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sports massage vs deep tissue massage

Sports Massage VS Deep Tissue Massage | What is Better for Me ?

Are you confused regarding the kind of massage therapy you require for fitness ? If yes, we’ve come up with a comparative analysis for you: Sports massage VS Deep tissue massage.

When would you go for such intense massages ? Both are meant for serious problems such as arthritis or injuries. Now, if you are to choose between two strong massages, I’ll start from scratch to get your concepts clear.

choose between two strong massages

»» What is a deep tissue massage ?

As the name suggests, it is a massage that dives into the deeper layers of your muscles, reaching out to the connective tissues to relieve chronic pain and stiffness. It is meant to focus on the areas of tension, which vary from person to person.

Using thumb, knuckles and elbow, the masseuse applies pressure on the muscle knots to break them and infuse greater blood flow. If you go for self-massage, the electrical deep tissue massage devices have nodes that can reach out to the problem areas deep inside.

»» What is a sports massage ?

Here to, if you go by the name, it is easy to understand that it’s meant for people active in sports. A sportsman is prone to greater and more specific injuries. Sports massage will focus on these types of injuries, not just to heal you but also prevent the next one.

The technique in sports massage is more or less the same as deep tissue, but requires greater focus, intensity and specialization.

So, if you’re an athlete what will you go for ? Let’s see.


»» Sports Massage VS Deep Tissue Massage: Which Should I Choose ?


You will ask yourself this question particularly if you’re an athlete or football player. After all, deep tissue massage is something anyone can take and sports massage requires a lot of more precision and expertise. You wouldn’t do it if you don’t get someone qualified, would you?

It’s not necessary to get a sports massage just because you’re a player. There are many benefits of deep tissue massage for athletes too. Let’s see what both actually offer to get this clear.

Sports massage

»» About Deep Tissue Massage


To give you a gist, deep tissue massage cures chronic pain, stiffness and injuries. It also provides immense relaxation and detoxifies the body. Following are the benefits of a deep tissue massage:

  • Cures chronic back pain
  • Heals injuries and scars
  • Improves flexibility and mobility
  • Cures serious problems like arthritis, tennis elbow, sciatica and fibromyalgia
  • Improves posture
  • Prevents certain injuries
  • Treats muscle spasm
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Releases stress and tension
  • Reduces depression
  • Keeps you fit and fine

However, this is not something you’ll get in one go. Massage is a scientific process, not magic. Since it involves immense work being done upon your body, it comes with its own side effects. Following are the after effects of a deep tissue massage:

  • You might feel nausea or sickness.
  • Your muscles might feel sore.
  • You might feel a headache.
  • You’ll either be really tired or drowsy.

Don’t worry, there are ways to tackle these side effects. You won’t feel that bad if you know how to prepare for a massage and what to do after one. An important thing to consider is that you should remain hydrated before and after your session. Eating heavily before can make you puke.

When you go for self-massage, not only do you save your time and money, there are chances of feeling less sore. This is because a masseuse might end up hurting you while using her elbows to break your muscle knots. A machine will work at your command.

Electrical devices such as deep tissue massage cushions, massage chairs and handheld devices have proved to be very useful and effective in giving a personalized experience. Chances of hurting are way lesser when you use a device.

If you hate the vibrations given by an electrical massager, you can consider using non-electrical tools too. I personally love the Body Back Buddy Original Trigger Point Self Massage Tool. It is worth the money you invest in such a simple tool that has knobs to reach out to your most remote parts and give a deep muscle massage.

What Happens During a Deep Tissue Massage

»» About Sports Massage


Being stronger and more focused than a deep tissue massage, sports massage is known to break down older knots and spasms, heal recurring injuries and prevent them. As the name suggests, it is more specific to sportsmen and women, also fit for bodybuilders.

Sports massage is different for every individual. If you’re a football player, the focus area will probably be on the lower half of your body. If you’re a tennis player, the focus area will mostly be on the upper half.

It doesn’t only just depend on what kind of physical activity you’re involved in, but also depends on any problem you might have faced before you started your career in sports.

Let’s take a brief look at the benefits of a sports massage for your body:

  • Breaks down old muscle knots and spasms.
  • Prevents injuries and prepares for your next sports event.
  • Cures recurring injuries that occur due to your sport or workout.
  • Breaks down scar tissues.
  • Boosts blood circulation and lymphatic flow.
  • Detoxifies the body.
  • Improves flexibility and mobility.
  • Increases elasticity of tissues.
  • Reduces muscle and body pain.
  • Relaxes strained muscles.
  • Improves mood and reduces stress.

The risk involved in terms of side effects are more or less the same since intense work is done upon you.

