In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about sports massages. We highlight what you can expect from a sports massage, how they differ from traditional spa massages, and how you might benefit from this specialised treatment.

What is a sports massage?

As the name suggests, this type of massage was developed with athletes in mind. It is a form of deep-tissue massage where the primary aim is healing, as opposed to the gentle relaxation you enjoy during a spa massage. The goal of a sports massage is to: 

- target specific areas of the body

- protect the body from injury

- treat and prevent aches and pains

- relieve tension

- reduce anxiety 

- boost circulation

- promote post-exercise recovery 

- improve flexibility and posture

- make you feel good!

What can you expect from a sports massage treatment?

The first thing to note is that the pressure applied during a sports massage is firm, as the therapist works deep into the soft tissue. If you’re new to massage or have only enjoyed soothing spa massages, then a sports massage may come as a bit of a surprise! A sports massage can last between 30 and 60 minutes. During this time, the therapist may incorporate a range of techniques, including:

- deep-tissue massage

- shiatsu massage

- muscle stretching

- trigger point therapy (intense static pressure applied to massage points to trigger the body to heal itself) 

- Swedish massage

As this is a tailored treatment, you should have the opportunity to discuss with the therapist what you hope to achieve from the massage – whether to address muscle stiffness or to help you get more from your training regime. 

Because of the nature of sports massages, it is advisable to check the credentials of the therapist before you book. A fully trained sports massage therapist will have good knowledge of physiology, so they can ensure their tissue manipulations are safe and therapeutic.

One thing a sports massage therapist cannot do is diagnose an injury. So, if you have hurt yourself or are experiencing any ongoing pain or discomfort, it is important to visit the doctor to find out the root cause and suitable treatment options – which may or may not include massage.

Who can benefit from a sports massage treatment?

You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from a sports massage. In fact, it can be beneficial for people who spend a lot of time inactive, such as sitting at a desk all day, as this type of massage is great for relieving muscle tension and stress. 

If you do exercise regularly or are in training for an event, such as a marathon, incorporating a sports massage into your regime can be beneficial in aiding your recovery and preventing injury. A sports massage can also feel good as a warm-up or cool-down activity.

How often you should have a sports massage depends on several factors, including the reason for the massage. If you just want to relieve tension, you may find the occasional session leads to improvement; whereas if you have a specific injury or are in training for a marathon, you might benefit from more frequent sports massages. Consult your therapist for advice on a recommended massage regime.

Who should avoid sports massages?

This is a robust treatment and, as such, it is not suitable for everyone. In particular, you should avoid a sports massage if you suffer with:

- varicose veins

- circulatory issues

- thrombosis 

Sports massages are also not recommended if you are pregnant or undergoing cancer treatment. If in doubt, check with your doctor before booking and always let the therapist know about any underlying medical conditions or injuries ahead of your appointment.

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

The sports massage evolved from deep-tissue massage techniques, so there are lots of similarities between the two treatments. 

The deep-tissue massage works into the layer of muscles and connective tissues to release built-up toxins and lactic acid, encourage blood flow, and reduce tension. Like the sports massage, the therapist uses firm pressure, which can become uncomfortable (but should not be painful). 

One of the main differences is that the deep-tissue massage can work the whole body, while the sports massage is often targeted to specific areas. As noted above, trained sports massage therapists have enhanced knowledge of the human body and use a wider variety of techniques to release muscle tightness. 

With both types of massage, be aware you may feel a bit sore for a couple of days following the treatment.

Where can I receive a sports massage or deep-tissue massage?

You may think that you need to go to a physiotherapist. gym or rehabilitation clinic for a sports massage, but they can be booked as a standalone treatment at selected spas. Deep-tissue massages are also available at certain spas. The benefits of having a spa sports massage or deep-tissue are that you can also enjoy the other treatments and leisure facilities on offer, such as gyms, pools, hot tubs and steam rooms.

Spas offering sports massages

Sports massages are offered at Grayshott Health Spa in Surrey. Additionally, several of the Champneys group of luxury health spas offer sports massage as a specialist treatment, including:

- Champneys Forest Mere Health Spa in Hampshire

- Champneys Henlow Grange Health Spa in Bedfordshire

- Champneys Tring Health Spa in Hertfordshire

- Champneys Springs Health Spa in Leicestershire 

If you’re ready to book a sports massage at one of our spas, give our team a call today to discuss your options.

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