A recent University of Maryland Medical Center report found that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies, and although this is true, studies also found that there was no significant difference in pain outcomes between Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage.

Both techniques increase blood flow and improved blood pressure.  Muscle tension was also relieved in both cases.

It is commonly believed that by working deep layers of muscle and fascia, that deep tissue massage helps to reduce the inflammation that causes pain.   There is however no scientific evidence to date that any type of massage reduces inflammation. 

Another common myth is that deep tissue massage eliminates toxins and lactic acid from injured muscles, especially following intense sports activities. This notion however has been scientifically de-bunked and in fact the latest studies suggest that deep tissue massage actually impedes the release of lactic acid from the muscles.

(Wiltshire EV, Poitras V, Pak M, et al. Massage impairs post exercise muscle blood flow and lactic acid removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun;42(6):1062–71. PubMed #19997015.)

Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.  A relaxing Swedish Massage can do the same. 

So what is the best massage choice for treating chronic pain … it seems that the choice is really about what feels good for your client.

According to painscience.com

Good pain. In massage, there is such a thing as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the instinctive sense that it’s also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching. It is often described as a “sweet” ache. The best good pain may be such a relief that really the only bad thing about it is just that it is breathtakingly intense. The worst may be truly unpleasant: more like having to vomit to relieve a stomach ache!

Bad pain. Bad pain comes with no obvious, immediate benefits. If there is anything good about it, there is no way to tell from the sensation at the time. Bad pains are usually sharp, burning, or hot. Such pain is usually caused by excessive but harmless pressure. As bad as it feels, it probably won’t hurt you — maybe a little bruising — but there’s also a good chance that it won’t be therapeutic either. The big question about bad pain is whether or not it is ever justified.

Ugly pain. This is a type of pain in massage therapy that is, by my definition, never okay. Ugly pain is often caused by things that aren’t likely to offer even a delayed benefit, and may even be dangerous.

  • February 16, 2016
  • Simply Therapy