Since you are doing it for the sake of your profession or passion in sports, keep the following things in mind:

  • Keep yourself hydrated before and after massage.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine before and after massage.
  • Avoid any kind of heavy exercise 24 hours after massage.
  • You can run or play your game 2-3 days after massage, not before that.

»» What is the Difference between a Sports Massage and a Deep Tissue Massage ?


The main difference lies in the intensity of focus and pressure. Sports massage is more specific towards injuries. Muscles that are injured or prone to injuries require sports massage. A one-time injury or other muscle problems can be treated by deep tissue massage.

That way if you see, the difference can also be pointed out by understanding what happens during the process and who is fit to get it.

why self massage

»» What Happens During a Deep Tissue Massage ?


Do you know what happens to your body when the process of massage begins ? It’s not that mere pressing of muscles just breaks the knots and you’re flexible as a 5-year-old!

Your body actually goes through a lot to give you the relief it gets:

  • When you undress and lie down, you start getting into the mode of relaxation mentally.
  • As oil is applied and the masseuse uses long strokes to detect the problem areas, simultaneously your muscles start warming up.
  • Once kneading and vibration over the problem areas begins, heat is generated in the body.
  • As the pressure increases, muscles start stretching and its knots become weak.
  • As soon as a muscle knot breaks, fresh blood rushes through the vacuum created, giving pain relief to muscles.
  • The toxins trapped within the muscles are released in the blood.
  • The body tries getting rid of the toxins released, due to which it might feel sick. Some water can flush out these toxins and make you feel better.
  • As your body feels better, hormonal changes start taking place. The level of Oxytocin and Serotonin goes up while the level of Cortisol and Epinephrine goes down. This makes you feel happier and relieved from stress.


»»  What Happens During a Sports Massage ?


So, what’s different when sports massage takes place? Since the focus is greater, the work that takes place in your body is also greater.

Let’s see how:

  • As soon as the strokes begin, the tight muscles will release blood trapped within, creating a vacuum for fresh blood and lymph to flow.
  • As work is being done upon the soft tissues, their pores start opening up. This releases toxins and enables it to absorb more oxygen as well as nutrients.
  • The muscles start stretching and loosening up as the oldest of knots break down. They get toned as stiffness is released.
  • Old and recurring injuries form scar tissues which are broken down by the pressure applied in sports massage. Once they break down, you’re saved from future injuries.
  • Overall, your muscles feel immense relaxation due to the work done upon them.
  • This relaxation leads to hormonal changes, reducing stress and anxiety.

What Happens During a Sports Massage

»» Deep Tissue Massage is Good for:

Since deep tissue massage provides multiple benefits to your body, you can go for it under the following circumstances:

  • If you have a desk job for long hours.
  • If you have muscle problems such as arthritis or sciatica.
  • If you have back pain or cold shoulders.
  • If you’ve had an injury that doesn’t heal completely.
  • If you’re actively working out but don’t face recurring injuries in a specific area.
  • If you want to lose weight.


»» Sports Massage is Good for:

Sports massage is ultimately fit for you if:

  • You are an athlete or a sports person.
  • If you’ve faced injuries multiple times in the same area.
  • If you face problems in a specific area during workout.
  • If you’ve injured yourself in a race or a game.


»» What is the Best Type of Massage to Get ?

In the end, I would say that sports massage is best for you only if you’re completely into it. Anybody can go for a deep tissue massage, even an athlete. However, the point is that it might not be as focused as sports massage is on one section.

I would always suggest one to start with deep tissue massage, it doesn’t matter what you do. Deep tissue massage will make you understand whether or not you actually require sports massage.

So, if you’ve never got a massage done before, go for deep tissue. It will make you understand what’s wrong with your body. It will solve major problems and if you need special attention, sports massage therapists are there for you!

For athletes, bodybuilders and players, there are electrical as well as non-electrical devices and tools for massage that you can use by yourself. You can buy the ones that can give both deep tissue and sports massage. One such device I like is the Thumper Sport Percussive Massager.

If you’re a workout freak, you can consider the Tiger Tail Massage Stick. It can really be effective in not only releasing knots, but also enable you to exercise along with self-massage.


»» Warning

If you consider getting any of these massage therapies done, you have to keep in mind that it requires great expertise. The therapist has to be qualified to give such an intense massage. After all, there’s a difference between working on your muscles and hurting them.

