Deep Tissue Massage


Deep tissue massage, one of the most popular modalities currently available, is also one of the oldest known forms of massage in existence. Today it is in high demand at day spas and chiropractic offices; in the past it could be found in places as diverse as ancient Egypt, Roman baths and Buddhist monasteries.

Chinese documents from approximately 3000 BC state that complete health required massage, exercise, meditation and martial arts. Near 1000 BC, Japanese monks began to study Buddhism in China and learned the art of massage and Chinese medicine. They took this knowledge back to Japan and founded a healing practice based predominantly on diagnosis and massage.

In ancient Greece, deep massage work was highly valued and practiced regularly, especially by athletes conditioning for competitions. In Homer’s Odyssey, he describes massage as “welcome relief to exhausted war heroes.”

Galen, the physician to many Emperors in the first century, A.D., is known to have used massage to treat many injuries as well as diseases. Pliny (23 – 79 A.D.) was an admiral in the Roman Navy. He was a student of nature and he suffered from chronic asthma. He regularly received deep rubs to alleviate his discomfort and bouts of asthma. It was common to see both trainers and doctors offering massage treatments at Roman bath houses. A percussive technique, called whipping, was used by most Roman doctors to treat numerous illnesses.

Julius Caesar was known to have epilepsy as well as neuralgia. He had his body “pinched” and rubbed every day to improve the blood flow in his body and to reduce fatty tissue. Many believe it was these daily sessions that made it possible for him to accomplish all he did.

Hippocrates (460 – 380 BC) taught massage to his medical students. He stated, “Hard rubbing binds, soft rubbing loosens. Much rubbing causes parts to waste. Moderate rubbing makes them grow.” He also believed in the importance of always applying pressure toward the heart and never toward the feet. This was revolutionary, since science in his day did not yet know about blood circulation.

The art of massage, and deep tissue techniques were used throughout Europe until the Renaissance period. As science evolved the spiritual side of health and illness began to wane. Massage also lost popularity as religious conservatism and repressive dogma grew. Touching the body of another person, especially in a way that provided physical comfort, was considered sinful.

In the Western world native tribes were far less influenced by European views.They used massage and heat as part of their medical care. The Navajo and Cherokee tribes practiced massage before and after battles, much like athletes do today. The idea of massage to treat war wounds was even used during the first and second world wars. St. Thomas hospital, in London, had a massage department until 1934. They treated many WWI soldiers for shell shock and injuries alike.

In the 1960’s, as society moved back toward nature and the environment, a renewed interest in massage developed and grew. Learning natural ways to treat the body became a logical next step, after studying natural ways to care for the earth. Since that time, the interest in massage has continued to grow.

In 1992 the Touch Research Institute was created at the University Of Miami School Of Medicine. The institute is entirely devoted to studying touch in relation to science and medicine. They have determined that massage can reduce stress hormones, alleviate pain and improve immunity, among other benefits.

The concept of deep tissue massage is quite simple. For proper function, muscles must be able to slide over each other freely. Stress, strain, injury or even bad posture can compress the muscle layers and restrict movement. Deep tissue massage works on the muscles layer by layer, freeing compression and providing uninhibited motion.

Deep tissue massage brings a higher level of freedom and responsiveness to the body. The skilled deep tissue therapist can mold and guide a client’s tissue to a state of improved health and fluidity. This modality is used to safely target and release individual muscles, as well as muscle groups. Deep tissue work is helpful in minimizing scar tissue and trigger points. Deep tissue is far more than merely adding pressure to other techniques. It is a centuries old healing method, an art form and an amazing tool toward good health.


Jeannine Lee


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