Deep Tissue vs Sports Massage

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Deep Tissue and Sports massages – how are they different?

You’re feeling achy after a workout, or you’re stiff after working long hours at your desk. Your friend recommends a sports massage to loosen up, but your work colleague has been extolling the wonders of deep tissue treatments. Which to go for?

Both treatments have their roots in the same science. In fact, sports massage evolved from deep tissue techniques, branching out to offer some benefits of its own. Here’s a quick rundown to help with deciding which is right for you.

The differences between Deep Tissue and Sports massages

Deep tissue massage

Deep Tissue massage is all about using firm pressure to reach the body’s deeper muscle tissues. Pressure starts off gentle, but  ramps up during the treatment – it can be uncomfortable at times, but you should let your therapist know if the massage ever becomes painful.

Deep Tissue treatments focus on reducing tension and stiffness – the technique encourages blood to flow to the muscles to oxygenate them more efficiently and speed up their recovery. Therapists will focus on releasing knots, and may spend much of the treatment working a specific area to relax tight muscle tissues and boost circulation. Tough knots tend to be in the upper back – particularly around your shoulder blades. 

Given the levels of pressure it’s not uncommon to be a little sore after a deep tissue massage, but this should ease off over the course of 72 hours.

Sports massage

This treatment is more targeted and focuses on treating minor and chronic injuries. Practitioners can also focus on improving your posture. Sports massage therapists (who also go by the name soft tissue therapists), generally use a wider range of techniques, including active and passive stretching to help realign and loosen muscle fibres. Releasing tightness in muscles is a key objective – as the muscles around joints relax, it increases the joints’ range of motion. 

In general, sports massage therapists will have a deeper understanding of the human anatomy underpinning what they do. It’s worth noting that although a sports massage is never meant to be painful, it can get fairly uncomfortable at times as practitioners hone in on problem areas. 

You can expect a general assessment of your posture at the tail end of a sports massage, too – practitioners will use this time to gauge any improvement in your range of motion. Some techniques involved in sports massage require wax or oil, though it isn’t always needed.


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