Sports vs Relaxation Massage, a Therapist's Viewpoint
Updated: Jun 6
As a manual therapist, I get asked on occasion what the difference is between 'normal' massage, and sports or remedial massage. So here goes, but let's start with some background.
Massage has been around for thousands of years. Yes, you read that right. Thousands. The earliest records of this 'touch' healing were recorded in Egypt in tomb paintings, and China, where the birth of reflexology was also recorded around 2700BC. So massage isn't a new concept. In fact, throughout history it's evolved several times, falling both in and out of favour repeatedly. Luckily for us, it's currently in favour. What started as a purely eastern practice, hit our western shores around the eighth century but was relatively slow to develop into modern practice. It's popularity in the western world is largely thanks to Per Henrik Ling who was born in 1776 and developed what we now call 'Swedish Massage'.
Sports Massage was born in 1924 at the Olympic games in Paris, and has grown in popularity since, but only really became commonplace in the UK in the 90's. We got there in the end.
Relaxation Massage is generally used for relaxation of body, mind
and spirit. This is the type of treatment commonly found in spas and retreats all over the world. Sports massage however, is a targeted treatment aimed at discovering the root cause of a musculoskeletal complaint and addressing it with various soft and deep tissue techniques including Nueromuscular Technique and Trigger Point. Believe it or not, it's not just for sports people either. Many sports massage clients reap the benefits of regular treatment regardless of whether play sports or not. Those with a sedentary lifestyles, office or long distance driving jobs, can all suffer with some type of MSK dysfunction that requires professional treatment, and sports therapy or sports massage can fill that need for many.
So in summation, both types of massage are relevant and both have their place, choosing between them depends entirely on your goals.