Deep Tissue or Sports Massage: Which one do you really want?

You may find yourself asking for a specific type of massage, but it may not be the one you really want.

Many people are referred to my because they are in pain.  They no longer want to be in pain so they are seeking out alternative therapies to pain killers and just "dealing with it."  When they call, they often use a common buzz word associated with pain relief...Sports Massage.

The common association with Sports Massage is one of pain relief or deep tissue massage.  At my practice in the Orlando area, I provide Deep Tissue Massage, Sports Massage and several other specific types of massage.  Each one has a completely different effect on the body.

When someone calls for a sports or deep tissue massage, I ask a lot of questions, trying to figure out exactly what they want and need.

Traditionally, a sports massage is defined as massage techniques performed before or after an athletic event with the intent of preparing the athletes body for the event by invigorating the musculature or helping the athlete's body reset and relax after the event.

When people call me for a Sports Massage in the Orlando area, 99% of the time they are not interested in that.  They are calling because they are athletic, in pain, and want someone to "fix" them.

This sounds more like a Deep Tissue Massage is needed.

A deep tissue massage is designed to reach the deepest layers your body can tolerate.  Deep tissue massages do not have to be horribly painful to be effective.  In fact, they should rarely reach the intense pain level.  Most of the time you should feel either good, but focused on relaxing, or a "good hurt" sensation.

The goal is to reach the deepest layers accessible during the session.  For some this could just be the surface layer, for others it's quite literally down to the bone.  The session is all about your comfort level while working to get results.

When you are getting a deep tissue massage for a specific "issue", plan on that massage being a regional massage.  What I mean is a good deep tissue massage therapist will not be able to effectively work an area of pain while getting in the whole body during an hour massage.  A good deep tissue massage is extremely slow (especially when the deeper and more specific pressure is applied) and, if done properly and your body allows, very specific.  

Here are some examples of specific massage sessions and the time devoted to each.

The amateur wrestler: This client had a forearm injury a few years earlier.  Due to this injury, the client compensated and was experiencing weakness, local pain, shooting pain and occasional numbness from the right shoulder to finger tips.  There were a lot of adhesions as well as some noticeable postural dysfunction.  The client experienced no other pain symptoms anywhere else in their body.  By going slow, deep and extremely specific, we spent 90 minutes on the client's right arm 2 times per week for 2 weeks before moving on to any maintenance or prevention massage techniques addressing the rest of their body.  That is deep and specific!  90 minutes on 1 Arm.

The salesman / weekend warrior:  This client has severe restrictions from their knees to feet.  This is due to previous surgeries and injuries.  A lot of adhesions populate this area.  An entire 60 minute massage is spent focusing on this client's lower legs.

The Computer Programmer: This client has extreme restrictions in their neck.  Before they started getting massage therapy for their pain, they were taking pain killers and considering surgery.  Due to their job, they were constantly engaging in activities that irritated their neck.  When I started massaging them, we spent 1 hour on their back, chest, shoulders and neck.  After the first 3 visits, the focus shifted to 30 minutes on the neck and 30 minutes on everything else in the upper body.  Occasionally we do a 90 minute massage where a full hour is spent just on the Neck!


Probably the most important thing to consider when deciding on exactly what type of massage you want is what you want the end result to be.  Make sure you communicate with your massage therapist.  Ask questions and be specific in what you are looking to benefit from your massage.

What do you want?

  • Pain Relief
  • Increased Range of Motion
  • Feel Good
  • Increased ability to perform a task
  • Increased recovery time from an event
  • Flush

Even though there are numerous types of techniques I offer, I tend to combine them all into my massage sessions based on what you need and what your body is telling me.  Even though many people call me for a sports massage, vary few actually get a true sports massage.  They are calling for pain relief, increased range of motion, feel good, feel loose and many other reasons that are not entirely applicable to sports massage.

A good deep tissue massage, incorporating other techniques such as Passive Movement, Active Movement, Myofascial Release, NMT or Trigger Point, SASTM and stretching will help with the majority of your aches and pains.

Look for more information on specific techniques I offer in future blog posts.  Gain a little education on the massage therapy lingo and maybe next time you call for a massage you will know Exactly what you want!

If you're in the Central Florida area and want to get some great deep tissue massage or sports massage for yourself or traveling team or performance company get in touch with me through the Contact page and set something up.

Have a Great Day!

-Michael Ames, LMT

Deep Tissue & Sports Massage Specialist