Deep Compression Massage

compression massage
compression massage

Def: Deep compression massage

A type of massage in which muscle bellies are pumped and squeezed in rapid succession; the muscle is thus treated as if it were the heart in an open-heart massage. Deep compression massage is believed to accelerate the healing of muscles that have intrinsically low blood flow.



A squeezing together; the exertion of pressure on a body in such a way as to tend to increase its density; the decrease in a dimension of a body under the action of two external forces directed toward one another in the same straight line.

Compression, friction, and vibration are three classifications of massage strokes, or techniques that, when used, add a lot of variety as well as increased health benefits to the recipient. Depending on how they are defined, these techniques are considered by some to be sub-categories of effleurage, petrissage, or tapotement.


Great article by Linda Fehrs LMT

All massage strokes offer some degree of compression, whether one is working with a traditional Swedish massage or the various forms of Eastern bodywork, such as Shiatsu or Thai massage. Pressure can range from extremely light, such as manual lymphatic drainage massage, to very deep, as in deep tissue massage and certain sports massage procedures.

In massage schools, if taught as a separate technique, compression is often taught simply as a stationary laying on of hands or fingers with a slight pushing down on to the tissue, a lifting up of the hands, and then moving over and repeating. This might be used on the client’s back at the opening or closing of a massage session in conjunction with a slight rocking movement, which is meant to encourage the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.

In addition to relaxation, effective use of compression has many physiological benefits, including an increase in circulation, reduction of edema, and releasing of adhesions. Light compression can be used on almost anybody under any circumstances. It can be used during traditional on-the-table massage, chair massage, or massage on floor mats, and can be used over the clothing. Lubricant is not needed for most compression techniques, as it is not typically a gliding stroke.


Friction is another technique in massage therapy that rarely requires the use of oils or crèmes to be effective. Because it is a focused stroke used in a small, localized area, usually no bigger than a 50-cent piece, the hands or fingers of the therapist need to maintain a certain amount of stability and consistent pressure to achieve maximum results.

There are two broad classifications of this technique, circular and transverse. In circular friction, the fingertips of the first two fingers and/or sometimes the thumb are used to create small circular movements. The fingers do not glide over the skin but, rather, press firmly on the skin, which then moves over the underlying tissue. Friction is a very effective way to break up adhesions, especially in areas such as the intercostal muscles, as well as the infraspinatus portion of the scapula.

In transverse friction, the tips and pads of the fingers are used and, if the pressure desired is to be deep, one hand may be placed over the other as reinforcement. As in circular friction, the fingers do not glide over the skin, but press down on it and move across underlying tissue. Instead of circular movements, the direction of transverse friction moves either at a 90-degree angle or, in some cases, slightly oblique to the muscle fibers.

Friction strokes should not be used in pregnant women. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin is produced, which results in a softening of ligaments, tendons, and fascia. This can easily result in the dislocation of joints if certain friction techniques are used. Friction is also contraindicated over varicosities, active inflammation, skin infections, or recently strained muscles. While friction techniques are a great way to increase circulation locally, they can also act as an irritant and aggravate underlying conditions and must be used with care.


Vibration is probably the least used of massage techniques. Students are somewhat fearful of doing it, and performing it for a final exam is often the last time it is used. Done correctly, though, it is one of the most effective techniques for soothing irritated muscles. Vibration uses the tips of the fingers moving in a very rapid back and forth trembling movement on the skin with light pressure. The vibration originates in the forearm muscles of the therapist and moves down through the hands, creating a motion similar to shivering. It is used only for very short periods of time, anywhere from five to 20 seconds in a given spot, as it is extremely tiring for the therapist.
Using vibration helps stimulate circulation and promotes healthy glandular activity, improves lymphatic flow and muscle tone and, if used along with friction techniques, loosens scar tissue.


As with any massage technique, certain precautions or contraindications should be taken into consideration either prior to or during the session. If the technique applied produces pain, especially along nerves, the massage should be stopped as it could aggravate an existing pathology. Areas that are inflamed or have open wounds should be avoided, as should recent injury sites. Care should also be taken when working on a woman who is pregnant. If in doubt as to whether a certain technique can be used, check with the client’s physician or a more experienced massage therapist.

Each person offers a different landscape of skin, muscle, and bone. Opening your massage routine to different techniques helps to make your sessions more effective and shows clients you are giving them a therapeutic treatment tailored to their body. Varying your strokes to accommodate each client’s individuality is also a way of becoming more familiar with the art and science of the profession. It helps to increase your palpation skills and knowledge of anatomy as well. This, in turn, helps you to become a more proficient massage therapist.

Recommended Study:

Advanced Anatomy and Pathology


Cassar, Mario-Paul, ND DO. Handbook of Clinical Massage: A Complete Guide for Students and Practitioners. 2nd. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone an imprint of Elsevier Ltd, 2004.

