The difference between a Deep Tissue and Sport Massage

Deep Tissue vs Sport Massage

A lot of people come to the spa, not knowing the difference between these two massages. Some are disappointed and some are surprised, so today I would like to explain to you in a bit more detail what the differences are between these two massage types.

A deep tissue massage is perfectly explained by its name. The pressure is adjusted to manipulate the deeper tissue layers in the body. The bit that is somewhat confusing however, is what exactly the deeper tissue layers are. It means all the tissue layers that lay on top of the muscle, though not the muscle itself. The therapist works on these layers, but not so deep as to work all the way through like with a sports massage. This type of pressure is still efficient enough to release any newly formed or small knots and to stretch stiff muscles. I mention new or small knots, because big tension knots are caused by a build up over time, or because of injury. This is a job for a specially trained sports massage therapist.

A sport massage is the manipulation of the soft tissue (muscle) in order to prevent or improve sports injuries. The therapist has a broader, more specified medical knowledge and application. She needs this in order to efficiently and safely manipulate the muscles, making sure she does not damage the fragile tissue any further. There is a thin line that exists between working the muscle and causing more injury! It is best to leave this specialized massage form to a well-trained, specialized therapist. If you require a sports massage for an injury, remember to ask the therapist whether he or she is qualified to do so before making a booking.

I hope that you enjoy the treatment of your choice, now knowing what to aspect.


Massage therapy involves the manual stimulation and manipulation of your muscles and skin. However, there are several massage types available depending upon your health and your goals for massage.

Two common types of massage that have some similarities are deep tissue and sports massage. Knowing the difference between these two massage types can help you determine the best option for you.

Sports Massage vs. Deep Tissue

Although physical techniques are similar, sports massage is targeted to the athletic individual. The focuses of this intervention are to speed recovery time, improve performance and decrease the physical demands of sports on the body. Sports massage is often directed at healing a sports-related injury or helping to prevent injury.

Sports massage therapists should be well-versed when it comes to treating common injuries and muscular woes of athletes, such as hamstring strains or shin splints. Sports massage therapists can identify areas in which you experience muscle tightness or determine muscle abnormalities that could potentially lead to injury if left untreated.

While a deep-tissue massage can identify areas of muscle weakness, the therapist might not be targeting sport-specific injury areas. However, deep-tissue massages can be used to treat some injuries, including whiplash or back strain.

Read more: Benefits of Deep Tissue Massage

Strokes and Movements

One 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 sports-related areas of pain.

Goals of Massage

Sports massage is dedicated to improving sports performance, boosting flexibility, and handling injuries or potential injuries. A person 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. Whether you’re undergoing a sports or deep-tissue massage, you should discuss your overall treatment goals with your physician.

Types of Clients

Sports massage is typically limited to serious athletes, such as those who train most days of the week for a professional, collegiate or high school sport. These clients might use massage as a part of pre- or post-game warmups to reduce the likelihood of muscle cramping.

Deep-tissue massage clients tend to be more varied, ranging from business people to students. These clients do not have to participate in a certain activity or have an injury to receive a deep-tissue massage.

Read more: What Are the Benefits of Massage in Body Building?

Precautions for Massage

Regardless of the type of massage, there are some situations in which massage might not be an appropriate intervention.

Although sports massage is directed at injuries, a muscle rupture or complete tendon tear will require surgery, not massage. In the first day or two after injury, muscle tissue can still be bleeding. Massage brings blood flow to the injured area, which can cause more bleeding and further injury.

Muscle injuries can sometimes lead to a condition called myositis ossificans, where bone begins to grow in the muscle. Massage will further damage the muscle, possibly promoting the abnormal bone growth.

It can be very confusing to tell the difference between the different types of massage and what to book in for. Let us explain the difference between deep tissue, sports and remedial massage.

Remedial massage is an outcome focused treatment.

This means we aim to achieve the goals that you set out for your treatment. We employ whatever deep tissue and sports massage techniques required to remedy any current muscular concerns you may have – enabling you to feel better.

Deep tissue massage can be used as a deep pressured relaxation focused treatment by using rhythm and flowing massage stokes. Alternatively deep pressured massage can be utilised as a remedial massage where your therapist applies the amount of pressure at the appropriate tissue depth which takes you close to the therapeutic edge. We call the therapeutic edge that place of challenge where the pressure is a little uncomfortable but you can still breathe and feel the relief of tension melting.

