Deep Tissue Massage Techniques


Deep tissue massage is an effective way to promote healing in damaged muscles, whether caused by normal wear and tear or an injury. If you’re going to perform deep tissue work, warm up the area, starting with long, light strokes and moving in for friction strokes. All these techniques will bring blood to the area and help to smooth muscle adhesions. Obtain a go-ahead from a medical professional before applying massage to a muscle injury.

Notes on Strokes

When you are performing a long, soothing stroke across a limb, move your hand toward the heart. This helps fluid drain into the torso and promotes blood circulation throughout the body. While some of these strokes may be uncomfortable, strokes should not cause pain. If pain occurs, move to another area or lighten your touch. If you have an injury, talk to your doctor before administering massage. If administered improperly, massage can exacerbate certain conditions.

Warm Up the Tissue

Before applying deep work, warm the tissue. An easy way to do this is with a heat pack or hot shower. If those are not available, warm the tissue with gentle compressions. Place the heel of your hand on the affected area and press down numerous times, applying more pressure with each compression. These techniques bring blood to the area and make the underlying tissue more pliant.

Long to Small Strokes

A general rule of massage therapy is that you should start with longer strokes (that cover more areas of the body) and move onto shorter strokes (that focus on one muscle or area). For example, if you are massaging the back, start by rubbing massage oil over the area. Using the heels of your hands, start at the neck and perform a single stroke all the way down to the buttocks, without breaking contact. Repeat this stroke numerous times. After the long strokes, the muscles underneath will be ready for localized work.


Friction is the key to this localized muscle manipulation. This technique is used to get a “knot” out, or to treat a damaged or painful muscle. Use your fingers to dig into the spot of concern. Apply more pressure as you lean in.

When you feel that you’ve accessed the correct area, start moving your fingers back and forth, as if you were plucking the strings of a guitar. Many times you will be able to feel the damaged tissue moving underneath your hands.

If you are performing this massage on someone, communicate with him. If he feels pain when you apply the friction technique, you are likely pressing too hard.

Finishing the Massage

According to, friction loosens muscle adhesions, helps with muscle spasms and promotes the healing process in damaged muscles. After administering friction, sweep the area with the heel of your hand, pointing toward the heart. Make a light, circular motion over the area to smooth out remaining damage and restore normal blood flow to the area.

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