It won't be a surprise that I'm an advocate of deep tissue massage - after all, it's how I make my living! But sometimes, things can go wrong.
Actually, it's not science at all. All types of massage, including sports and remedial massage fall under the heading of alternative therapies.
The reason for this is that it's pretty much impossible to prove scientifically any of the theories about why massage works. There are too many subjective variables to get an objective scientific measurement of what's going on. A few of the key variables are:
So it becomes pretty difficult to get objective facts about the efficacy of massage treatments.
For this reason, statistics about the rates of "success" or "failure" of massage are just guesswork.
However, there are failures - sometimes people have a bad reaction, especially to deep tissue massage. It seems to me that this failure rate is about 1 in thousand. I have no scientific evidence for that number (after all, I couldn't) - it's a number based purely on my own highly subjective meandering experience.
In my experience, then about 1 in 1000 people have a bad reaction to deep tissue massage.
With deep muscle techniques (deep tissue massage, neuromuscular technique & trigger point) your therapist isn't just treating the muscles directly, but is trying to utilise the peripheral nervous system which controls the muscles.
The nervous system is a little bit like the operating system of a computer. It's responsible for whole load of "housekeeping" functions of the body:
The deep muscle techniques target mild pain on specific muscles to:
In those 1 in 1000 people though, something else seems then to go on in the operating system of the body that is the nervous system. The tight or "crunchy" muscles do indeed relax, but overnight whilst the client is then sleeping the nervous system goes into a reaction against what's happened. It's as though the body's thinks it's been attacked, and it goes into "lock" down - kicking in something similar to the fight or flight response - making the muscles that were massaged tense up even more.
I've only ever known this to happen with either the muscles at the top of the shoulders or at the lower back - and here the muscles tend to go into spasm. There's no theoretical reason, though, why the same wouldn't happen, say, in the leg muscles.
When the nervous system does respond in this way, as if the body's under attack, it can take up to 48 hours to calm down again. There are 2 things which can help soothe the muscles and make things relax more quickly:
Generally speaking, it seems that most people tolerate deep tissue work and respond to it really well... but for about 1 in a thousand people, their body reacts against it. If you're one of those people, then the chances are, it's just they way your body is - your nervous system is working overtime to protect you and won't let anyone "attack" you. Deep tissue work isn't something that you're likely to get used to, it just means it's probably not for you, and you'll need less vigorous techniques to help relax your muscles.