Sports massage is usually symptom focused to remedy any dysfunctional issue in your muscles. At TMC we like to direct our sports massage treatments to treat both the cause and the symptom along with the area of dysfunction.

Choosing the best treatment.

It can be difficult to know what type of treatment to ask for when booking an appointment. At The Massage Centre we only recruit sports and remedially qualified therapists. We don’t worry so much as to what to call your treatment, instead we tailor the treatment to suit you. If you have an outcome for your massage in mind, please let our reception team know. That way, we will match you up with the therapist who is strongest in that skill set – giving you a higher quality outcome.

Physio Works – Physiotherapy Brisbane

Common Massage Therapy Techniques

A quality massage therapist will have an array of massage tools and techniques to assist you. These massage techniques can include the following:

Longitudinal Gliding

Longitudinal gliding is a basic but effective massage technique administered in the direction of the blood flow. It aids the fluid dispersion from the injury site, and thus helps reduce inflammation and swelling. It is also very useful in relaxing tight muscles.


Kneading can be performed in different ways and is described by the part of a hand used to accomplish the massage, eg thumb kneading and palm kneading. The pressure used must vary according to the purpose of the massage and the bulk of the tissues under treatment. The rhythm and rate of the movement are equally important as the pressure is applied intermittently.

Myofascial Releases

Myofascial release is manual technique for stretching the fascia with the aim to balance the body. Fascia is located between the skin and the underlying structure of muscle and bone, it is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in our body. Injuries, stress, trauma, and poor posture can cause restriction to fascia, and the goal of myofascial release is to release fascia restriction and restore its tissue.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy is a bodywork technique that involves the applying of pressure to tender muscle tissue in order to relieve pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body. Trigger points are active centres of muscular hyperactivity, which often cross-over with acupuncture points. You will also find that your muscular “knots” are commonly trigger points.

Deep Transverse Frictions

Transverse friction is a transverse connective tissue therapy applied directly by the fingers. Transverse frictions use an oscillating pressure applied across the direction of the tissue fibres. This technique is used mainly on tendon or ligament injuries to help break down thickened, pain-producing scar tissue. If these lesions are not reduced then they are likely to cause further irritation, and degenerate more quickly than they should.

Compression Massage

Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create a deep hyperaemia and softening effect in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work. Sports massage utilises compression massage.

Cross-Fibre Massage

Cross-fibre friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

Swedish Massage

Swedish massage techniques includes long strokes, kneading, friction, tapping, percussion, vibration, effleurage, and shaking motions.

The usual sequence of techniques is:

Effleurage: Gliding strokes with the palms, thumbs and/or fingertips
Petrissage: Kneading movements with the hands, thumbs and/or fingers
Friction: Circular pressures with the palms of hands, thumbs and/or fingers
Vibration: Oscillatory movements that shake or vibrate the body
Percussion: Brisk hacking or tapping
Passive and active movements: Bending and stretching

PNF Stretches (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)

PNF techniques combine passive stretching and isometrics with your muscle alternatingly stretched passively and contracted. The technique targets nerve receptors in the muscles to extend the muscle length.

First, the relaxed muscle is stretched by a partner, ones own body weight against the floor, a wall, or similar resistance.

At the point, where no further stretching seems possible, the stretch is held for up to 30 seconds. However, during this period, the muscle should be contracted as much as possible.

Finally, when the muscle gets relaxed again, it should be immediately stretched farther, which is then easily possible again.

This technique of alternating stretching and contracting can be repeated several times, in order to stretch a bit further each time.

Your PhysioWorks massage therapist is a professional who understands was is right for your body. If you have any questions as to what is best for your body, please call us to discuss your massage requirements.

