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Going Deep - Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Going Deep - Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Exhibit A. A beat-up gym bag, full to the brim, giving off that putrid sneaker smell you obviously haven’t noticed since day three, otherwise, you’d have found it unbearable. By the looks of it, I’d say you’d been in the gym more often this week. Not because the triceps are beginning to show, but because you reek of sweat and putrid sneaker smell... just like your bag. 

Ah, the gym life. So inspiring. You should get an award for most fitness quotes quoted on Instagram. You keep your eyes on your goal, and nothing can stand in your way. How very noble. But wait…

Preppin’ for yet another day at the gym, cool. Oops! Gotta take a selfie. Where’s that water bottle? Need to stay hydrated, ayyt can’t argue with that. It’s on the other side of the table, reach for it, no biggie. 

Wait. What. Was. That?

You could have sworn you heard something snap. Did you? Why, after all these years of feeding yourself to the gym culture, are you suffering from muscle soreness all of a sudden? 

Now that I’ve got your attention, and since obviously you haven’t been paying attention to your consistent muscle aches after every gym session because selfies are top priority, let’s get one thing straight: your body might be a wonderland- well, of muscles and tissues working together to give you the Johnny Bravo physique you’ve always longed for because women just can’t resist- but it does get exhausted. Much like your resources, sooner or later, despite living in your mom’s basement and refusing to help with the bills.

Look, if looking like King Kong validates your quintessential existence and provides an outlet for your existential despair, then, by all means, don’t stop on account of muscle aches. Your spirit animal is still going to be a unicorn, let no one tell you otherwise. 

Come to think of it, at least you’re not going through labor pains and morning sickness.

Much as you want to shrug this off because admitting that you’ve fucked up so badly isn’t in your vocabulary, the pain that has set in is actually staying, whether you like it or not. I get how they say pain needs to be felt, but it also needs to be addressed, so without further ado, I present to you the best possible solution to your muscle trauma, a.k.a. muscle soreness, caused by none other than your carelessness in the workout department.

Is It Deep Enough?

John is an athlete. Last year, he was part of the Ironman triathlon. To stay fit, he goes to the gym daily, sometimes starting at 5 A.M. John is a health buff. Be like John.

Like you, John has been suffering from muscle soreness, but hardly anyone noticed. How come?

You see, John isn’t new to deep tissue massage (and neither is the rest of the world) which is helping him achieve fast recovery from any injury or muscle strain.

Deep tissue massage is defined as something that “involves applying sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the inner layers of your muscles and connective tissues. This helps to break up scar tissue that forms following an injury and reduce tension in muscle and tissue.” Furthermore, deep tissue massage also promotes faster healing by addressing inflammation and blood flow issues. 

Deep tissue massage also affects your cortisol levels and releases endorphins which in turn helps in the balance of your hormones. This means it makes you a happier individual, which is something you’d also expect from a workout. Talk about gaining more with pain. 

So what does all this mean? I knew you’d ask. 

Most massage therapy techniques you’ve tried have probably been aimed towards providing relaxation for your muscles and nerves. What sets deep tissue massage apart is how it can provide muscle pain relief by targeting muscle trauma, including stiffness. 

Sounds more like Swedish massage where you get to have the audacity to demand “HARD,” regretting every moment of it as you hold back your tears, wishing for it to end. Easy there, cowboy, we have only gone as far as define deep tissue massage. We’ll get to the bridge soon so you can cross it.

Swedish massage is putting all kinds of massage techniques in a jar and then giving it a name. Because anything with a name sounds powerful. And fancy. (What do we have against the Swedish, though, right?) Welp, it is actually the most popular type of massage anywhere in the Western world. That's not to say it originated in Sweden. But I won’t be talking about the history of how Swedish massage came to be. 

A Swedish massage therapy session will include kneading, passive joint and deep circular movements, and long strokes all aimed towards the stimulation of your nerves and increasing blood flow, thereby speeding up recovery from inflammation, etc. The massage is especially helpful to loosen the muscles around your neck, lower back and shoulders, and is perfect for when you spend all day sitting on your desk doing God knows what, and of course, (cue drumroll) working out. 

A few would ask, so I’ll go right ahead and lay it down: yes, it requires getting naked. Now that’s something you can look forward to! The bad news is that they’re going to be covering you with a drape and work around it as they go, exposing nothing more than the piece of skin covering the muscles they’ll be working on. Shame, I know. 

Oh yeah, and the stroking. Don’t even get me started on the excitement. Stroking seems like something you’d enjoy. But I’m only referring to the following different kinds of strokes during a Swedish massage therapy session listed: effleurage (long, gliding strokes), petrissage (kneading the muscles), friction (circular rubbing motions), tapotement (fast tapping) and vibration (rapidly shaking certain muscles). But yeah, it’s open to interpretation. Whatever gets you going. 

