Sports Massage vs Deep Tissue Massage (Which Type of Massage Do You Need?)

By Jessica Fuller / January 23, 2016

When you look at a sports massage vs deep tissue massage there are a lot of similarities. Between both the techniques and strokes used by the therapist. As well as the benefits offered to the client in each.

The main difference between the two is that a sports massage is usually more specific in its purpose. A client will often have a specific injury or reason they are having a massage. Allowing the therapist to tailor their techniques to resolve these issues.

A sports massage targets the palpably tight soft tissues in the muscles and tendons. Athletes or people who take part in a lot of physical activities can experience a reduced range of motion, power, and experience pains in their muscles and joints.

All of these factors can and will have a negative impact on an athlete’s abilities. Which is why they undergo sports massages to have a therapist work on these problems and help resolve them.

A massage therapist will have a consultation with a client before their first massage. This gives them the insight into the problems the person is experiencing, and what they need to do in their treatment. As well as answering any questions the client may have and helping put them at ease.

What to Expect from a Sports Massage

On its most basic level, a sports massage is a form of physiotherapy. With the goal being to treat muscle, tissue, and joint problems. This type of therapy stimulates the body’s natural healing process. Doing so by penetrating deep into the tissue and working out the tightness, knots, and painful issues.

Adhesions are usually palpable and can cause an athlete’s some considerable discomfort. They develop as a result of training hard. Repetition, injury, trauma, poor genetics, or bad training practices.

A sports massage therapist will realign muscle fibers by using the various hand techniques to penetrate the muscles. Reducing adhesion’s, improving the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body, stimulating the body’s natural defense against toxins, and strengthening the immune system.

Are Sports Massages Only for Athletes?

Absolutely not. Anyone can benefit from a sports massage, just as anyone can experience the issues that need to be resolved through a sports massage. Some people develop the muscular and joint pains without exercise.

You can develop reduced mobility or painful muscular issues though certain lifestyles. Such as sitting down for long periods of time, standing for prolonged periods of time, and repeating motions for hours at a time.

Living a varied and balanced life with regular light exercise is the best way to avoid injuries or developing muscle and joint issues. Unfortunately, this is not always an option due to some types of work.

Is a Sports Massage Painful?

This depends on what kind of issues the therapist is working on and an individual’s own level of pain tolerance. But to be completely honest, a sports massage can be painful, but it’s for the greater good.

This is necessary to achieve the desired results. But often you are trading some short-term to relieve long-standing painful issues.

Benefits of a Sports Massage

There are various benefits to having a sports massage. Here are some of the most notable:

Increased Flexibility

Having a full range of motion is incredibly important, not just to professional athletes but to people and their everyday life. A sports massage stretches out the muscle tissue both in length and width.

This creates a more flexible and dynamic muscle. Not just restoring flexibility after injury, but giving a person more flexibility than they have ever experienced before.

Pain Relief

A massage may be painful for the 30-60 minutes you are being worked on, but overall you will experience a lot of pain relief. A massage stimulates the body to release endorphin’s, a feel-good hormone that also relieves pain.

The feeling you get after a good massage cannot be matched with medicine and pain-killers. Stimulating the body’s natural healing process is a lot more effective and feels great.

Relaxing

On the psychological side, a sports massage is incredibly relaxing. All the positives of healing muscles, increasing flexibility, resolving issues, they all add up to a more relaxed and better feeling body.

Improves Mental Strength

Another psychological benefit is improved concentration and mental toughness. You will become a lot more connected and aware of your own body after a massage. Giving you a mental edge when relying on your body to perform.

What is Tui Na Massage – Is It the Same as a Deep Tissue?

A Tui Na massage is a Chinese massage technique. It’s similar to a deep tissue massage and will often be performed alongside an acupuncture or cupping treatment to enhance the results.

If you see a Tui Na massage being offered it’s worth speaking with the therapist and discussing your needs. There are a lot of positive results through this form of massage.

Should I Have Regular Sports Massages?

A lot of professional athletes have regular sports massages. While other people only seek treatment if and when they have a particular issue they want worked on. If sports and exercise is your profession, it makes sense to keep up maintenance of your body.

If you are using your body to earn a living you should look after it. Much like you would keep a machine well oiled, keeping your muscles well massaged keeps you performing at your best.

There is also the benefit of reducing your risk of injury. Plus, only seeking massages to attend to injuries or aches pains means you are already looking to be reactive instead of proactive.


Being proactive and scheduling in regular massages is a lot better for your body. When looking at sports massage vs deep tissue massage you should not be aware of the subtle differences, and what techniques are best suited to you.

If you have any questions or concerns your local physiotherapist, massage therapist, or clinician will be able to advise you.

About the author

Jessica Fuller

I started studying and experimenting with alternative medicine, different massage techniques, and alternative therapies after graduating. I also love travelling and writing, so I found a way to combine all my loves - blogging!