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Common Massage Styles

Massage FAQs

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  • How Does Massage Help You?
  • What’s the Difference Between Remedial & Relaxation Massage?
  • Massage Styles and their Benefits
  • What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?
  • How Can I Purchase a Massage Gift Voucher?
  • Running Recovery: 6 Helpful Tips
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What’s the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When is the Best Time for a Pre-Event Massage?
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    Sports Massage: Common Techniques and Benefits

    May 14, 2019 | By Physio Logic

    By: Amy Montia, LMT

    As a Licensed Massage Therapist, I often often hear many of the same questions concerning Sports Massage. Among them are:

    • Can Sports Massage Therapy help reduce injury risk?
    • Can Sports Massage help catch discomfort before it becomes an injury?
    • Can Sports Massage help improve physical AND mental performance?
    • Can Sports Massage improve flexibility and range of motion?
    • Can Sports Massage speed up recovery and minimize soreness?

    The answer to all of these questions is, simply put, yes.

    Our bodies like to move. We function best when we get regular daily activity… and enjoying our sport makes us happier and function better! This is reason enough to consider sports massage: to help you keep on doing the activities you love to do.

    You don’t have to have specific sport credentials or ability level to consider sports massage. Anything goes – Crossfit, marathons, daily jogs, morning swims, brisk walks, basketball league, weekend soccer, tennis, kickboxing, skateboarding, gardening, painting, dog walking, or herding your kids around town (yes, being a caregiver counts as a sport too).

    Sports Massage uses a constellation of soft tissue techniques depending on what your specific situation and needs are. After a brief assessment and conversation, your therapist can help you to come up with an individualized treatment (and perhaps treatment plan for future sessions) that will best fit you. Here’s a rundown of some (but not all) techniques commonly used during a sports massage and their benefits:

    “Swedish” Techniques (Effleurage, Petrissage, and Muscle Stripping):

    Swedish massage techniques are helpful to minimize stiffness, soreness, spasm, and tightness after intense workouts.


    The term effleurage comes from the French word “effleurer” meaning to glide lightly. With oil, therapists use their hands or forearms to glide superficially across a region, often in a slightly circular motion directed toward the heart and lymph nodes.


    The term Petrissage comes from the French word ” petrir” meaning to knead. Petrissage kneads muscles and fascia to loosen the area and increase local circulation. The therapist uses palms, fingertips, knuckles or forearms to squeeze, wring, lift and roll muscle tissue and fascia. Pressure and depth vary from superficial to deep tissue.

    Muscle Stripping

    Using a thumb, elbow, forearm or fingertips, therapist glides along a muscle, in the direction of the muscle fibers using oil for controlled glide. Muscle stripping helps restore normal muscle fiber length, identify trigger points, and promote local circulation.

    Myofascial Release

    Good for addressing larger regions or lines of tightness that dont respond to other muscle work. Often, groups of muscles and nerves get trapped under adhered connective tissue. Myofascial Release helps to address this.

    Fascia refers to the layered bands of fibrous connective tissue that wrap and surround all muscles, bones and organs. Inflammation, trauma, repetitive stress and postural imbalances create adhesions and restrictions (“snags”) in fascia. To release myofascial snags, fascia is stretched or bended slowly in a focused area until a change in the tissue is felt. The goal Myofascial Release is to warm up irregular fibrotic tissue, then “iron” it out to make it more aligned and flexible.

    Trigger Point Therapy

    Trigger points are palpable hypersensitive knots found in taut muscle bands. They often create a characteristic referred pain pattern and twitch response in surrounding muscle tissue when pressed. To deactivate trigger points, pressure is applied to the knot until a change in the tissue is felt. Deactivating trigger points helps decrease pain and restore circulation in the affected area.

    Trigger point therapy (and myofascial release too) can feel pretty intense at times, so these techniques offer a great opportunity to work on improving diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing (described in an earlier post by me) is a highly efficient form of breathing in terms of O2/CO2 exchange for our tissues, and it helps regulate our body’s nervous system- both key factors for improved sports performance.

    Active Release Technique

    Active Release Technique is good for areas of local pain and overuse/repetitive stress conditions. ART (Active Release Technique) is a patented soft tissue technique that treats adhesions and entrapments around muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Specific areas are treated by applying direct tension, then having the patient actively or passively move the joint through its range of motion to release the adhesion from surrounding tissues.


    Acupressure stems from Shiatsu Japanese bodywork therapy which is based in principles of classical Chinese Medicine. Applying pressure along specific acu-points helps to regulate meridians to restore smooth qi flow, release local tension and encourage alignment of mind, body, and spirit. When aligned, our spirit is full and bright, our mind is calm and clear, and our body becomes strong and resilient. After all, in the sport of life, this is what we truly need to achieve our optimal self.

