What’s the difference: Swedish, Deep, and Sports Massage?

What’s the difference: Swedish, Deep, and Sports Massage?

When booking a massage, it can often be difficult to decide which type might be best for you. Understanding the difference between Swedish, Deep and Sports massages, can help you make the right decision.

These three types of massage all serve different purposes, and while you’ll leave any massage feeling great, if you have a particular reason for wanting treatment – such as recovery from injury, a sore back from working at a desk, or in warm-up for an event – you’ll want the most appropriate massage.

The main difference between these massage types is pressure. Swedish is typically more gentle, sports massages warm and stretch the muscles, while a deep tissue massage focuses on specific trigger points.

Swedish Massage

This is the more general type of treatment you’ll find if you’re looking for a full body massage. The focus is on the circulatory system and pressure can be adapted to your particular needs. Typically, Swedish massage focuses on movements towards the heart, which increases blood flow while promoting full-body relaxation. This often suits people who need to relax after a busy week, have been through a period of stress, or just need to practice some self-care.

Often Sports and Deep tissue massages are more suitable for injury recovery, a Swedish massage can help relieve tight muscles – especially if you sit hunched over a phone or computer for long periods of time.

Sports Massage

A Sports Massage also focuses on increasing circulation but the main goal of this type of massage isn’t relaxation. There are two types of sports massage that cover an athlete’s needs; pre-event or post-event. Pre-event massages help with warming and preparing the muscle tissue for the event and typically, no deep tissue work is done at that time so that the muscles don’t need recovery time after a massage. A post-event sports massage is recuperative where deep tissue techniques can be used to help with muscle repair, if needed, as there is more time to recover afterwards.

Sports Massage is also great for anyone who likes to keep fit, whether you are a runner or hit the gym regularly, a Sports Massage can help keep you in tip-top condition. Following an event and lengthy period of activity, such as a hike, a Sports Massage can be used to aid recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep Tissue Massage uses slow and direct pressure to break up trigger points and adhesions that cause pain. This technique allows the therapist to address specific pain points. 

A Deep Tissue Massage will typically focus on specific trigger points to relieve pain or aid in recovery. There’s much less full-hand work in this type of massage and instead, the pressure comes from the fingers. Due to the nature of a deep tissue massage, caution has to be used in order not to create more inflammation to painful tissues. In this instance the adage “no pain, no gain” does not apply! Less pain, more gain! It’s commonly thought that more pressure is better in this kind of massage but that’s not always the case. Instead, the pressure must be specific and carefully targeted.

Stretching and self-care, such as using ice or heat, are advised after receiving this work and it may not be advisable for first-timers or those recovering from injuries.

One example of Deep Tissue massage (which is usually done without the use of oil) is a Myofascial Release. This not only addresses the muscle tissue but also the surrounding connective tissues called fascia. Deep Tissue Massage is perfect for anyone suffering from pain that needs more focused attention.  

How to Communicate Your Needs for a Massage

If you’re not sure what type of massage you’ll need, ask your massage therapist to make suggestions and ask why they would recommend it.  Most therapists blend several techniques into a customized treatment geared towards your specific needs. Trust your therapist to make appropriate modifications, based on your feedback during the session.  Speak up if there is any extreme discomfort or if you feel that your concerns are not being addressed. Be specific when it comes to your lifestyle, pain level and what health goals you want to achieve. Maybe you’re simply looking to relax, maybe you’ve been training hard for an event, or maybe you’re looking for an alternative to pain medication. All of these can be treated with different types of massage.

If you’d like to speak to one of our Licensed Massage Therapists, please call or text (847) 266-0131.