Deep Tissue or Holistic Massage? Which One Is Best for Me and What’s the Difference?

Updated on January 25, 2018
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Anne is a qualified Sports and Holistic Massage Therapist, and practices in Dublin, Ireland.

Deep Tissue Massage or Holistic Massage?

Which type of massage is best for me?
Which type of massage is best for me? | Source

Deep tissue?

I am often asked for a deep tissue massage by clients who actually just want a holistic massage, but they like firm pressure.

Deep tissue massage is called that because it works on the deeper layers of muscles in the body. The technique does sometimes involve firm, intense pressure in targeted areas, which is probably where the confusion arises, but deep tissue massage also involves more gentle, sustained pressure on very specific muscles.

If it hurts, it's a good deep tissue massage, right? Wrong!

If you are in pain, your muscles will tense against that pain. This means that the benefit of the massage therapy is limited. Massage works best on relaxed muscles. On a scale of 1 - 10, with 1 being mild discomfort and 10 being unbearable pain, you should never experience anything above a 4. Otherwise, your muscles are tensing against the massage and you a losing most of the benefit of the therapy.

Some conditions that can be treated by deep tissue massage

If you have painful conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis, Frozen Shoulder, Fibromyalgia, Tennis Elbow or Low Back Pain, then deep tissue massage, along with self-stretching exercises, can provide relief. In a study published in Manual Therapy in April 2014 , deep tissue massage on the calf muscles and feet, along with self-stretching exercise brought relief to a client with Fibromyalgia.

Massage can help with restricted movement due to internal scar tissue

Whenever we have surgery, or an injury that involves torn tissues, scarring usually occurs. We are used to seeing this on the outside of the body, but many people don’t realize that scar tissue also forms internally. Whenever this happens to muscles, or tendons and ligaments for that matter, it can restrict our range of movement. Deep tissue massage can help to break down that scar tissue, leading to more ease of movement.

The Benefits of All Massage Therapies

But any massage has positive benefits for us, whether it is Deep Tissue, Holistic (sometimes called Spa Relaxing), Thai Massage, Lomi Lomi or whatever.

It keeps our muscles in generally good condition, and it’s good for our skin by removing dead skin cells. Where oils or creams are used it also moisturizes the skin.

And we also know that massage lowers blood pressure and heart rate. This article in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine) is just one example of studies carried out in this area.

Massage reduces our stress levels (2003 study in the Journal of the National Medical Association.)

An interesting study in 2014 ( cited the many benefits of “Moderate Pressure Massage...including increased weight gain in preterm infants”.

All massage therapy is beneficial

There are many health benefits to any massage therapy.
There are many health benefits to any massage therapy. | Source

More benefits of massage therapy

Along with all those already mentioned, benefits from the above study also included a reduction in depression, including a reduction in cortisol levels which is implicated in chronic depression. There were also changes in the brain associated with improved stress levels and regulation of our emotions was also reported.

Regular massage has many benefits

It has been shown that all or any kind of massage is beneficial. But if you have a specific problem that you need addressed, then a specific massage therapy that targets that problem is best for you.

And although it is said often that more research is need into the benefits of massage, and indeed it is, anyone who has any kind of regular massage therapy will tell you, albeit anecdotally, that there are many, many positive benefits.

Do you have regular massage?

How often would you have a massage?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • profile image

      Maryann Williams 

      2 years ago

      'Annerivendell' has said the right thing. I do agree with her. No one can learn anything better without an experiment .

      Doing an experiment gives us the inspiration of new invention.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      2 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Very well said. I agree with you. Voted occasionally when I am feeling tired and when I want to treat myself.


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