    Sports massage has many different techniques, applications, and benefits. And these are just some of the most common! Look for more information on sports massage in future posts or on our Sports Massage Department page. Until then, if you’re in the neighborhood, book an appointment at Physio Logic. We’d be glad to have you. You can start by filling out the form below or just call us now.

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    CATEGORIES : Massage Therapy

    As an athlete playing padel, part of my routine is massage therapy. I’ve already written about my foam rolling routine and TENS machine that are my daily way of keeping my muscles massaged, but of course, there is no substitute for real massage sessions with a qualified therapist.

    Getting frequent massages might seem to be an unnecessary luxury at first glance, but I’ll show you in this article why it’s not.

    Here are the top reasons why massage should be part of every serious athlete’s routine:

    • Massage can reduce injuries
    • Massage is beneficial to more than muscles

    Massage Can Reduce Injuries

    Getting injured is every athlete’s worst fear. Injuries impair performance, delay training and conditioning schedules during recovery, are costly to treat, and, most of all, injuries hurt.

    Dealing with pain and limited mobility after an injury is exhausting, frustrating, and worth the measures necessary to avoid an injury from happening.

    Plus, over time, injuries take their toll on the body. Most of the time, damaged tissue heals, but when muscles are continually taxed to their max through high-performance athletics, the odds increase that an injury, especially a recurring one, will result in a permanent condition.

    Massage therapy has come a long way. From spa treatment to relaxation therapy; to specialized therapies, such as sports massage and prenatal massage; and, currently, according to recent research, massage therapy is making headway in preventative medicine, such as preventing injuries in athletes.

    As recently as May, 2016, Oxford University research suggests that massage therapy may be beneficial to individuals experiencing pain. Pain is multi-dimensional and may be better addressed through a holistic, biopsychosocial approach. Massage therapy is commonly practiced among patients seeking pain management; however, its efficacy is unclear. This research study is the first to rigorously assess the quality of massage therapy research and evidence for its efficacy in treating pain, function-related and health-related quality of life outcomes across all pain populations.

    Based on the evidence, massage therapy, compared to no treatment, should be strongly recommended as a pain management option. Massage therapy is weakly recommended for reducing pain, compared to other sham or active comparators, and improving mood and health-related quality of life, compared to other active comparators.

    Researchers at McMaster University reported in 2012 that massage following an intense workout actually causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells and are responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy. Increasing mitochondria can improve endurance performance by increasing the rate that muscles utilize oxygen.

    For an athlete, energy is everything.

    To the body, oxygen is everything.

    For their study, the researchers followed 11 men in their twenties.

    On their first visit, the men’s exercise capacity was assessed. Two weeks later, the men cycled on a bicycle for more than 70 minutes, to a point of exhaustion when they couldn’t cycle any more. They then rested for 10 minutes.

    While resting, a massage therapist lightly applied massage oil to both legs, and then performed massage for 10 minutes on one leg using a variety of techniques commonly used in rehabilitation.

    Muscle biopsies were done on both legs (quadriceps) and repeated 2.5 hours later. Researchers found reduced inflammation in the massaged leg.

    The results hint that massage therapy blunts muscle pain by the same biological mechanisms as most pain medications and could be an effective alternative.

    Surprisingly the research also proved one oft-repeated idea false: massage did not help clear lactic acid from tired muscles.

    The McMaster University study also found that massage therapy increases the range of motion in muscles and decreases recovery time between workouts or athletic events.

    Massage for sports injuries not only concentrates on existing injuries, but can also help prevent injuries. Massage before conditioning training helps to prevent injuries and should be administered after a warm-up session. Massage can also help to prevent common injuries when administered after a training session, as it helps to return the muscles to their relaxed state.

    The better we feel, the better we heal. For muscles, too.

    Massage is Beneficial to More Than Muscles

    Muscles might be the richest benefactors of a massage, but, most people report a feeling of pure relaxation, reduced anxiety, enhanced attentiveness, and improved mood following a massage.

    Athletes may find an edge in these psychological benefits, making massage a double-duty treatment; a mind and body therapy. That’s a lot of bounce for your ounce!

