Many people have a mindset that categorizes deep tissue as an extremely painful massage that involves fists and elbows. In reality, 'deep tissue' is often misunderstood.
The name pretty much describes the massage - it's going to go deeper than the superficial tissues, and the amount of pressure needed is going to vary from person to person. Even if you've had a deep massage before, it's going to be different every time. Why? Because you've been moving around, (hopefully) and performing different actions, which engages different muscle groups.
A proper deep tissue massage will begin slowly, warming up the superficial tissues until they allow access to the ones underneath. Forcing the issue is what causes the bad reputation of the painful elbow-massages.
Tools may sometimes be used to help during a deep tissue session they can be extremely useful for deeper trigger points. Caution is always used, of course, and it is best to tell the LMT immediately if any pain is felt.
If you're feeling too much pain to begin with, your LMT will probably recommend a more superficial massage to help your body recover from whatever activities have caused such soreness. DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is generally what a person feels a few days after a hard workout. Runners and weightlifters often experience it if they take too long of a break in between workouts. I experience it a few days after weed-eating a certain hillside (ouch!) I personally wouldn't recommend a deep tissue during that particular time.
Of course, everyone has their problem areas that tend to act up, but try to go into every massage with an open mind - especially deep tissue - the results can be very rewarding!
(Any statements made are not meant to convey medical advice, and are only stated from personal experience, if you are experiencing any medical problems, or have concerns about whether or not to receive massage, please consult your physician)
Amanda Currie, LMT
Swedish, Deep Tissue, Prenatal, Pre/Post Workout, Hot Stone