“Glossary – Friction & Vibration.” Ivy Rose Holistic Health and the Human Body. 30 October 2008

Mally, Dr. James. Swedish Massage with Dr. James Mally. Roseville, CA: Abundant Health Resources, 2000.

General benefits of deep compression massage

  • Physical relaxation
  • Improved circulation, which nourishes cells and improves waste elimination
  • Relief for tight muscles (knots) and other aches and pains
  • Release of nerve compression (carpal tunnel, sciatica)
  • Greater flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhanced energy and vitality
  • Some clinical styles may help heal scar tissue as well as tendon, ligament, and muscle tears
  • What specific conditions can massage therapy help?
  • Massage therapy may help the body in many ways. Massage can relax muscle tissue, which may lead to decreased nerve compression, increased joint space, and range of motion. This may lead to reduced pain and improved function.

Deep Compression Massage therapy will improve circulation, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells and helps remove waste products. These circulatory effects of massage may have great value in the treatment of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or edema (an excessive accumulation of fluid in body tissues).

Deep Compression Massage therapy is also thought to induce a relaxation response, which lowers the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure; boosts the immune system, and generally decreases the physical effects of stress.

Common Massage Techiques

Ischemic compression

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ischemic compression is a therapy technique used in physical therapy, where blockage of blood in an area of the body is deliberately made so that a resurgence of local blood flow will occur upon release.[1]

Ischemic compression is commonly applied to trigger points, in what is known as trigger point therapy, where enough sustained pressure is applied to a trigger point with a tolerable amount of pain, and as discomfort is reduced, additional pressure is gradually given.

A quality massage therapist will have an array of massage tools and techniques to assist you. These massage techniques can include the following:

Longitudinal Gliding

Longitudinal gliding is a basic but effective massage technique administered in the direction of the blood flow. It aids the fluid dispersion from the injury site and thus helps reduce inflammation and swelling. It is also very useful in relaxing tight muscles.


Kneading can be performed in different ways and is described by the part of a hand used to accomplish the massage, eg thumb kneading, and palm kneading. The pressure used must vary according to the purpose of the massage and the bulk of the tissues under treatment. The rhythm and rate of the movement are equally important as the pressure is applied intermittently.

Myofascial Releases

Myofascial release is a manual technique for stretching the fascia with the aim to balance the body. Fascia is located between the skin and the underlying structure of muscle and bone, it is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in our body. Injuries, stress, trauma, and poor posture can cause restriction to the fascia, and the goal of myofascial release is to release fascia restriction and restore its tissue.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy is a bodywork technique that involves the applying of pressure to tender muscle tissue in order to relieve pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body. Trigger points are active centers of muscular hyperactivity, which often cross-over with acupuncture points. You will also find that your muscular “knots” commonly trigger points.

Deep Transverse Frictions

Transverse friction is a transverse connective tissue therapy applied directly by the fingers. Transverse frictions use an oscillating pressure applied across the direction of the tissue fibers. This technique is used mainly on tendon or ligament injuries to help break down thickened, pain-producing scar tissue. If these lesions are not reduced then they are likely to cause further irritation and degenerate more quickly than they should.

Compression Massage

Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create deep hyperemia and softening effects in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work. Sports massage utilizes compression massage.

Cross-Fibre Massage

Cross-fiber friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage techniques include long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, percussion, vibration, effleurage, and shaking motions.

The usual sequence of techniques are:

Effleurage: Gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs, and/or fingertips
Petrissage: Kneading movements with the hands, thumbs, and/or fingers
Friction: Circular pressures with the palms of hands, thumbs, and/or fingers
Vibration: Oscillatory movements that shake or vibrate the body
Percussion: Brisk hacking or tapping
Passive and active movements: Bending and stretching

PNF Stretches (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)

PNF techniques combine passive stretching and isometrics with your muscle alternatingly stretched passively and contracted. The technique targets nerve receptors in the muscles to extend the muscle length.

First, the relaxed muscle is stretched by a partner, one’s own body weight against the floor, a wall, or similar resistance.

At the point, where no further stretching seems possible, the stretch is held for up to 30 seconds. However, during this period, the muscle should be contracted as much as possible.

Finally, when the muscle gets relaxed again, it should be immediately stretched farther, which is then easily possible again.

This technique of alternating stretching and contracting can be repeated several times, in order to stretch a bit further each time.

Therapeutic Massage

Therapeutic massage seeks to obtain a therapeutic benefit. While therapeutic massage is often relaxing, the end goal of the session or series of sessions is not relaxation.

Therapeutic goals can vary considerably between massage therapists and clients. In some cases, massage is recommended by a health professional and may be performed as part of a larger treatment plan. For example, someone attending physiotherapy for an injury might have a regular therapeutic massage to loosen muscles, improve muscle tone, and increase their flexibility. Likewise, therapeutic massage can be used to supplement wound care, cancer care, and a variety of other treatments.