So you fancy hard stroking (a combination of all) because you want to relax? Satisfying Swedish massage therapy should do the trick. But if you want something that goes deeper, that is, into your muscles and fascia (or your connective tissues), you’ll probably have to take a different path. This is where a deep tissue massage comes in.

Before you take the plunge and see what this deep tissue massage therapy trend can do for your muscle soreness, let me get one thing straight: you need to be prepared for possibly a whole lot of pain, depending on your pain tolerance. It’s not supposed to be painful, but we’re also not supposed to judge those who do feel pain.

Pain? How can I still be talking about pain when I want to tell you how to ease your muscle ache? The answer my friend isn’t blowin’ in the wind this time. The answer is this: deep tissue massage can be accompanied by pain. Painful and uncomfortable, with stronger, slower strokes, unless your pain receptors aren’t transmitting them as pain, then how to be you? Otherwise, remember that firm Swedish massage session where you worked so hard to hold back your tears, preserving every bit of dignity you had left? Wow. Imagine if there ever was something more painful than that. Oh, wait. There is. It’s called giving birth. Go and give mom a tap on her shoulder.

A few minutes into your first-ever deep tissue massage session, you might already have shit your pants, cried out your momma’s name, desperate for help. But then it hits you: you’re just getting started. An image of your grade school bully instantly comes to mind, her resting bitch face haunting you as you endure the pain of her hands and fingers applying strong, concentrated strokes, slow to the core, as you lay there helpless, your whole life flashing right before your very eyes. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it can be, in every sense of the word, painful for some. It was for me, at least.

Lucky for you, you have a safe word. Well, kinda. Not in the kinky sense, oh God that would have been more intoxicating. What I mean is you can always tell resting bitch face to soften it down a notch. Or two. Or three. Okay, that’s not going to work anymore though. Keep your testicles where they are and start manning up to the pain. It’ll be worth it, I swear.

So, yeah. It just might hurt. You might describe the pain as going to hell and back, or something you can tolerate. But boy, does it help. More so with injury and recovery. Except for your dignity. The recovery of that, we can’t help you with.

Deep muscle massage treatment is the preferred massage therapy for sports recovery for athletes. I’m referring to sports injuries, yes. It is also recommended for muscle conditions such as plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, tennis elbow, sciatica, and even for the treatment of high blood pressure. Now imagine having a portable massage gun that goes just as deep with its strokes.

Enter Massage Guns

Because you’ve made it this far, I’ll let you in on a secret. Percussive therapy is a thing. Don’t believe me? Look it up. You can, as a matter of fact, purchase portable massage guns so that when you’re unable to drive to the massage spa, you can still have that deep tissue massage you absolutely need. Dude, you’ve got to be kidding me. That’s lit!

How? 

Another question I knew you’d throw-in. A full-body vibration therapy. Sounds shaky. And kinky. A handheld tool that provides the mind-bending slow, uncomfortable strokes you were getting from your licensed therapist who might as well have minored in how to be a douchebag, majored in how to get a license as a sociopath who regularly inflicts pain on people. You know who I’m talking about. Clue: It’s not Donald Trump. 

That sociopath, by the way, happens to be very knowledgeable in human anatomy and knew exactly what he was doing. Still not referring to Donald Trump, FYI.

Going back to the handheld massage gun that can be just as effective in providing you with the deep tissue massage therapy relief. Let’s dig a little deeper about these deep tissue massage guns.

A vibration massage gun, also known as a percussion massage gun or a therapy gun for muscle soreness, is an innovative approach to aiding in fast recovery from an injury and workout, and treatment of every condition we pretty much treat with our conventional massage therapy.  Except massage guns come with detachable massage heads or applicators to let you personalize your experience even more. 

Massage is the best recovery option for individuals who are exposed to a lot of physical strains, the innovation that is the portable massage gun allows us to maximize utilizing massage therapy to our advantage- wherever we are (which is thrown in as a bonus we can’t complain about.) 

By now you’re probably wondering about the basics of choosing which massage gun to buy. You know, once you make up your mind and make it through all your doubts and fears. Before all that, allow me to shed even more light so that when you do decide to get one, you can be confident with your decision.

Massage Guns & What To Expect

A comprehensive read of massage gun reviews can tell you everything you need to know about massage guns. Of course, you’re not going to do that, so I’m just going to lay ‘em all down here for you.

1. Power

Massage guns can be as powerful as you want them to be. One of the first things you can check is the amplitude. By definition from a good friend, Merriam-Webster, amplitude refers to ‘the extent of a vibratory movement (as of a pendulum) measured from the mean position to an extreme.’ In massage gun language, it refers to the strength it has to offer to fit your needs. 

