Sports Massage Therapy

What Happens to the Body After Deep Tissue Massage?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson October 28, 2022
Massage table in a a private room

One of the confusing things about both deep tissue massage and sports massage is that, not only do they provide a wealth of benefits (including pain relief), but they also cause pain to some degree. In this article, we explain what happens to the body during and after a deep tissue massage and why clients experience a degree of soreness or tenderness in the massaged area. 

So, what happens to the body after deep tissue massage? Most clients report feeling mild soreness akin to DOMS after deep tissue massage. This usually lasts a few days after which time clients report benefits such as pain relief, improved range of motion, better sleep, and lower blood pressure.

Read on to learn more about deep tissue massage and how it affects the body. 

What Happens to Your Muscles After Deep Tissue Massage?

After a deep tissue massage, you can expect your muscles to feel a little tender - often described as being similar to DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This soreness is completely normal and is a part of the healing process; it’s the body’s response to soft tissue damage and the inflammation that occurs as a result. Although inconvenient, muscle tenderness should be mild in nature, and subside within a few days.

What Happens After Your First Deep Tissue Massage?

Deep tissue massage stimulates and breaks down muscles that may not ordinarily be used and need time to become accustomed to it - just like with exercise. In fact, with frequent and regular deep tissue massage, many clients report that this soreness decreases over time. 

However, it shouldn’t feel like active pain. If this happens, the Massage Therapist should review their technique and their clients’ individual circumstances.

How to Relieve Soreness

There’s not a lot that clients can do to prevent this soreness from occurring if their body isn’t used to such manipulation. However, there are a few ways in which they can relieve soreness after the fact:

  • Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol, sugary, and caffeinated drinks
  • Stretch
  • Heat therapy
  • Ice therapy
  • Topical treatments such as a muscle rub
  • Rest

Learn more about the soreness associated with deep tissue massage in our recent blog where we go into more detail about why it happens and what clients can do to minimise soreness and inconvenience. 

Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Whilst it may cause soreness to the muscles, deep tissue massage comes with a range of benefits to clients that are willing to see past a few tender sessions and stay the course. 

Reduce Pain

One of the key benefits of deep tissue massage is that it helps to reduce pain, whether that be a sports injury, a musculoskeletal condition or a chronic illness. Authors of a 2014 study linked deep tissue massage’s pain relieving benefits to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen.

Reduce Stiffness & Increased Flexibility

Deep tissue massage can help to improve a client’s range of motion - ideal for clients with musculoskeletal conditions, athletes with sports injuries, or those undergoing rehabilitation. 

Breaks Up Scar Tissue

If clients suffer with scar tissue, a deep tissue massage can help to release the tension created by the scar and promote greater flexibility in the area.

Lowers Blood Pressure

Massage therapy is thought to be able to help control blood pressure in a non-pharmacological manner. A 2013 study highlighted its particular benefits for women with Pre-hypertension.

Aids Sleep

As well as helping clients to sleep better as a result of reduced pain and discomfort, it can also help due to the body’s release of serotonin during massage.

How Long Do the Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage Last?

How long the benefits of deep tissue massage last depends entirely on the individual and their condition. For example, some clients report benefits lasting up to a month, whereas others report them lasting only a few days. On average, however, benefits tend to last for around a week, which is why regular deep tissue massage is recommended. 

Can Deep Tissue Massage Cause Damage?

Deep tissue massage has a low risk of causing damage, however there are a few groups of people that are at a greater risk due to medical conditions. These are known as contraindications and include:

  • Those with a history of blood clots, or a clotting disorder
  • Those with increased risk of injury, such as bone fractures
  • Those with nerve injuries
  • Elderly people
  • Those that have recently had surgery or chemotherapy
  • Those with skin conditions or wounds
  • Those with a hernia

Learn more about the contraindications of deep tissue and sports massage therapy in our recent blog. In this article, we explain massage contraindications in more detail, as well as going over a number of potential side effects.

Final Thoughts

During a deep tissue massage, the muscles are manipulated in such a way that it mimics exercise and often results in DOMS. Usually, this is a mild soreness that lasts only a few days and shouldn’t cause too much inconvenience to the client. Once the soreness wears down, they may then start to see the benefits of deep tissue massage, whether that be pain relief, improved range of motion, or better sleep. 

If you’re interested in providing such benefits to your clients, Breeze Academy offers a number of sports massage courses which provide you with everything you need to safely and confidently relieve your clients’ concerns. For beginners, take a look at our Level 3 course, whilst those with a bit of experience should take a look at our Level 4 or Straight to Level 4 Undergraduate course.

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