A Deep Conversation

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When your muscles are crying out, a deep tissue massage can help dissolve tension and pain. By Kelsi Maree Borland | Photos by Jody Tiongco

Whether it’s tension from simple day-to-day stress or pain from a sports injury, deep tissue massage releases tightness and loosens muscles to help you feel your best. Luckily, Laguna Beach is packed with day spas ready to deliver these intense treatments aimed at leaving you relaxed and ready to hit the hills or the beach this summer.

The Benefits

Deep tissue massages focus on muscle tightness and pain, helping to relieve both the tension that typically builds in the back and shoulders, as well as muscle pain from regular activities or athletic injury. “We recommend deep tissue massages to clients who have chronic pain and tension from repetitive motion,” says Christine Aegean, the owner of Laguna Beach Massage.

“Deep tissue massages are also good for anyone with a sports injury,” explains Kaitlyn Dorsey, the spa manager at Madison’s Day Spa, who adds they are great for anyone who is stressed out and could benefit from muscle work.

The benefits of deep tissue massages move beyond those of a basic Swedish massage. Diane Okamura, massage therapist and educator at Spa Montage, explains, “Deep tissue massage relieves tightness in specific muscle groups, releasing deep-seated or chronic tension in the body.”

Targeting specific muscle groups is what sets the deep tissue massage apart from its Swedish counterpart. “Actually, deep tissue massages are better for the body than a Swedish massage because they work the muscles a lot deeper and release serotonin into the body,” says Kaitlyn from Madison’s Day Spa. The pressure and firmness also helps to break up scar tissue and soothe pain from old injuries.

Annette Morris, the spa manager at Art of Spa, explains that deep tissue massages help reduce stress because they improve circulation and blood flow throughout the body. As circulation improves, blood will flow into the tissues and relieve pain and discomfort while improving posture, range of motion and range of movement.

The Technique

Deep tissue massages can include a wide range of techniques, and often depend on the preference of the client and the specialty of the spa. “Swedish massages tend to go through choreographed movements, where deep tissue massages focus on specific areas,” Kaitlyn at Madison’s Day Spa says. Because of this, it is extremely important to communicate especially tight or tense areas with your masseuse, so he or she can focus on those areas during the massage. Once focal points are established, the masseuse can look to a variety of techniques to relieve the tension.

“Acupressure, strong manipulation and hot rock therapy are all techniques used in deep tissue massage,” says Annette at Art of Spa. These techniques all use direct pressure in different ways to relieve tension. Acupressure firmly presses into the tense muscle with a hand, elbow or even a foot. Strong manipulation uses force to work and push tension out of the muscle. “Hot rock therapy uses the rock in the manipulation, using heat to get deeper into the muscle,” she explains.

Because the intent is to move deep into the muscles, often therapists will use different body parts to achieve firmer pressure. “Deep tissue massage incorporates deeper, more focused pressure often using a broader surface such as the forearm, or a stronger tool such as the elbow,” says Diane at Spa Montage. “The therapist’s knowledge of anatomy will dictate which tool will be appropriate for the different areas of the body.”

Christine adds, “It is a process where no oils are used, so elbows, knuckles or fingers can sink slowly into the fascia and muscle tissue, which gradually releases the pain and tension.”

The Experience

“Each individual experiences something different,” explains Annette at Art of Spa. “Although many clients experience pressure at first, as endorphins are released, the experience will become almost euphoric.”

Deep tissue massages work deeply into the muscle, so pressure should be expected, but you should also feel relief. “It should not be painful,” says Diane from Spa Montage. “Although areas of chronic tension may cause discomfort, deep tissue should bring relief when the therapist applies the appropriate pressure in relation to the level of discomfort.” In other words, the pressure endured during the massage should never be more painful than the pain caused by the tense muscle.

“It is a profound experience feeling your tissue give in and relax on such a deep level,” says Christine from Laguna Beach Massage. “Remember, it’s your session and your body, so don’t hesitate to communicate what you need.” Let your therapist know if the pressure is too strong or too light—you shouldn’t be grinding your teeth, but you should feel some pressure as the muscle is being worked.

The Day After

Drinking a lot of water in the 24 hours following a massage is very important. It helps to flush out the toxins released from your muscles during the massage. After a deep tissue massage, you may feel tender and sore, but the discomfort should feel much better than the original pain. “There should be no bruising of the tissues, or the feeling that ‘I just got beat up’ or ‘just got ran over by a truck.’ There should be some feeling of relaxation, but also the feeling that some tension in the body has been released,” says Diane from Spa Montage.

The result should be invigorating, with ease of mobility and improved range of motion. “You feel better physically, so you feel better mentally,” explains Annette from Art of Spa. “When you are in pain, the mind is constantly focused on the pain, and once that is released, you feel so much better.”

Christine from Laguna Beach Massage agrees, saying, “After deep tissue work, you can expect to feel relief of pain and stress, and feel relaxed and rejuvenated.” In the end, that is exactly what we want from a massage—to recharge and rejuvenate our bodies. LBM

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