Deep tissue massage vs sports massage –how are they different?

You’re feeling a deep ache somewhere in your body.  You want to go for a massage.  Your friend tells you to book a sports massage.  Your neighbour says go for deep tissue massage instead.  How can you tell whether deep tissue massage or sports massage is the right massage for you?

To help you decide, we compare deep tissue massage with sports massage.  

In massage therapy, physical manipulation of soft tissues in the body can relax the person, alleviate pain and promote healing.  Both deep tissue massage and sports massage originated from the same ancient roots. Both methods employ similar techniques to treat pain, relax the body and mind, and to prevent injuries. 

What is sports massage?

Sports massage is a targeted approach to treating minor or chronic injuries sustained from playing sports or exercising.   Sports massage therapist are more knowledgeable about anatomy and are trained to treat sport-related injuries like hamstring strains, tennis elbow, knee injuries (ACL) and shin splints. 

They employ a wide range of actions including soft tissue massage, deep tissue massage and full body massage, to loosen and realign muscle fibres that have become tense from the physical exertion of sport.  Releasing muscle tension is important because it promotes flexibility and movement.   Sports massage can also improve body posture and condition an athlete for optimum performance. 

For more information on the benefits of sports massage please read our article here.

What is a deep-tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage is a massage technique used to treat musculoskeletal conditions.  Sustained pressure is applied using slow, long strokes to deep muscles, tissues and facia. 

Deep tissue massage is focused on treating muscle stiffness and pain.  The technique stimulates blood flow, loosens tight and stiff muscles, reduces pain and promotes healing.   Deep tissue massage is good for rehabilitation and recovery after physical exertion.   It is also an excellent massage treatment for tight knots in the neck, back and shoulders. 

Deep tissue massage and DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness)

Deep tissue massage has been proven effective in treating DOMS in AFL players.   DOM is the feeling you get the next morning when you wake up feeling stiff and sore from the sport.  It occurs when muscles are overused and fibres have been damaged and an oversupply of toxins (lactic acid) in the body. 

Deep tissue massage benefits for your health

Here are some awesome benefits of deep tissue massage:

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Stimulate blood circulation
  • Loosen tight muscles and ligaments
  • Ease sore muscles
  • Remove knots
  • Reduce stiffness
  • Improve muscle flexibility
  • Improve joint mobility
  • Speed muscle recovery
  • Improve posture
  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Improve mood
  • Promote sleep

Who should use deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage is suitable for everybody.  Deep tissue massage benefits a wide range of muscular issues whether it’s an injury, a tired body, a tight neck, a painful shoulder, a sore back or a painful knee.   Treating an underlying pain can provide relief to other related problems.  For example, a recurring sore neck can cause stress, insomnia, diminished concentration and irritability.  Regular deep tissue massage on the neck will loosen the muscles and remove the pain.  When the pain is gone, you may be surprised that other related issues have also disappeared.

How frequently should you have deep tissue massage?

Deep tissue massage is effective in promoting general wellbeing.  Generally, you would want the massage therapist to have enough time to work on the problem areas so our advice is to book at least 90 minutes of deep tissue massage.   How many times a week you book a deep tissue massage is controlled by the amount of spare time you have and how severe the condition is. 

When you cannot decide between sports massage and deep tissue massage

Sports massage is specifically for sport.  Generally, deep tissue massage can be used to reduce stress, manage pain, remove knots, loosen tight and stiff muscles, promote blood flow and increase general wellbeing.  Both methods of massage are effective so what you choose at the end of the day depends on personal preference.  If you have sustained an injury and have been to the doctor or physiotherapist, the experts may suggest or recommend a particular type of therapeutic massage treatment for you.  In that case, always follow the advice of the professionals.

Some people say deep tissue massage hurts.  Is that true?

Deep tissue massage does not cause injury.  You may feel a little sore after a massage but the soreness will go away in 72 hours. 

Want a good massage with some guts?  Book a deep tissue massage with Retreat Wellness Massage Spa here.

Beyond a fancy spa and a massage therapy centre, Retreat Wellness is a one-of-a-kind experience.  We practise a wholesome all-encompassing theme that explores the elements of healing and well-being.  We offer an extensive menu of therapeutic massages to help you feel like your best self in no time.
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