    Various bodies of research compiled by the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicate that massage therapy:

    • Reduces heart rate.
    • Lowers blood pressure.
    • Reduces recovery time after an injury.
    • Rehabs an injury.
    • Lowers anxiety.
    • Improves mood.
    • Increases blood flow throughout the body, bringing vital oxygen and nutrients all over.
    • Relieves muscle pain and tension.
    • Improves connective tissue healing, which promotes muscle elasticity.
    • Stabilizes cortisol levels (a stress hormone, similar to adrenaline).
    • Improves muscle flexibility, which reduces and prevents injury.

    And, as if all these benefits weren’t enough, research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience suggests that massage therapy improves the quality of sleep.

    Do you want to drive a Maserati or a Ford Focus?

    The Ford Focus is a fine vehicle, designed for economy and low maintenance. It’s a clean, solid ride.

    Then, there’s the Maserati. A masterfully engineered Italian machine, designed for high-performance, power and superior luxury. While it’s a bit pricey for most of us, its sticker price is not the only factor to consider when it comes to owning a Maserati.

    High maintenance

    A Maserati is an exceptionally high-maintenance vehicle, known to be expensive to maintain and repair; much more so than other cars in its class. Ask a Maserati owner why they spend so much time and money maintaining a car whose value and performance could be found elsewhere and their response will echo that of designer and car collector, Ralph Lauren, “You can enjoy both the beauty of the machine and the journey it takes you on.”

    High-performance output requires high performance input, in both cars and bodies. Athletes are the high-performance models of the human body. In order to keep up with the substantial demands required of being optimally fit, athletes must stick to an impeccable diet regimen, maintain quality and consistent rest habits, and adhere to regular exercise, training and conditioning programs.

    Athletes also need superior health and wellness strategies to sustain optimal performance by their bodies. By having regular massage, athletes can keep their muscles healthy, improve their flexibility, maintain relaxation, and have a better sleep cycle.

    Research compiled by NCBI, states, “Athletes and coaches are constantly fine tuning their training strategies in order to develop a competitive edge. The use of therapeutic modalities, such as thermal agents, electrical stimulation, and massage are often performed for this purpose. “

    For most athletes, professional or the weekend warrior brand, enjoying less muscle stiffness, preventing injury, improving relaxation and well-being are reasons enough to enjoy a regular massage program. For some, it’s also about giving the Maserati its due.

    Let’s address a few common questions:

    How often should I get a massage?

    This all depends on the demands you put on your body and how your body reacts to those demands. When Robert was working for the Brisbane Lions AFL team, the players were getting two massages per week during the playing season. Most elite athletes get at least one massage per week. For most amateur athletes who still take their sport and training seriously or regular gym-goers, once a week to once a fortnight is recommended. For most people who do regular light exercise once every two, three or four weeks is usually sufficient.

    We offer a range of pre-paid massage packs; to find out how you can buy in bulk and SAVE please click here.

    Please note: If you are recovering from an injury then more frequent regular sports/remedial massage targeting the injured area is recommended until the injury has healed and you are back to pain-free full range of movement. This is particularly the case if you are going to continue training and competing and unable to give your injury sufficient time to recover.

    Should I get sports massage before or after I compete or train?

    The short answer is: you should receive sports massage both before and after you train.

    After training or competing it is best to get a sports massage within 48 hours; this reduces your recovery time. You can however receive sports massage once your heart rate has reduced and you have had time to re-hydrate.

    One or two days before the race is a good time to receive sports massage or even the morning of the race as long as it is not too deep. A massage the morning of the race is more part of your warm up so ideally a lighter and more vigorous approach is best.

    Two to four days before you compete loosens your muscles and helps your mind and body feel fresher, more relaxed and ready to compete. If sports massage is performed more than four days before it can be deeper, helping you to get rid of restricted and/or tight areas of muscle.

    What’s the difference between sports massage and deep tissue massage?

    Sports massage is ideal post-exercise; deep tissue massage is a technique that can be used as part of sports massage to assist in injury recovery and the removal of scar tissue. Deep tissue massage is more than just a firm massage.

    In terms of firmness, sports massage is usually done at a medium pressure post-event, fairly light pre-event and fairly firm during training in a similar way that a long distance runner may train at a high level leading up to an event, at a moderate level tapering off pre-event and fairly lightly post-event for optimum recovery.

