At Aesthetics Anti-Aging Center in Macon, GA, our goal is to help patients relax and rejuvenate. That’s why we offer a variety of massages, with two of the most popular being neuromuscular therapy (NT) and deep tissue massage (DTM). These two techniques are often mistaken as the same, but each is in fact highly unique. They employ different techniques and yield different results. Rest assured, however, that both can help you feel better.
What Is the Difference Between Neuromuscular Therapy and Deep Tissue Massage?
Many people confuse NT with DTM, and it’s easy to see why. Both techniques are used to alleviate pain and take a deep dive into troubled spots. But NT is a manual and highly specialized treatment that corrects physical pain and dysfunction by targeting:
- Muscle adhesions
- Connective tissues
- Trigger points
The elements listed above often form because of factors like repetitive movements and/or specific trauma. With this in mind, NT sessions employ very specific treatment protocols designed to release tight or stuck muscles and palpate trigger points. And unlike massage, which is often delivered across the entire body, NT sessions usually concentrate on that area of the body where you’re experiencing pain and/or limited range of motion.
Pressure Appropriate to Your Needs
The pressure applied during treatment is reflective of your tolerance. The goal is not to cause you more pain, but to administer treatment in a way that improves your quality of life.
It is therefore important to provide feedback regarding the sensitivity of your trigger points and tissues. If at any time your pain reaches an eight on a scale of one to 10, we’ll know the treatment is too intense. Pain is counterproductive in that it suggests tissues are tightening up. What we want is a firm, gentle treatment that helps achieve your goals – not cause more discomfort.
Different Training Levels
Therapists who choose to specialize in NT must undergo additional training after completing a comprehensive massage therapy education. That training typically takes around two years to finish, and only then is a therapist eligible to sit for the NT certification exam.
Those who practice neuromuscular therapy must know every muscle in the body, how the fibers flow, and the trigger points found in each muscle. Training also focuses on the biomechanical aspects of trigger point formation. In other words, the physical movements, gait, and postures that tend to cause trigger points. This extensive learning forms the foundation of an individual’s professional practice.
All About DTM
We’re going to turn your attention to deep tissue massage for a moment to ensure you thoroughly understand this technique as well. This treatment helps with musculoskeletal issues like sports injuries and strains. It involves sustained pressure applied in slow, deep strokes to reach the inner layers of connective tissues and muscles.
These strokes help to break up scar tissue that often follows an injury and reduce tension in tissues and muscles. Deep tissue massage may even promote faster healing by reducing inflammation and increasing blood flow. This therapy, however, is administered sporadically to complement traditional treatments. NT, on the other hand, occurs regularly until a patient is completely healed.
A Multi-Faceted Treatment
DTM offers a range of physical and psychological benefits. In addition to improving stiffness and relieving muscle pain, it can help you mentally unwind. This treatment can therefore help you recover from a strenuous week. Patients have also reported improvements in the following after DTM:
- Tennis elbow
- High blood pressure
- Plantar fascitis
DTM is a great technique for those who regularly engage in physical activities, such as running or competitive sports, as well as those with chronic pain or a specific injury. It is, however, less versatile than neuromuscular therapy for treating a range of ailments. Whereas DTM focuses largely on relieving pain and tension, NT can effectively improve symptoms and disorders like:
- Iliotibial band friction syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint pain
- Hip, knee, and jaw pain
- Calf cramps
- Sciatica symptoms
- Carpal tunnel symptoms
The Key Stages
You’re probably wondering what happens during a DTM, and we can describe it best in a series of stages. The first is commonly a conversation in which you and your therapist discuss your treatment goals. This is a good time to ask any questions you might have. In turn, your therapist will inquire about your medical history to better understand you.
Warm-Up, Stripping, and Friction
Once treatment begins, you will likely need to take off most of your clothes (you can expect to leave on your underwear), and your therapist will then start by warming up your muscles. This typically involves the application of light oil and gentle pressure to those areas that will be worked on.
Your therapist may then apply their elbows, forearms, knuckles, and thumbs in a technique known as stripping. You’ll feel a gliding pressure across the fibers of your muscles typically followed by friction. During this phase, pressure is applied across the grain of your muscles with the intent of realigning tissues and releasing rigidity that causes discomfort.
The Ultimate Goal
The point of DTM is to loosen tense muscles, scar tissue, and adhesions found in deeper musculature. With this in mind, your therapist will probably apply a significant amount of pressure. You may also be asked to breathe deeply as your therapist works on particularly tense muscle areas. And as with most treatments, you should provide feedback to your therapist at any time to ensure the treatment is both comfortable and beneficial.
The Benefits of NT
Neuromuscular therapy is a treatment that continually changes and evolves. New manual techniques are regularly developed to treat pain at its source. But it does more than relieve pain. NT also increases flexibility. Once muscles contract or tense, they have limited mobility and lack oxygen, crucial nutrients, and blood flow. NT works these areas until they are looser, allowing the muscles to receive the proper amount of blood and oxygen.
Additional benefits of NT include:
- Increased energy levels
- Improved blood circulation
- Balanced musculoskeletal and nervous systems
- Stronger, straighter posture
- Reduced body toxin levels
- Greater relaxation
- Less tension
What to Expect
NT starts like a traditional massage appointment. You will be directed to a private exam room and asked to follow your therapist’s specific instructions. The treatment will begin with varying degrees of pressure applied to the area of pain or spasms. Many different techniques may be used, depending on the location and severity of your pain. Some of the most common motions used during treatment include:
- Positional releases
- Soft tissue techniques
Palpation skills help set NT apart from deep tissue massage. These techniques allow a therapist to find problems that are sometimes difficult to locate. This means precision down to a millimeter when working on a muscle to give you the greatest relief possible from pain and discomfort.
Each Session Is Different
Keep in mind the methods used during NT will differ for each patient. Your case will be evaluated before your session begins, and your therapist will use that time to identify which techniques will be most beneficial for you. They will also educate you about your body and teach you how to avoid behaviors that result in pain.
Your therapist will likely consult with other members of your healthcare team to ensure your rehabilitative process aligns with other treatments. After your appointment, it’s important you drink plenty of water and follow your therapist’s specific aftercare instructions. These, too, will be tailored to your individual needs.
Follow the Long-Term Plan
NT is not a recipe therapy, meaning you shouldn’t expect a specific technique order during your session. But neither is it a shotgun treatment in which your therapist will hope they apply the right motions. It is a very thorough and precise therapy, and its deliberate nature helps separate it from other massage techniques. You can think of NT as a unique combination of science and artistry.
The techniques are indeed science-based, but artistry emerges when a therapist must develop a treatment plan. Many different avenues can be taken, and if one doesn’t work, another must be crafted. With that said, you’ll need to commit to ongoing treatment. You cannot come and go as people do with most massage therapies. Regular treatments will help resolve your problem areas and finally eradicate pain and tension.
Treat Your Body and Yourself
Whether you choose NT or DTM, you’ll be treating your body and also giving your mind some much-needed relief. Physical pain and discomfort take their toll mentally even if you don’t realize it. Although these treatments are vastly different – NT treats pain at the cause, while DTM is a complementary therapy – both offer a wealth of benefits. Schedule your consultation today by contacting Aesthetics Anti-Aging Center in Macon, GA.