Is deep tissue massage safe after injury?

Deep Tissue Massage For Injury? When It’s Great and When to Wait!

LMT, Ann Perez writes about what a deep tissue massage for injury can do.

New Yorkers and our “no pain, no gain” mentalities… can often get us into trouble!

A deep tissue massage for your injury will most likely do wonders. However, before getting a deep tissue massage, we need to analyze what kind of injury you’re dealing with. And what stage of injury would allow for it. Better safe than sorry!

Deep Tissue Massage for Injury 101

First let’s make it clear what deep tissue work is. In a nutshell, its a type of massage for injury that is specific and intentional. The strokes are slower and applied with more pressure. This is to target deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue. It’s a massage modality used more often to ease muscle tension and/or improve range of motion… And generally used to alleviate injuries in a chronic stage vs the acute stage. 

What is a chronic injury vs. an acute injury? Glad you asked!

Chronic Pain

Chronic injuries develop gradually and have existed for months or even years. The pain can go through periods of remission. And come back in unpleasant episodes. Chronic pains exist for long periods of time if the root cause is not properly addressed or treated. 

For example, chronic neck pain and shoulder pain is super common. And usually occurs when your job has you sitting in front of your computer 5x a week for 8 hours at a time. There are times where you’re so used to being in low level pain, you don’t even acknowledge it. Sound familiar?  

We don’t expect you to be able to quit your job to address your chronic pain. However, allowing this type of discomfort to stagnate will only get worse with time. And even have a ripple effect on the body’s soft tissues. This can cause postural deviations and/or referral pain elsewhere in your body. For chronic pain, we recommend a series of deep tissue massages to discover and deal with the root causes. Such as an older injury that never healed properly. 

Once your chronic pain goes away we recommend regularly scheduled deep tissue massage sessions about every 6-8 weeks to keep pain from coming back. 

Acute Pain?

Acute conditions are anything but cute! The pain usually is the direct result of an explicit and memorable incident. For example, pain from “rolling” your ankle trying to catch the subway. Or sharp lower back pain after that one extra deadlift rep. The acute stage of an injury is generally the first 48-72 hours after the injury. Even the slightest movement after the injury can be very painful. Also, acute injuries associated with joints, muscles, tendons or ligaments can have swelling, redness and very limited range of motion. 

Probably not ideal to get a deep tissue massage in the acute injury phase but, rule out massage altogether? Not so fast… 

Deep tissue techniques on the injured area may actually cause further injury! However, a massage that facilitates muscle or joint healing is great for getting you on the right track towards recovery. A knowledgeable massage therapist will mix in lighter swedish style strokes to the injury area. These promote muscle relaxation, and promote faster healing by increasing blood flow to the injury. And in turn removing excess fluid and waste from the injury site. 

It won’t magically make the injury go away, but should increase the ability to move through it, put more weight on it, and heal faster. When you can move easier, you’ll increase you own body’s ability to heal itself. 

Common Soft Tissue Injuries and treatments

Deep Tissue Massage for Injury: Pulled Muscles

Let’s dive into a few of the more common injuries we come across. This will help you figure out when and what type of massage for injury will be most effective and when to schedule it.

Massage Therapy for Pulled Muscles

A common tendon and/or muscle tissue injury is a Strain or as its more widely known, a “pulled muscle.” A strain can be caused by overuse or improper use of a muscle. This causes it (and maybe the tendon it’s attached to) to be overstretched or even partially or completely torn. Aside from causing you to feel pain, strains can also cause cause swelling, inflammation, muscle weakness and spasms. 

Many of our clients come to see us for a strained lower back. The older way of thinking was that you should rest the injured muscle(s) at least 2-3 days and get past the acute stage before scheduling a massage session. 

Deep Tissue Massage for Injury: Ankle Sprains

However, that’s not necessarily true. For sure, a therapist should not be doing deep tissue to the area. But a skilled therapist can do plenty to help you heal faster. Techniques can include small range of motion movements, light tissue flushing, and energy work to allow the surrounding fibers to unclench. This can take pressure off of the tear so you can move easier.

Massage Therapy for Sprains

A sprain is a tear or overstretching of a ligament. Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue that attach bones to one another, therefore stabilizing and supporting joints. We often see clients that have sprained an ankle or wrist at the grade 1 level. 

Grade 1 sprains are mild but can still be very painful and have swelling or redness. You can usually still put weight on a Grade 1 sprain, it’s just painful to do so. The old school treatment for low grade sprains in the acute stage was the RICE method: rest, ice, the use of compression bands and elevation of the joint. However, the newest science shows that the RICE method may actually impede your healing!

There isn’t a total consensus on ice or heat for injuries and plenty of folks in the medical community support this or that method. The best advice we’ve heard so far is ice for short periods of 5-10 minutes at a time only during the first 6 hours. In between, practice light movements to the point of dull but not sharp pain. For a more in depth look, read our article on massage therapy for ankle sprains.

As is the case for muscle and tendon strains, deep tissue massage to the injury itself is contraindicated in the acute stage of any sprain. However, massage for your injury in the surrounding musculature can aid in reducing inflammation and speed up the recovery process.

Massage Therapy for Tendonitis

Tendons are springy bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. A common injury called Tendonitis is the result of microscopic tears to the tendon or tendon sheath. This is usually caused by overuse or repetitive motion. One technique that massage therapists will apply for tendonitis is called cross fiber friction. We’ll use medium to deep pressured back and forth strokes to a tendon perpendicular to the muscle fiber direction. This speeds up the tendon’s healing process by increasing the production of collagen. We’ll then also loosen the muscles surrounding the tendon to take pressure off of it and give it space to heal. 

We go through so much here in the concrete jungle. How about we shift our mentality to LESS PAIN, MORE GAIN! Get a massage for your injury today!

Be it tendonitis, strains or sprains, receiving a massage for your injury is important. We tend to overuse or misuse other muscles in order to compensate for the loss of use of the injured muscle. This may lead to future injuries in other areas. For instance, a left ankle sprain causes you to lighten the load on the injured joint putting more weight on the opposite hip. The chain effect of muscles not being used properly can lead to…. You guessed it, more pain… and who needs that?

If you have suffered an injury you may be feeling unsure of whether it’s the right time to receive a massage. Give us a call or email and we’ll be happy to make a recommendation for how soon to schedule an appointment with us! The therapists at Bodyworks DW do a thorough intake and make sure to ask the right questions so that we can create the right session for you. And we’ll communicate a clear plan of action to enable your healing. Call 1.917.740.2709 or use the booking widget below to schedule a deep tissue massage in New York at our Financial District or Midtown West locations.

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Further Reading


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