Deep Tissue massage versus Neuromuscular Therapy

We get this question all the time: How is Neuromuscular Therapy different from Deep Tissue Massage? As the name suggests, “Deep Tissue Massage” is a form of massage that works the general muscle tissue, accessing deeper layers of tissue. The treatment is usually listed on a resort or day spa menu, and described as a massage that is deep in pressure, in comparison with a lighter Swedish Massage. This is not necessarily the case as there are many massage modalities that access deeper layers of tissue withough being deeper in pressure (DNM is one such modalitiy). Deep Tissue massages in a spa setting are usually full-body treatments with emphasis on a few bothersome areas, with relaxation of muscle being the goal. Deep Tissue massage also does not require any additional training or Certification from basic massage therapy education.

Resort-style massage: Swedish or Deep Tissue

Neuromuscular Therapy is a highly-specialized form of manual therapy that corrects pain and dysfunction by treating trigger points, muscle adhesions, and fascial (connective tissue) patterns. These trigger points, adhesions and fascial patterns can form due to a specific trauma, postural pattern, or series of repetitive movements. Neuromuscular Therapy sessions utilize precise treatment protocols to correct these patterns by releasing tight fascia, palpating and decreasing trigger points in tight bands of muscle and releasing  areas of stuck muscle in an effective and efficient manner. The muscular areas of pain, and the surrounding muscles that are affected due to biomechanics and compensation for the primary pain are treated using these protocols. Pressure used during the treatment is based on the client’s pain threshold – “no pain, no gain” is Not the motto. We ask the client to provide feedback on the sensitivity of trigger points and tissue; if the client’s pain reaches 8 on their 1-10 pain scale, the treatment is too intense. After 7 on the scale, the tissue starts to tighten up in response to the pain which is counterproductive, and inappropriate for achieving the client’s goals. Neuromuscular treatments are rarely full-body; the work is concentrated on the primary and secondary areas of the body that are causing the pain you are experiencing, and limiting range of motion. In order to specialize in Neuromuscular Therapy, a therapist must receive additional training beyond traditional massage therapy education. This additional education takes usually around 2 – 2 1/2 years from a Neuromuscular Therapy training program before a therapist can sit for the Certification exam. The training involves learning every trigger point commonly found in each muscle, their common referral zones, and biomechanical aspects of trigger point formation (watching your gait and movements), as well as hands-on clinical application of all specific treatment protocols for each muscle and region. A Certified Neuromuscular Therapist is truly a muscular expert. 

Neuromuscular Therapy side-lying position
Neuromuscular Therapy side-lying position

Another major distinction between Deep Tissue massage and Neuromuscular Therapy is the treatment goal and number of sessions needed. Deep Tissue massages are mainly sought when the client is under stress and wants to relax, or when muscles are tight from workouts and immobility, and are typically scheduled on an “as needed” basis. Neuromuscular Therapy is sought when there is a specific condition or injury to the tissue that needs to be treated and corrected. Much like the physical therapy model for joint rehabilitation and mobility, several sessions are needed in order to retrain the soft tissue and achieve long-lasting pain relief and improved mobility. Neuromuscular Therapy is sought because of necessity for pain treatment, not as a treat for sore muscle.

Neuromuscular Studio treatment rooms

We also do not require gratuity for sessions the way that regular massage therapy offices or spas do. Even though we are licensed massage therapists, when it comes to payment we fall into the same category as physical therapy or a doctor (except we do not accept insurance).  We would prefer that you use your money for the treatments you need, and not be concerned about service gratuity. If you insist on giving a gratuity, we will gratefully accept it, but it is by no means a requirement as a part of your treatment with us. Your therapy is our number one priority!


9 thoughts on “Deep Tissue massage versus Neuromuscular Therapy

  1. Thanks for explaining the different between deep tissue massage and neuromuscular therapy. It makes sense that NMT would be used for just a few spots that are causing problems. In contrast, you can get a deep tissue massage in more areas. I have always been a little confused about these different techniques, so thanks for sharing!

    1. Nathan,

      You are welcome! I’m glad I could help clarify the differences. Both are beneficial, but for different reasons. It all depends on your goal for you session.

      Thank you for reading my post!

  2. I have plantar fasciitis with pain in my right foot. It’s been 10 months and icing and stretching has not helped nor has weight loss. Can you help me with NM therapy? Have you been able to help others in my situation? If so, how long is the process and what is the approximate cost? Thank you, Kerry

  3. I had a torn muscle from when I had a hip replacement. I WENT TO A ANOTHER SURGEON AND he attached it to my hip im going to therapy now the exercises are ok I do the same exercises at home the rest of weekbut the massage he is doing is real light I’m wondering if I need more pressure if that might help . It’s been seven months sense my surgery and I’m not getting any better would Neuromuscular Therapy help me.

    1. I’ve had several injuries and an ACL replacement. NMT has helped me greatly. I contacted the St John’s NMT Center in FL and they connected me with a Certified therapist. Good Luck!

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