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Sports massage vs Swedish massage vs deep tissue

Differences between Swedish massage sports massage and deep tissue massage

The main difference between sports massage and deep tissue massage is that sports massage is mainly used on athletes or those who participate in intense physical activity. Sports massages are adapted depending on the injury sustained, this is delivered by somebody who is fully trained to treat injuries experienced by athletes such as sports massage coaches. Whereas deep tissues therapists are able to identify and treat areas of muscle weakness but usually aren’t treating sport-specific injuries.

Another key difference between sports massage and deep tissue massage is that deep tissue is often administered as a full body treatment rather than focusing on a specific part of the body. Sports massage however has a targetted approach that focuses on the areas of the body that are heeling or need relief.

On the other hand, Swedish massage therapists are trained as massage therapists and often will not work for sports injured individuals and mainly focus on the goal of relieving muscle and body tension for relaxation purposes. When getting a deep tissue or Swedish massage it is likely that the environment around you is relaxing and calming, this is because the main goal for both these forms of treatment is to create relaxation in the body and mind. Sports massage on the other hand focuses solely on relieving pain to a targetted area, the atmosphere when having a sports massage is not for relaxation purposes.

What is a Sports Massage?

A sports massage involves the manipulation of soft tissue which will benefit individuals who take part in regular physical activity.

Sports massage was originally developed to help athletes by preventing and relieving injuries, however, it is now used for athletes, such as tennis players, or none athletes as a method of relieving effects from physical activity. The sports massage method involves fast-paced massaging, stretching, and other methods depending on the sport they participate in.

This form of massage can be used as a pre-workout stretch tailored to be carried out before starting a physical activity, alternatively, it can be used as a post-workout massage which is designed to help muscles recover and reduce soreness. In order to offer sports massage services, there is a minimum requirement of a Level 3 Sports Massage Course to become a qualified sports massage coach assistant. To understand more about what sports massage is, discover our beginner’s guide to sports massage.

Benefits of a sports massage

There are a number of benefits to having a sports massage which can be both physiological and psychological. Below we have identified the top benefits of having a sports massage and the key areas on which this focuses. 

  1. Increased flexibility – when having a sports massage the muscle tissue will expand and stretch in several different ways which then allows the stored pressure to be released within the different muscles. This is beneficial to improving overall flexibility and is effective after part taking in physical activity.
  2. Pain relief – Sports massage can help reduce pain through different muscles by releasing endorphins. The combination of endorphins that are released will help towards improving anxiety, mood and pain relief. 
  3. Scar tissue breakdown – Sports massage is often used amongst athletes and sports teams against previous injuries which result in scar tissue. An increase in scar tissue will increase the risk of repeated injury in a particular area, sports massage techniques work on breaking down the scar tissue to improve the risk.
  4. Increased blood flow – The blood circulation is enhanced to different muscle areas through a sports massage, this is similar to exercising. However, during a sports massage, it will result in widened blood vessels which helps increase the ability of nutrients to flow through your blood flow.
  5. Relieve or prevent delayed onset muscle soreness – Sports massage can be used after a workout or to prevent injury which will work towards relieving or preventing delayed muscle soreness. This is assisted by enhancing overall blood flow and delivering fresh oxygen to worked or injured areas.
Sports massage therapy

What is a Swedish massage?

A Swedish massage focuses on a whole-body therapeutic massage treatment that works the soft tissues and muscles to help restore health. A Swedish massage is part of a classic massage form, the strokes and techniques used to form the basis for many other treatments, unlike deep tissue or sports massages use softer strokes on delicate parts of the body. The adjustment to pressure in comparison to other massage techniques works on the overall relaxation of the body, improving circulation and soothing muscles.

Benefits of a Swedish massage

The various Swedish massage techniques can be adapted and enhanced for many full-body benefits. This type of massage is best known for working to soothe tight muscles and boosting the wellbeing of individuals. Below you can find more detail on the top benefits of a Swedish massage. 

  1. Improved muscular strain – Throughout the various stroke techniques in a Swedish massage, it will aim to flush out body toxins which will result in the improved muscular strain as toxins are reduced.
  2. Reduced stress – Through the working of soft tissue and muscle work the Swedish massage helps create a calming and balancing effect on the nervous system. The relaxation focuses on pressure and soothing of muscles which helps reduce emotion and physical stress within the body.
  3. Improved blood circulation – Swedish massages use various soft and stronger stroke techniques whilst adjusting pressure to improve overall blood flow through the body. A Swedish massage therapist will use a long stroking motion in the direction of the blood flow towards the heart which will open blood vessels and increase blood flow.
  4. Pain management – Some conditions from which you suffer chronic pain, Swedish massages are an effective method for managing the pain in a natural approach, a therapist can target certain areas to work on improving the circulation and muscle tension.

What’s a deep tissue massage?

A deep tissue massage technique is often used to treat muscular issues through strains or sports injuries. A deep tissue massage involves applying highly sustain pressure through the use of deeper strokes which are used to target deeper layers of the muscles and tissues. Deep tissues massages are often used to break down scar tissue formed from previous injuries and reduce muscle tension in a given area. The pressure used in a deep tissue massage is used to treat muscle and tendon injuries that target pain or stiffness in major muscle groups and joints.

Benefits of a deep tissue massage

There are a number of benefits to having a deep tissue massage which can have an impact on both physical and mental wellbeing. Deep tissue massages can be similar to a sports massage whilst still having their differences. It can work to treat injured muscles whilst also working on slow stroke techniques to improve relaxation & anxiety.

  1. Breaks scar tissue – Areas that have scar tissue often results in areas of chronic pain or stiffness. Regular deep tissue massages help break up scar tissue which improves drainage and flexibility with the range of motion in the scar tissue area.
  2. Reduces arthritis symptoms- Moderate pressure used in a deep tissue massage works to reduce arthritis pain and ease the tension which makes it easier for those with arthritis symptoms to improve range of motion. 
  3. Lowers blood pressure & heart rate- Deep tissue massages work on reducing overall stress and tension in the body which contributes to blood pressure. Massage techniques work to improve systolic, arterial and diastolic blood pressure.
  4. Reduces pain – Muscular tensions which can occur through chronic pain can be improved through deep tissue massages, as they work to loosen the right tissue clusters which may be causing muscular pain.
Sports massage therapist

Similarities between sports, Swedish and deep tissue massages

These three massage techniques have both a variety of similarities and differences, with this being said these techniques are adapted and changed according to the type of massage. Swedish, deep tissue and sports massages all work towards the overall goal of relieving pain and reducing tension within the body, in turn, this contributes towards reduced stress and improved blood circulation. Deep tissue massages and sports massages are more similar as they focus on higher pressure to help improve muscle stiffness and reduce scar tissue. These types of massages are both used mainly pre or post physical activity to improve recovery time and reduce pain, this isn’t necessarily the case for Swedish massages.