    I’m not an athlete, would sports massage be suitable for me?

    Sports massage is ideal for anyone who exercises: from regular beach walkers to working out at the gym once a week. Sports massage is also ideal for people who have a physically demanding job or for anyone who suffers from soft tissue (muscle) tightness or pain.

    Sports Massage

    What is Therapeutic Sports Massage?
    Therapeutic sports massage is a type of massage technique that focuses on treating soft tissue aches, pain and injuries that are associated with recreational activities. Massage can reduce muscle stiffness and improve relaxation by reducing heart rate and blood pressure.

    Sports massage has become an integral part of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college training rooms, to professional locker rooms to Olympic training. Growing number of trainers believe that massage can provide an extra edge to the athletes who participate in high performance sports. Massage has become a necessary ingredient for a complete workout. More and more people are realizing that a complete workout routine includes not only the exercise itself, but also caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement. The physiological and psychological benefits of massage make it an ideal complement to a total conditioning program.

    Anyone who routinely stretches their physical limits through movement such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, tennis and other racquet sports, strength training and aerobics can benefit from a massage. There are others who does strenuous activities in a day that is not normally classified as exercise. Examples are mothers with small children, gardeners, and others who use their bodies strenuously in their work.

    Incorporating massage in your conditioning program has many benefits. It helps you get into good shape faster, and with less stiffness and soreness. It helps you recover faster from heavy workouts, and relieves conditions which may cause injury.

    For most athletes, enjoying less muscle stiffness and improving relaxation and well-being is reason enough to enjoy regular massage. But as research continues to grow on the real physical benefits of massage, more and more athletes will be taking advantage of this ‘feel-good’ training method.

    Incorporating massage in your conditioning program has many benefits. It helps you get into good shape faster, and with less stiffness and soreness. It helps you recover faster from heavy workouts, and relieves conditions which may cause injury.

    What Happens When You Exercise?

    Regular exercise increases vigor and promotes a general sense of well-being. If done in moderation, it can help relieve the effects of stress, and has been linked to decrease in psychological depression.

    Regular exercise produces positive physical results like increased muscular strength and endurance, more efficient heart and respiratory functioning, and greater flexibility.

    These positive physical changes occur as the body gradually adapts to the greater demands put on it by regular exercise. The body improves its functioning to meet the challenges placed on it.

    Conditioning involve three steps or phases:

    • Tearing Down Phase – pushing to your physical limits
    • Recovery Phase – key for the rebuilding
    • Buildup Phase – when the system adapts to the new demands

    The ‘tearing down’ phase of the adaptation process often involves stiffness and soreness, especially when the amount of movement is significantly increased from what the body has been used to in the past.

    Delayed muscle soreness (24-48 hours after exercise) may be caused by any of a number of different factors. Some possible causes are minor muscle or connective tissue damage, local muscle spasms that reduce blood flow, or a buildup of waste products (metabolites) from energy production.

    Trigger points or stress points may also cause muscle soreness and decreased flexibility. These points are specific spots in muscle and tendons which cause pain when pressed, and which may radiate pain to a larger area. They are not bruises, but are thought by some to be small areas of spasm. Trigger points may be caused by sudden trauma (like falling or being hit), or may develop over time from the stress and strain of heavy physical exertion or from repeated use of a particular muscle.

    Heavily exercised muscles may also lose their capacity to relax, causing chronically tight (hypertonic) muscles, and loss of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is often linked to muscle soreness, and predisposes you to injuries, especially muscle pulls and tears. Blood flow through tight muscles is poor (ischemia), which also causes pain.

    Sports Massage Techniques

    Each sport and athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way. Sports massage therapists must be familiar with each muscle, the muscle groups and how they are affected by the specific movements and stresses of each sport. They also are trained in the appropriate uses of hydrotherapy and cryotherapy.

    Traditional western (e.g. Swedish) massage is currently the most common approach used for conditioning programs. It is frequently supplemented by other massage therapy approaches including deep tissue, trigger point work, and acupressure. Some massage therapists have special training in sports massage and greater experience working with athletes.

