterproductive.

FibromyalgiaIt is, however, this patient-centered care model that is at the center of deep tissue massage. The proactive communication between patient and practitioner is necessary for successful sessions, just as it is in all other integrative practices.

Deep tissue massage practices have also been used in sports massage. Although not the same practice, as sports massages are meant for increased strength, flexibility, and movement, many of the techniques such as kneading and circular movements were taken from deep tissue massage. These similar techniques are being used to treat specific points of chronic pain in athletes.

Deep tissue massage seems to have a wide range of beneficial aspects to patients who are healthy enough for treatment. It has to ability to relief specific chronic pain points in athletes, as well as promoting overall physiological health in patients with potential fibromyalgia.

Massage therapists are part of the integrative healthcare provider network that the Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Association is establishing at this time. Along with acupuncturists and chiropractors, massage practitioners are a valuable part of the healthcare system in America, and their presence will only be magnified when they begin to collaborate with other integrative practitioners.  Through becoming a member of the Association, massage therapist can grow their practice and help to prove that they are a cost-effective way to address many healthcare problems.