There seems to be a lot of confusion about what deep tissue massage actually is. Most clients I"ve worked with ask for a deep tissue full body massage and expect to be bruised and in a lot of pain during treatment. Let me clear up a 3 flaws in that expectation.
1) There is no such thing as a deep tissue full body massage.
A full body massage using deeper pressure can be done but it is not a true deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal issues such as strains and sports injuries. Using deep and sustained pressure slowly, layer by layer the muscles are targeted to breakup scar tissue that forms following an injury or chronic condition.
For example, for a deep tissue shoulder treatment, I would use the entire length of the session to be extremely thorough and only work on the muscles and connective tissue that have to do with shoulder mobility. This includes antagonist muscles like pectoralis muscles in the chest wall. Depending on compensation patterns, the neck, further down the back, and even into the muscles of the arms.
2) While it has certainly happened on my table, as well as my own body, bruising after a massage is not the goal and should be avoided.
When a bruise appears after treatment, it"s a sign that new oxygenated blood has successfully entered a muscle but in a forceful way that becomes more inflammatory then therapeutic. The pressure or technique was too much for your body to accept in its current condition.
A healthy muscle should feel firm but still pliable. When we experience stress, have poor posture, or are repeatedly doing the same actions without a recovery period, our body can tense up. Our bodies are brilliant at compensating and adapting to the conditions we put ourselves in until it can compensate no more and makes you listen by causing pain. In my experience, It"s very easy to cause bruising on a body that is bound up enough that even the superficial layers of connective tissue are stuck to muscles. Deep tissue can relieve this pain but too much, too soon will result in bruising. This is why communication with your therapist is so vital.
3) Deep tissue work can feel uncomfortable but should not cross the line into painful.
Bodies are vastly diverse. Everyone is in a different condition and has a different pain tolerance. Your gender, the consistency of bodywork, and lifestyle all can have an effect on how much pressure is right for you. On a pain scale of 1-10, (10 being you are in the hospital for pain) I want you at about a 7 for deep tissue. Meaning, the pressure is tolerable but you"re needing to breathe deeply and listen to your body.