May 10, 2011

Deep Pressure vs Deep Tissue

In my own words, deep tissue is not deep pressure. This is the great misconception. 'Deep' is actually an anatomical term that simply means 'under' (from Gray's Anatomy, accessed here). Deep Tissue refers to the muscles and connective tissue (fascia) that are not easily accessed using traditional Swedish techniques. Nor can these deeper tissue be reached by simply applying more pressure.
Pump up the Volume:

Put another way, if you turn up the volume on the radio, does that mean the quality of sound coming from the speakers is improved? Just because a therapist can 'turn up the volume' by pushing harder, doesn't mean you're getting a higher quality treatment, it just means you're more likely to come away from the massage feeling bruised.

Deep Tissue requires 'advanced training and a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology,' as described at It also requires patience and attentiveness to the overlying tissues so that they are not injured.

I studied deep tissue with Jonathon Primack in an 11-week course at East West College of Healing Arts. He includes on his website a very good description of what deep tissue is really about. I learned an incredible amount from Jonathon, but it was just scratching the surface. I continue to study and develop both my technical skills in palpation and technique, as well as reading and learning as much as I can to deliver quality bodywork.

Thanks for reading!

All content authored by Kate Barkume, Licensed Massage Therapist, Portland, Oregon

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