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How Should a Body React to a Deep Tissue Massage?

By Barb Nefer ; Updated July 18, 2017

Deep tissue massage is a hands-on body treatment, performed by a trained worker that goes beyond light touch and involves deeper pressure and tissue manipulation. Your body typically reacts to this type of massage in positive ways. Studies show that deep tissue massage has physical and mental benefits by relieving pain and reducing stress.


Deep tissue massage involves the application of pressure by a trained masseuse to a client's body. This firm pressure is usually applied to spots through the hands, but practitioners can also use their knuckles, elbows and forearms to exert more pressure or reach a wider area. Deep tissue massage affects your body below its exterior, in contrast to lighter treatments such as Swedish massage, which are often aimed mainly at relaxation.

Heart Reactions

Your body will likely react to deep tissue massage with lowered blood pressure and a slower heart rate. A 2008 study by researchers at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, published in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine," found that deep tissue massage, combined with soothing music playing during the treatment, had beneficial effects on the 283 volunteers. The study participants got a 45- or 60-minute treatment, and the majority of them had noticeable blood pressure and heart rate reductions.

Pain Reactions

Deep tissue massage fights certain types of pain. For example, a 2011 study by Group Health Research Institute researchers in Seattle discovered that almost two-thirds of the research subjects, all of whom were suffering from chronic lower back pain without a specific cause, experienced relief from massages. The 401 participants in the study, published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine," received either deep tissue or Swedish massages or conventional medication and physical therapy for 10 weeks. Both massage types were equally effective in pain reduction, outperforming conventional treatment.

Psychological Reactions

Deep tissue massage is usually done of physical reasons, but you might also react to it emotionally. This treatment, along with other massage types, reduces stress, according to Anxiety and depression sufferers might also improve after getting deep tissue massage therapy.


Deep tissue massage is generally safe when performed by a trained and licensed worker, but it does carry some risks. Do not get a massage if you've ever had a reaction to massage oils or lotions. Your body may react with nerve damage, and even temporary paralysis, in rare cases, warns. Massage is not suitable for pregnant women and people with broken bones, severe osteoporosis, blood clots or rheumatoid arthritis unless a doctor approves of the treatment.

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