The Difference Between Deep Tissue and Sports Massage

Jan 10, 2020

Massage therapy involves the use of touch and manipulation of soft tissues within the body to treat pain, relax the body, and prevent injury. There are several different types of massage therapy, each offering different benefits. However, two of the most common types of massage are deep tissue massage therapy and sports massage therapy. Although both types of massage techniques are similar, choosing which one is best for you depends on your personal lifestyle, goals and needs.

What is deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage is a massage technique used to treat musculoskeletal issues. A deep tissue massage therapist will apply sustained pressure using slow, deep strokes to target the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues.

Unlike other forms of massage that focus solely on relaxation, deep tissue massage is also used to treat muscle pain and stiffness. It’s for this reason that deep tissue massage is often recommended for individuals suffering from muscle pain, soreness or fatigue. The technique encourages blood flow which helps to loosen tight muscles and relax trigger points that cause knots and pulled muscles. This makes deep tissue massage great for rehabilitation and recovery from exercise or physical stress and strain.

What is sports massage?

Sports massage is a targeted approach to treating minor and chronic injuries. Sports massage therapists generally use a wide range of techniques to realign and loosen muscle fibres in individuals who experience sport-related tension. It can also be used to improve posture and condition an athlete’s body so they can perform their best.

The type of sports massage used will depend on the injury or the needs of the individual. Usually, sports massage will incorporate soft tissue massage, deep tissue massage, and whole-body massage along with physiotherapy techniques to assist in recovery and rehabilitation. Sports massage is often recommended for athletes or individuals who engage in regular physical activity and are prone to sport-related injury.

The key differences between deep tissue and sports massage

Although both techniques are similar in their focus on relieving pain and tension, the key difference is that sports massage therapy is used on athletic individuals. Where many people can benefit from deep tissue massage for a range of muscular issues, sports massage is used specifically for healing or preventing a sports-related injury.

Sports massage therapists are trained in treating injuries experienced by athletes, such as hamstring strains or shin splints. Deep tissue massage therapists can identify and treat areas of muscle weakness, but they usually aren’t treating sport-specific injuries. In this case, deep tissue massage is better for those looking to treat injuries such as back and neck strains.

When to use deep tissue or sports massage therapy

If you’re unsure whether a deep tissue massage or sports massage is best for you, this will help you figure it out. Generally, deep tissue massage can be used for relieving muscle tension, reducing stress, working knots, reducing muscle stiffness, and increasing circulation. Deep tissue massage is often administered as a full body massage, rather than focusing on a specific area of the body.

Sports massage, on the other hand, is a targeted massage approach that focuses on specific areas of the body that are in need of healing or relief. Sports massage would be better suited to an athlete or someone who engages in regular physical activity. Those who play tennis or participate in any sport that requires repetitive movements may find that sports massage can help to relieve pain in muscles and joints as well as reduce swelling or jarring. Sports massage can also be used by athletes to condition their body and aid in recovery.

Both deep tissue and sports massage use similar strokes, including kneading, circular movements, and tapping to relieve muscular pain and tension. A person may have more reason to seek out sports massage if they experience overuse injuries from physical activity. On the other hand, a person undergoing deep tissue massage may be looking for a more general relief from muscular pain and mental stress. These types of clients don’t have to participate in a certain activity, be an athlete, or have a specific injury to receive deep tissue massage.

Make massage therapy your job

A qualification in massage therapy can open doors to an exciting career in treating common injuries and assisting clients in achieving their recovery goals. Discover Massage Australia offers courses in deep tissue massage if you’re interested in learning more about massage therapy and becoming a qualified massage therapist.

Cameron Aubrey

Cameron Aubrey has over 20 years experience in the massage industry, and leads the team as Course Director at Discover Massage Australia. Cameron holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage, and his expertise runs across a large range of massage techniques, particularly sports, Swedish and whole body massage.