Deep Tissue vs. Sports Massage

While massage therapy is generally defined as the manual stimulation and manipulation of your muscles and skin; there are several massage types available depending upon your health and your goals for massage. Two common massage types that have some similarities are deep tissue and sports massage. While a Sports Massage may include Deep Tissue work, there are distinct differences between the two types of bodywork.

Assess/Prevent Injury Risk

A good sports massage therapist is well-versed when it comes to treating common injuries and muscular woes of athletes. Hamstring pulls and “shin splints” are common ailments. Because they focus on athletic performance as well as recovery from injury, sports massage therapists may identify areas in which you experience muscle tightness or determine muscle abnormalities that could potentially lead to injury if left untreated.

A deep-tissue massage can identify areas of muscle weakness or inflexibility, but the therapist might not be targeting sport-specific injury areas. Deep-tissue massages are often the modality of choice used to treat injuries, like whiplash and back strain.

Strokes and Movements

An area of commonality between deep-tissue massage and sports massage is that each massage type uses similar strokes. This includes kneading, circular movements, tapping and vibrations. Sports massage uses similar methods of manipulating the skin, yet tends to be more focused on stretching, range-of-motion, and sport-specific motions as part of the treatment

Goals of Deep-Tissue and Sports Massage

Sports massage is dedicated to improving sports performance, boosting flexibility and determining the extent injuries or decreasing the likelihood of new injuries.

Non-athletes may have more reasons for seeking out a deep-tissue massage. These include reducing toxins in the body, relieving stress, boosting circulation, reducing tension and reducing physical pain.

Which massage you choose; whether it’s a sports massage, clinical massage, or deep-tissue work, it’s a good idea to discuss treatment goals with your physician.

Massage Clients

Regular sports massage is typically limited to serious athletes, such as those who train several days a week for a pro, college and even high-school-level sport. Marathon runners, triathletes and competitive cyclists use sports massage as a part of pre- or post-event warm-ups and to reduce the likelihood of muscle cramping.

Deep-tissue massage clients are more varied, covering all walks of life and all levels of activity. These clients do not have to participate in a certain activity or have an injury in order to benefit from a deep-tissue massage.

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