Sometimes, reading and choosing from a massage therapist’s menu of services (even mine) can be a bit of a brain-bender.

Sports massage? Deep tissue massage? What’s the difference?

These modalities (or types) of massage often seem interchangeable, but serve different functions.

Both sports and deep tissue massage offer similar massage strokes, like tapping or kneading, but the former is typically used in specific areas of the body related to sports activity, while the latter is administered all over the body.

Sports massage focuses on specific injury-prone and problem areas for professional, student and avid athletes (and occasionally for would-be athletes, like folks beginning to run for the first time since high school). It can be ideal for stretching out the muscles before or following an event — to increase flexibility, prevent cramping, reduce recovery time and tension, focus and prepare the athlete’s mind, and prevent injury — or to help relieve a specific muscle group affected by a sports activity, like a tight hamstring or a sore elbow.  Sports massage also is the best choice for repetitive motion injuries, like those experienced by runners.

Deep tissue massage is similar; it also uses deep strokes, can help relieve pain, and can help a massage therapist be able to identify potential areas of weakness to their client. However, while a massage therapist performing deep tissue massage can help work out general areas like a tight back, they normally wouldn’t perform massage techniques extensively on a specific area, focusing instead on the body overall.  The focus is on, stress relief, pain and tension reduction, and an increase in blood circulation, rather than a specific muscle group.

Deep tissue massage is the best option for those who aren’t elite athletes, who simply need a way to relive tension caused by more common, everyday factors such as stress, standing all day, or being required to use a non-ergonomic office chair.


When in doubt, discuss your situation with your massage therapist and rely on us to give you the best option for your needs.

4 Responses

  1. This is a great summary of the differences between the two types of massage. I often get people coming into the practice asking for one, but meaning the other. I may even go as far as to print this out and display it in the waiting area.

  2. This article will really help people in understanding the difference between the two massages in a simple and easy manner. Really good article!

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