By principle, the higher the amplitude, the more powerful the machine is. Yes, the massage gun is a  machine (not talking about a machine gun.) For a percussion massage gun, you’ll probably picture Manny Pacquiao throwing in a massive number of his signature punches, relatively targeting your sore muscles and fascia, reviving them by improving circulation and relieving stiffness. Okay, a fraction of the strength of those signature punches, but you get what I mean. That means up to 3,250 RPM (revolutions per minute) from a single massage gun

So all those punches in one device? What kind of sorcery is this?

It’s not sorcery, it’s technology. Didn’t we manage to chuck 1,000 gigabytes of memory into a tiny bit of plastic when decades ago, transporting 512 megabytes required a heavy-duty 10-wheeler? Are you catching up?

The mind-bending innovation can be summarized into two magical words: massage guns

Percussive massage therapy you can bring absolutely anywhere and use anytime. Massage guns provide you with a selection of power, i.e., speeds that you can adjust according to your needs. Need a beating? No problem. Set it to the max. Need slower, subtle strokes? Set it to the minimum. 

If you’re physically active, make sure to check for high amplitude, and remember that the intensity you’re looking for can be tantamount to the amount of pain you’re experiencing and addressing, thus, the higher the speed, the better in achieving deep tissue massage with your handgun. Er, machine gun. WTF? Massage gun. I’m not trying to get you arrested or anything. 

2. Noise

You’re dealing with a machine, running on a battery-powered engine. I’m not referring to your dad’s car, but the same principle applies to massage guns. Because of the motor running when it’s working, it’s bound to produce sound. The only question is how much of this sound do we have to, or are we prepared to deal with? 

Since we’re supposed to be able to use these massage guns anywhere (a highly coveted convenience feature second to none in this generation), we’re bound to be using them in an enclosed space, i.e., our bedroom, living room, the locker room, the bathroom, etc. Needless to say, sound (more like noise at some point) has nowhere to go unless the massage gun itself has been designed to produce minimal of it. 

If this is something you or others living with you don’t mind, you won’t have any problem with most massage guns. The noise-free feature seems to be offered with an additional charge with some massage guns, with some of the quiet ones falling under the pricier models. I’m not saying it’s not going to be worth it, though, if silence and peace of mind are part of your criteria. And then there’s One Massage Gun which likes to keep the price lower despite this feature. 

Does noise, or lack thereof, jeopardize massage gun effectiveness? That’s a perfectly sane question. It’s natural to think noise reduction is a surefire way to sacrifice quality because the amplitude would have to give way to silence. But NO. A perfectly sane answer would be that there are massage guns out there offering the same amount of power with low noise production. 

That means you can still get a deep tissue massage out of a quieter massage gun, such as the One Massage Gun where power is not compromised at all but noise is reduced relatively, without any catch. 

3. Battery

At the very least, you should have already thought about it. A portable device sans a battery is like a keyboard without keys. Or a remote without a TV. Or a library without books. It’s utterly useless. 

Before I get too caught up with my metaphors, allow me to elaborate despite not feeling the need to. Ugh.

Glancing at your mobile phone, you’ll probably wonder if you need to recharge before heading out. You probably chose this phone with that in mind. Will it last until you’re able to find a power outlet, long before needing one, it has served its purpose? The battery life of your phone had been an important factor when you chose it to begin with. Heck, you can go to Mordor or Timbuktu and all you can worry about is your phone’s battery.

In choosing which massage gun to buy, you want to make sure it can serve its purpose long before the battery falls dead because then you’d have to be having massage therapy with a massage gun attached to a wall, in which case you might as well duct tape yourself to that wall. 

Massage guns can offer up to an hour to six hours of battery life before they start screaming for a power refill. Unless of course, they come with several spare battery packs, then you’re all good. Provided each of these battery packs don’t last 5 minutes each, of course, so your massage gun is ready to serve its master anytime with the best deep tissue massage,  most of the time. 

4. Heads

Wait. Getting head? Who’s gonna give it?

More like heads. As indifferent massager attachment heads to make the massage therapy experience complete. Depending on your needs, you can change the type of massager's head to use so you can get to hard to reach muscles in your back or lower thigh. 

Massage guns come with massage heads, also referred to as applicators, that target different muscle groups, and tissues. The most common, which are the large balls or spheres, for example, are suitable for massaging large muscle groups such as the thighs, calves, back, and arms. Other massager heads or applicators can include the small-sized balls for smaller muscle groups, the flatheads for cervical muscles, and the cone or cylindrical heads for deep tissue massage. 