    Sports massage therapy frequently includes the use of one or more of the following techniques:

    Deep Swedish Massage

    Muscle-specific applications of the standard effleurage, petrissage, vibration, and tapotement techniques.

    Compression Massage

    Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create a deep hypremia and softening effect in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.

    Cross-Fiber Massage

    Friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

    Trigger Point/Tender Point Massage

    Combined positioning and specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in muscle and connective tissue, to reduce the hypersensitivity, muscle spasms and referred pain patterns that characterize the point. Left untreated, such trigger/tender points often lead to restricted and painful movement of entire body regions.

    Lymphatic Massage

    Stimulation of specialized lymphatic-drainage pathways, which improves the body¹s removal of edemas and effusion.

    The Benefits of Sports Massage

    Regular sports massage can:

    • Reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and event preparation, and through deep tissue massage;
    • Improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance;
    • Shorten recovery time between workouts;
    • Maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow;
    • Enhance elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.

    How Does Massage Help?

    Recovery. Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.

    In addition to general recovery, massage may also focus on specific muscles used in a sport or fitness activity. For example, areas of greater stress for runners and dancers are in the legs, for swimmers in the upper body, for tennis players in the arms. These areas are more likely to be tight, lose flexibility, and develop trigger points.


    Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects.

    Trouble spots

    You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries.

    Three Areas of Sports Massage

    Sports massage may involve prevention and maintenance programs, on-site treatment before and after an athletic event, and rehabilitation programs for those who are injured during the program.

    Maintenance Massage

    An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist’s understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.

    Event Massage

    Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating. Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete’s warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating.


    Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity. Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity.


    Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length.

    Rehabilitation Massage

    Even with preventive maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise, and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process.

    Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the “standard care” procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and “compensation” muscles. Cross-fiber friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation.

    In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolize.

    Learn more

    • Swedish Massage
    • Deep Tissue Massage
    • Prenatal Massage
    • Trigger Point Massage
    • Hot Stone Massage

    Definition & Overview

    Sports massage is a form of treatment specifically designed for soft tissues injuries. It is commonly performed on athletes by certified sports massage is a popular technique of applying different types of pressure on the body. Though generally applied using the hands, other body parts, such as the elbows, forearms, knees, and even feet, can also be used. In the same way, a massage device can also be employed to effectively apply the needed pressure. The overall goal of massage is to provide relaxation and well-being.

    Sports massage is one of the numerous types of massages designed specifically to treat musculoskeletal injuries and pain. It is also known as manual therapy since it involves the manual application of pressure to knead the affected muscles. To some degree, it also involves manipulation and mobilisation of joints. Aside from treatment, this type of massage also helps prevent injuries, enhance the performance of muscles, and boost overall athletic performance.

    Sports massage can be classified based on when it is performed. There is a pre-event sports massage done within an hour before a game or activity that is usually followed by an inter-event massage for those who need to rest in between games. A post-event massage, on the other hand, is done when the athlete cools down while a restorative sports massage is performed during rest days.

    Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

    Different types of athletes can benefit from a sports massage. For example, runners suffering from a tender knee can try to strengthen the tendons and muscles in the affected area with a sports massage. This type of massage can also help the athlete correct any movement that can potentially cause injury or limit full function.

    Sports massage is not only applicable for those actively engaged in sports. Athletes recovering from an injury can also try this type of massage to improve their chances of getting back into shape and restoring optimal performance. This is one reason why massage is an important aspect of any physical rehabilitation program.

    People who are not athletes can also take advantage of some type of sports massage. In some cases, chronic pain can be alleviated and addressed by techniques employed by manual therapy. The same principle applies to those suffering from restricted range of motion.

    However, it is important to note that not all people who suffer from sports-related injuries and pain can take advantage of this treatment. Contraindications for sports massage include the presence of open wounds, blood clot, ruptured muscle or tendon, burns, and broken bones. An experienced therapist can typically advise on when a sports massage is beneficial or not.

    In most cases, people who underwent sports massage achieve immediate pain relief and enhanced mobility following several sessions. Applying this type of massage after every sports event or game also helps reduce soreness in the muscles. Sports injury patients may find that the recovery time is improved when their rehabilitation programs also include sports massage sessions. Patients also report several psychological benefits following massage, such as feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

    How is the Procedure Performed?

