Medical jargon can be confusing. Terminology and phrasing are very important in the medical field and the more details regarding a patient the better. For massage we do not have to be as detailed with our notes than say a medical doctor and LMT’s (Licensed Massage Therapists) sometimes use terms interchangeably which can make things even more confusing; a great example would be the use of the terms adhesions or knots- they’re essentially the exact same thing. The jargon is still there and is used as a means for healthcare professionals to communicate effectively. So, what is the difference between therapeutic massage and deep tissue massage? Despite popular belief, they are not one in the same and yet are sometimes used interchangeably.
Deep tissue massage is exactly what the term implies, pressure that is firm enough to penetrate the deeper tissues. Techniques used for a deep tissue massage vary by therapist. Some massage therapists prefer to use their hands instead of their forearms or elbows.
The human body is made up of different layers. Soft tissue, connective tissue, muscle tissue and the like are all layered on top of each other (sometimes even wrapped around or weaving) because they all have to move our skeletal system (also known as the framework of the human body). It is entirely possible to feel some soreness after the receiving deep tissue work and is considered normal. For some it means they had a great massage if they feel pretty sore the next day.
Therapeutic massage is the use of systemic touch for the purpose of treating a medical condition. The pressure used in therapeutic massage differs depending on the patient’s needs. An example of this would be a cancer patient receiving therapeutic massage would require a lighter touch than a patient who has chronic tension as a result from an old injury or repeated abuse/stress.
Deep tissue massage can be considered therapeutic! I have had many clients fall asleep during a deep tissue massage. However, you as the patient/client receiving massage do not have to tolerate the firmer pressure if it is painful. Slight discomfort is expected however, if the pain is registering past an 8 on the pain scale (10 being the absolute worst) let your therapist know that the pressure is too much. There are so many different techniques that can be used during any given massage session, in fact there are always new continuing education courses available for massage therapists to learn new techniques it really depends on what the therapist is wanting to learn and where their focus for their practice lies.