Though these massager heads/applicators seem like mere accessories, they are actually essential in achieving the massage goals you have, and thus should be considered highly when deciding what massage gun to buy. As for your squad goals, they don’t give a single damn.

5. Design

Admit it. You’re curious as to whether or not the massage gun’s appearance affects its functionality. The positioning of the handle and applicators, its battery life, and even its weight all contribute to the overall design which can ultimately affect its performance, and thus, your experience. 

Pay close attention to how the handle is positioned because you’re looking at a handheld device that can strain your wrist and forearm during long periods of massage therapy. You don’t want to be ending up with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome when you’re wanting to treat your muscles to a homemade deep tissue massage, believe me.

An ergonomic design would also ideally include an adjustable handle that can be repositioned to fit the type of applicator used, i.e., it still doesn’t cause strain on the wrist and forearm, but is still able to maximize its efficiency in reaching difficult parts of the body. It sounds a little more complicated than we would have expected, but what did we know?

Back to Regular Programming: Deep Tissue Massage

Here’s a completely terrifying albeit brilliant idea: call your masseur and tell him it’s over. Yep, you’re breaking up with him. You’re flaking on him… for good. The good times you shared - all distant memories you can put in the past. At least you’re not ghosting him. 

Kidding aside, if you were to invest in a massage gun,  you don’t have to kiss that mesmerizing muscle tension and workout relief deep tissue massage that goes beyond just a massage, it purifies your soul goodbye. I can’t blame you -  it does more that it massages the inner cravings of your soul as well. Psychological benefits have been known to emanate from these massage therapy sessions. 

In an attempt to make yourself feel better about quitting something you’re addicted to and turning your back on someone who valued it just as much as you did, you skim through your thoughts for the silver lining that’s hiding in there somewhere. 

The silver lining isn’t much: you get to save all the Benjamins you used to spend on massage therapy, on top of not missing out on every possible relevant occasion that has had to fall on those nights when you had an appointment because you can still look forward to and get the deep tissue massage sessions in the comfort of your home. How’s that for a silver lining?

Alright, let’s get the ball rolling, right? How do you start your deep tissue massage therapy from home with the infamous massage gun? I’m not even going to pretend to be an expert unless I can say I studied massage, although I did get to study human anatomy, what I can tell you for sure is that you can maximize your experience by playing with your new toy, er… massage gun’s features. 

Speed adjustments help you determine the maximum amount of amplitude you can dare tolerate. The use of the correct attachment heads or applicators can also go a long way in achieving that deep tissue massage. Find a way to block the noise (if you happen to get the ones that make them- it’s not entirely altruistic of them to not completely get rid of sound, nor is it entirely egocentric of you to want to have it minimized, but it happens.)

You know what you knead (pun intended)? Well, now that you have the essential elements of recovery lined up, including a powerful tool, nothing’s stopping you. What you knead (did that again, oops) is getting to know your new bestie and trusting it to take care of your deep tissue massage needs. 

Massage Techniques

As much as I would love to say deep tissue massage will be comparable to acupuncture, we both know where that’ll take us. Acupuncture makes us feel the warmth of the gods, while deep tissue massage is harsh love. We can’t take for granted the benefits it offers though, such as relief from stress, improving blood circulation, breaking up scar tissue, treat chronic pain and of course, treatment of injured muscles. Here are some of the ways we’ve gathered from one of the best massage guides to achieving these results:

  • Cross-Fiber Friction - Addresses deep, dull pain which is often associated with lesions that inhibit muscle functions. This technique prohibits the use of massage oils or lotions because of its deep friction nature. 
  • Active Release Technique - A combined diagnostic/examination and treatment technique that targets the composition and development of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves, addressing weakness and numbness. 
  • Muscle Energy Technique - Addresses joints to ensure they are functioning in full range, and postural muscles to prevent shortening. Resistance is usually initiated by the massage therapist followed by a muscle contraction from you to stretch the muscle.
  • Trigger Point Therapy - Dude, this is knots. Not nuts, really. Knots. Finding these knots or trigger points can be tricky - it’s easier said than done, but not impossible. The key is not rubbing too hard once you find your pressure points. 
  • Myofascial Release - These are gentle, sustained pressure applied to the myofascial connective tissue restrictions which are caused by inflammation, trauma, or surgical procedures. This is one of the massage techniques you need to leave to the therapists for optimum results.

You’ve done it! You’ve cracked the code. A novice, at the very least, who can go a long way despite still having questions such as “why use a massage gun?” or “is a massage gun worth it, considering its price can go from modest to luxurious faster than you can say, “fuck yeah”? Because fuck yeah, it’s worth it. 

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