Sports massage VS Deep Tissue massage: What’s the difference?

sports massage vs deep tissue massage

Occasionally the question comes up as to the difference between sports massage and deep tissue massage. Depending on what a therapist does the answer will vary.

Some therapists will say there isn’t a difference, but I feel there are some distinctions and that they will have different outcomes for people and depending on the need, one will be more suitable than the other. There are definitely a lot of similarities and cross over, complicated further by the fact each therapist will work differently and use different techniques. I`ll try to make it clearer by establishing what each massage modality is and how they differ in my eyes!

sports massage vs deep tissue massage

What is a Sports massage?

A sports massage is a type of massage used either to help restore normal function post-injury (for anyone) or to enhance performance (for athletes). A Sports massage is not limited to athletes alone as anyone with a soft tissue injury of muscle, tendon or ligament may benefit from a Sports massage however the injury is acquired. It is commonly used by athletes though as it suits the needs of Sportspeople greatly by treating injuries, preventing injuries and enhancing performance.

What are the benefits of a Sports Massage?

There are many benefits to sports massage. Injured tissue will heal with less scarring than tissue left untreated and repair of tissue tends to be 5 to 7 times faster. Massage is helpful in pain reduction as it releases hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine to decrease pain and boost mood. The function of the injured areas should return faster with treatment and range of motion should also be restored more quickly. Sports massage can also be a fantastic psychological tool to help the injured client feel active and empowered in their recovery. For athletes, Sports massage can also help to enhance fitness and performance as they recover faster from training and events with regular massage helping them to return to training faster and more efficiently.

What techniques are used during Sports massage?

As well as some of the techniques used in a general massage, such as effleurage to warm the tissues and prepare muscles for deeper work, and petrissage to soften, loosen and stimulate circulation there are some techniques that are more particular to a Sports massage. These are:

Neuromuscular technique/trigger point therapy – deep sustained pressure on an isolated sore point in the muscle. The pressure provokes a reflex in the nervous system to aid in muscle relaxation.

Strain/counter-strain – performing NMT with the muscle in a shortened or contracted position to relieve protective spasm.

Muscle energy technique – a form of stretching against resistance to allow greater flexibility.

Myofascial release- picking up, rolling or moving the muscle in such a way to separate the fascia from the muscle to increase muscle pliability and decrease pain.

These are just a few of the techniques associated with Sports massage.

What is Deep Tissue massage?

A Deep Tissue massage is a general message using deep pressure to target the deeper muscles and break up areas of deep tension and scar tissue. Connective tissues and joints are also worked. It can also be relaxing despite the deep pressure and promote tension relief mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

What are the benefits of Deep Tissue massage?

Deep Tissue massage also has many benefits:

  • It helps Chronic pain conditions and inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
  • Helps chronic lower back pain
  • Increases overall mobility in limbs, joints and muscles
  • Releases serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine to provide relaxation and boost mood.
  • Helps flush waste products such as lactic acid and metabolic waste from the body

What techniques are used in Deep Tissue massage?

There is definitely crossover here between the two types of massage. Some of the techniques listed in Sports massage may be used if appropriate. However, I would personally use a lot more deep effleurage than in a Sports massage. I would aim to break up the tension and scar tissue while still promoting relaxation.

So which one should I choose?

To me, Sports massage is much more specific and focused on injury or performance. For example, if you are an athlete training for a marathon, a match or tournament you may choose to use Sports massage in the buildup to the event and after the event. If you have pulled a muscle or sprained a ligament I would choose a Sports massage. If you are experiencing pain in muscle, tendon or ligament and suspect an injury, my advice would be Sports massage. Compared to experiencing pain from chronic muscular tension which is very common and can be due to stress, postural problems, sitting at a desk etc, in which case a Deep Tissue massage would be more suitable.

If you’d like to book a sports massage or deep tissue massage, feel free to contact me on085 7721617