Urban logo
Contact us

Customer support is offline

Our customert support team is online from 7AM - 10PM. Check our FAQs to answer your questions or email us and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can.

Deep tissue vs sports massage

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 massage. Which to go for?

A client enjoys a deep tissue massage with the therapist using her elbow and forearm

What's the difference between a deep tissue massage and a sports massage?

Both full body massage 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.

Deep tissue massage

Deep tissue massage is all about using firm pressure to break down muscle tension and scar tissue in tight muscles. 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 uses elbows, fists and forearms to encourage blood flow to the muscles to oxygenate them more efficiently and speed up their recovery.

Your massage therapist will focus on releasing knots, and may spend much of the treatment working a specific area to relax tight muscles and boost circulation. Tough knots and muscular tension 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.

Key differences between sports and deep tissue massage

Sports massage

Compared to deep tissue massage, a sports massage 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.

Despite the name, sports massage isn't just for athletes. It's great if you're doing frequent physical activity or have a sports related injury, but it can help pretty much anyone reduce stress, muscle weakness and relieve muscular tension.

Releasing muscle stiffness is a key objective – as the muscles around joints relax, it increases the range of movement in your joints.

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

You can expect a general assessment of your posture at the 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.

Sports massage vs deep tissue pressure

Deep tissue massage is typically offered as a full-body massage. Pressure builds up gradually with attention paid to your legs, arms, back and shoulders.

Sports massage is typically more targeted on specific areas of the body in need of tension relief, such as glutes, shoulders or calves.