Following are the problems you might face if you get a sports massage done from an unqualified person:

  • Bleeding: There are situations like muscle or tendon tears when you actually require surgery to heal and not massage. In fact, massage can increase bleeding because it leads to boost of blood flow in the area.
  • Inflammation: There are certain conditions such as swelling or redness on the skin during which massage should be avoided. Application of strong pressure will lead to greater inflammation around the muscles. Hence, a qualified masseuse will know that this is the time to avoid massage.
  • Illness: If you have bacterial, fungal or viral infections, they’ll spread in the body if you go for massage. The therapist is supposed to know you’re not eligible for massage in such a situation.
  • Organ Damage: If your therapist doesn’t understand the difference between a blood clot, a tumour and a knot, you can be in some serious trouble. Massaging a blood clot or tumour can in turn cause damage to your heart or affect any other organ due to release of infection into your veins.

The above risk of sports massage can be minimised if you get your massage done under the advice and guidance of your doctor. Self-massage under the guidance of a qualified doctor is of course the most convenient option for you.

Given that you know what each of these techniques will do to you, let me ask you what’s your choice: Sports massage vs deep tissue massage. What do you think will suit you better?

Massage is a scientific process


»» Frequently Asked Questions


1. Are deep tissue massages good for athletes ?

A. Yes, deep tissue massages are beneficial for athletes in many ways. It improves flexibility and mobility, also enhancing fitness. If you’re at the beginning stage of your career, deep tissue massage is in fact recommended to you.

In the course, if you discover that a specific part of your body, say your hamstrings, require special attention, only then you can switch to sports massage.


2.Does deep tissue massage increase flexibility?

A. Yes, one of the key functions of deep tissue massage is to increase flexibility. Stiffness occurs due to formation of muscle knots leading to tightness of the entire muscle. The pressure applied in a deep tissue massage breaks open these knots and loosens up the muscles. It tones the muscles in the right shape.


3.What is the best way to increase flexibility?

A. Though massage is important to increase flexibility, I would say the best way is to combine it with exercise. You don’t have to do hard core work out at the gym. Light exercise every morning followed by deep tissue massage once in 1-2 weeks keeps you fit and flexible the whole time.

You just need to do some stretching that warms up your muscles first. It makes the process of massage easier on you, also minimizing its side effects.


4.Does sports massage hurt?

A. The “no pain no gain” formula isn’t really applicable on massage. So, while the massage is taking place, you should be feeling good. There’s a limit to which your body can take pressure. That shouldn’t be crossed.

Yes, if you’re doing it for the first time and solving major post injury effects, you might feel a bit sore after massage, but that too should go within 24 hours after your body cools down.


5.What should I expect after a sports massage?

A. Sports massage is a very specific massage. It focuses on only those areas that have had injuries or are prone to injuries. If you’re doing it for the first time, you might feel a bit sore after massage. This is due to the intense work done upon you.

On the other hand, your muscles and tissues have been manipulated upon. So, you should expect to feel stronger as a delicate area of your body is no more prone to injuries. You will also feel mentally relaxed and stress free.


6.Do sports massages work?

A. Yes, but only if done under the guidance of a qualified therapist or doctor. Your masseuse should have the capability to judge your exact problem the moment she feels your muscles. Of course, you’ve got to share your history too, but apart from that, it’s her duty to understand what’s wrong with your muscles.

Even self-massage is a good option here, again under the guidance of a qualified doctor. If you know from him where your problem lies, just treat it by yourself! He’s going to guide you through using the massage device if you need so.


7.How many times should you get a massage?

A. Too much of anything isn’t good. Massage too cannot be done daily. Specially, if it’s a strong one. Depending on your activities and purpose of massage, here’s how often you should get one:

  • For relaxation and liking for strong massage: 1-2 times a month.
  • For desk workers with posture & muscle problems: Once in 1-2 weeks
  • For athletes, bodybuilders & others involved in heavy physical activity: 1-2 times a week


8.Is it better to get a massage before or after a race?

A. Before or after isn’t the question, it’s actually about maintaining the gap. Massage before a race can prepare you for it. You can get it done 2-3 days before the race. If you can’t maintain this minimum gap, you’d rather get it done after your race. This is because running right after a massage will worsen your health.

However, if you injure yourself in a race, you can’t massage on it right away. That’s going to deepen the injury, nothing else. Let your injury heal partially. After 5-6 days, you’ll see it’s better, just stiff and delicate. Now, a massage will repair that and prepare you for the next race.

So, given the above 2 situations, if I were a runner, I would get it done 2-3 days before the race.


9.What is the best time for massage?

A.  Since deep tissue and sports massage are energetic forms of massage, they’ll give you best results in the morning. Anytime between 6 am – 11 am will make you feel fresh. Keeping your entire day relaxing will enhance the effects.


About Kristy

I am Kristy Miller.Blogging is my passion.My long interest and experience with body massage encouraged me to become a health blogger.I want to talk to everyone about the importance of regular massage and self massage. I love to read, write, talk and watch everything about massage, wellness and relaxation.

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