    There are several techniques used in sports massage therapy, these include:

    • Effleurage technique, which uses different stroking movement with the hand gliding over the surface of the skin. The stroking is done in a rhythmical manner to increase circulation and stretch tight tissues.

    • Petrissage technique, which involves kneading movements. The muscles are essentially grasped and squeezed to stretch their fibres and aid in the exchange of tissue fluids. This also helps relax the muscles and increase mobility. Using the pads of fingers and the thumbs, the therapist applies the friction technique to separate adhesion and realign muscles fibres. This is done over isolated areas and applies considerable pressure designed to break down scar tissues and bring back its elasticity. This technique can also stimulate blood flow and enhance the healing process.

    • Tapotement technique, which is typically done to prepare the muscles for physical activity and uses hacking and cupping motions. The therapist uses both hands to strike the skin and make characteristic sounds. These motions are meant to stimulate blood flow away from the deep tissue and may be used sparingly, according to the need of individual athletes.

    Possible Risks and Complications

    Common complaints following sports massage include bruising and tenderness in the affected areas. This is usually alleviated with hot baths and intake of painkillers.

    There are also rare instances in which blood clots may be released into the blood stream following a massage, especially if it involves deep tissues. This can lead to stroke, embolism, and heart attack.

    Sports massage

    People who suffer from the following conditions or disorders should consult a physician before participating in a sports massage: acute infectious disease; aneurysm; heavy bruising; cancer ; hernia; high blood pressure; inflammation due to tissue damage; osteoporosis ; phlebitis ; varicose veins ; and certain skin conditions. Individuals who are intoxicated are not good candidates for sports massage.

    Side effects

    Sports massage is safe and effective. When given correctly, there are no undesirable side effects.

    Research & general acceptance

    Sports massage has become an established and accepted practice. Various studies done in both the United States and Europe have shown that when properly used, massage will produce greater blood flow to the muscles and better athletic performance. The practice of sports massage is not considered controversial.

    Training & certification

    Accredited sports massage therapists must first complete a course in general massage from a school accredited by the American Massage Therapy Association/Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval (AMTA/COMTAA) or their State Board of Education. They must then complete an additional training program approved by the AMTA National Sports Massage Certification Program. Many sports massage practitioners also complete the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.



    Cassar, Mario-Paul. Massage Made Easy. Allentown, PA: People’s Medical Society, 1995.

    Johnson, Joan. The Healing Art of Sports Massage. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1995.


    American Massage Therapy Association. 820 Davis Street, Suite 100. Evanston, IL 60201. (847) 864-0123.

    National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. 8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 300. McLean, VA 22102. (703) 610-9015.

    Tish Davidson

    Hands-On Sports Massage

    Whether your last triathlon caused you an injury or you have built up muscle tension, Hands-On Sports Massage in South Hampstead can bring you and your body equilibrium.

    A fully qualified practitioner with level 5 diploma in sports and deep tissue therapy, Colin has both skill and knowledge to help to rehabilitate you back to a healthy balance.

    He offers a clean and calming environment to ease you into a comfortable state of mind as well as a personalised treatment that targets the root cause.

    Impressively, he’s fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian, so can accommodate a wide audience too.

    Locating the venue

    The massage therapy studio is located within a property about two minutes’ walk from Finchley Road Underground station (on the Jubilee and Metropolitan lines). The postcode is NW6 3HU.

    As you leave Finchley Road station, you will see a large branch of Waitrose slightly to your right. Walk past the front of the store to the end, and turn right onto Goldhurst Terrace. Walk alongside the row of shops which begins with a greengrocer’s called Natural Natural and ends with an estate agent’s called Rose and Co. Keeping the red pillar box at the junction to your right, walk down to the third property on the right hand side. Hands-On Sports Massage is located at number 6, at the top of the steps with a blue-grey door.

    If you come via London Overground (Richmond to Stratford line), get off at Finchley Road and Frognal station, turn right and walk down Finchley Road. After a few minutes you will see Waitrose on your right. Follow the directions as above.

    If you arrive by car, unfortunately there’s no free parking in front of the property where the massage studio is located until 10 pm Monday to Saturday, although you can park further down the road past the junction with Fairhazel Gardens after 6.30 pm.

    Benefits of sports massage therapy

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