People can use therapeutic massage as a standalone treatment. Some people, such as athletes, laborers or stressed out even office workers, receive regular therapeutic massage to keep themselves in good physical condition.

People of all ages can benefit from therapeutic massage when it is performed by a competent and fully qualified remedial massage therapist. Massage is also suitable for people with disabilities, expecting mothers, and people in treatment for medical conditions, although some special precautions may need to be taken to protect the health of the client.

Basic therapeutic massage techniques are derived from a variety of massage styles. Your massage therapist will tailor your massage techniques depending on your needs. If you are unsure whether or not massage is appropriate for you, please call us at PhysioWorks for individualized advice.

How Does a Therapeutic Massage Help You?

Therapeutic Massage is a combination of Relaxation Massage and Remedial Massage to not only relax your whole body but at the same time, work through some of the muscle issues or “tight spots” you may be experiencing.

Massage therapy may also improve your circulation, which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells and helps remove waste products or reduce swelling. These circulatory effects of massage may have value in the treatment of some inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis.

Massage therapy induces a relaxation response, which lowers your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure; plus boosts your immune system; and generally decreases the physical effects of stress.

These effects suggest that massage may be helpful for a wide range of conditions.

What Conditions Benefit from a Therapeutic Massage?

Massage therapy helps your body in numerous ways. Massage can relax muscle tissue, which may lead to decreased joint and nerve compression, increased joint and muscle range of motion. This commonly results in less pain and improved function.

Therapeutic massage benefits the following conditions:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • General Wellbeing
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Arthritis
  • Low Immunity
  • Minor injuries

When are the Best Times for a Therapeutic Massage?

The best time for a therapeutic massage is when you feel yourself getting worked up or when you are just not feeling your best.

Others find a regular therapeutic massage every month or two to be a great dose of prevention therapy. We even have some highly stressed patients who have weekly massages just to cope with daily life.

How Long Should You Book for a Therapeutic Massage?

If you have never had a therapeutic massage before or it has been quite some time since your last massage then your initial treatment should ideally be for 60 to 90 minutes so that the therapist can work through those tired muscles at an even pace to minimize any possible soreness the following day.

If you are a more regular massage recipient, your massage therapist will guide you as to the direction that works best for you and your muscles.

What Frequency Works Best for a Therapeutic Massage?

Everyone’s needs differ depending on your lifestyle. As a guide, regular therapeutic massages work best when on a 4 to 6-week basis. This is because your muscles need to keep relaxed and moving through their full available range. Otherwise, they become “creatures of habit”. If tense is how they are most often, that’s what they will consider normal. And… we all know what that leads to… tight muscles, stress, and pain!

For optimal results and less potential for muscle soreness the day post-massage, having a regular massage will keep your body from not only reacting to the positive change we are trying to provide, but it can also retrain your body to help itself and provide you with a better healthier you.

For advice specific to your therapeutic needs, please ask your massage therapist how regularly they feel that you should have a massage to function optimally.

Deep Tissue Massage

compression massage
compression massage

Deep tissue massage is a type of massage aimed at the deeper tissue structures of the muscle and fascia, also called connective tissue.

Deep tissue massage uses many of the same movements and techniques as lighter styles eg Swedish massage, but the pressure will generally be more intense. It is also a more focused type of massage, as the therapist works to release chronic muscle tension or knots.

A quality deep-tissue massage helps to:

  • loosen muscle tissues,
  • release toxins from muscles, and
  • get blood and oxygen circulating properly.

Will A Deep Tissue Massage Hurt?

It shouldn’t hurt, but it’s likely to be a bit more uncomfortable than a lighter-style Swedish massage especially if you have some large chronic knots.

How Fast Will I Get Results With A Deep Tissue Massage?

Most people report unbelievable relief immediately after their very first deep tissue style massage. It is normal to feel mildly bruised in the 1-3 days following a deep tissue massage, due to the lactic acid being flushed out of the congested tissues.

I suppose it’s a bit like the soreness you can experience when you first start back into exercise and slightly overdo it. After that things will normally only get better… and you’ll feel much looser, rejuvenated, and energetic.

What Can Help to Reduce Soreness?

It’s always hard to gauge just how firm your first deep tissue massage should be, so keep your massage therapist informed if you feel it is too much or too little.

It’s important to drink a lot of water after a deep tissue massage to help flush lactic acid out of the tissues. If you don’t, you’re more likely to be sore the next day.

How Deep Should Your Massage Be?

It’s important to be realistic about what one deep tissue massage can achieve. Many people ask for more pressure, thinking that if the therapist just pushes hard enough, they can get rid of all their knots in an hour. This just won’t happen.

In fact, undoing chronic knots and tension built up over a lifetime is best achieved with an integrated program that includes exercise, work on your posture and ways of moving, relaxation techniques, and a regular program of massage to retain your muscle tension habits.

PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT
PRO Massage by Nicola. LMT

*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.