What is the Difference Between Sports Massage and Physiotherapy?

Sarah Whiteley |   August 09, 2022

What is sports massage? What is physiotherapy? What are the differences? And how do you know which one is best for you?

The truth is they are both very different and are suited specifically for two completely different people.

At the ProSport clinic we see a wide range of people all with different aches, pains and niggles. All with a different injury history and wanting to get back to varying activities.

Sports massage and physiotherapy are treatments we offer amongst a range of other sessions and classes. But for most people, the confusion over which type of treatment they need is enough to put them off either.

So today, I want to clear it all up for you. In this blog you’ll find out the difference between sports massage and physiotherapy so the next time you phone your local clinic, you know exactly what to expect.

What is the Difference Between Sports Massage and Physiotherapy?

What is sports massage at Prosport Physiotherapy

Sports massage is the most hands-on approach to physiotherapy, however with this being said it doesn’t always give the desired results.

Sports massage is generally a deep tissue massage targeted to specific muscles to help increase mobility. It is often seen as the answer when it comes to pain relief. However, this is not always the case.

Sports Massage Has Its Benefits

1) Feelings of relaxation: Throughout a sports massage the increase in blood flow generates heat through the muscles, enabling them to relax, which can reduce feelings of tension.

2) Increased blood flow: The circulation of blood is enhanced to the muscle area through massage, in a similar way to exercise. The main difference is that sports massage causes your blood vessels to widen and become closer to the skin surface, increasing the ability of nutrients to flow through to the muscles. This is important for mobility of the muscles which in turn enables you to move more freely.

3) Reduction in anxiety: Chemical hormones are induced and released during massage, which can help reduce feelings of anxiety. Dopamine (known as the “feel good hormone”), Serotonin (which helps to regulate mood, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep and memory) and Oxytocin (known as the “cuddle/love hormone”) are all released during the massage process. In addition, the hormones Epinephrine, Norepinephrine and Cortisol, which are related to stress and immune/digestive disruption, are all regulated during the massage process.

4) Increase in flexibility: During sports massage the muscle tissue is expanded and stretched in various ways, allowing for stored pressure and tension to be released thus aiding flexibility. Having increased flexibility aids mobility, muscle coordination and helps reduce the risk of injury.

5) Prevention or relief of Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS): DOMS is a result of muscles working hard, causing microscopic damage to the muscle fibres and resulting in muscle soreness or stiffness. Sports massage aids blood flow to the muscles supporting recovery of the tissues and reducing the likelihood of DOMS occurring.

6) Scar tissue breakdown: Previous injuries may result in the creation of scar tissue which can affect muscles and tendons. An increase in scar tissue can then lead to pain, a higher risk of injury and a reduction in performance. Sports massage has the ability to break down this scar tissue thus reducing the likeliness of pain and re-injury.

The benefits of sports massage at ProSport Physiotherapy

When We Don’t Recommend Sports Massage

Sports massage is a great option, however we do not recommend this all the time and these are the main reasons why. If you are presenting with any of the following:

  • Severe pain.
  • Worsening pain or constant pain.
  • Night pain that wakes you from your sleep.
  • Significant unexplained weight loss.
  • Trauma.
  • Severe injury.
  • Pins and needles in both legs.
  • Numbness in both legs.

Secondly, if you are someone that is being held back from doing something that you need or want to be able to do then you would benefit more from physiotherapy as opposed to sports massage.



If you have a long standing injury or injury history that may be contributing to your current pain.
Your body picks up movement habits and ways of being able to continue moving without putting too much strain on certain areas. As a result of this, certain muscles then start working harder because your brain has perceived previous movements as a potential threat which may result in more pain.

Yes sports massage may help you feel better (TEMPORARILY) but it will not allow you to adapt the way you are moving to get you back to doing the things you need and want to do without the pain coming back.

When Do We Recommend Sports Massage?

We recommend sports massage both pre and post events. We recommend sports massage mainly to people who aren’t struggling with an injury, they may have completed a rehab programme that was to come for massage as a maintenance to continue to prevent the injury from returning.

We also recommend sports massage alongside physiotherapy, as this will help reduce your current pain alongside getting you moving to ensure you see the benefits long term.


Here at Prosport physiotherapy we have a unique approach to fixing your pain. We want to stop your pain once and for all but also ensure that our rehab plans are specific to the things you want and need to be able to do.

Physiotherapy is a completely different treatment to sports massage. We don’t need to rely on hands-on treatment because this doesn’t give you the results. Exercises will encourage you to move efficiently and therefore the pain will not continue to keep coming back.


Benefits Of Physiotherapy At Prosport Physio Huddersfield

In a physiotherapy session you will receive a thorough assessment which will identify both the tissues that are giving you pain but also the tissues that are the problem, the main reason WHY you are getting the pain.

It is important to know the difference between the pain and the problem. The area that you are getting pain is not always the tissue responsible for giving you pain.

For example you might be getting pain around your knee, but the reason you are getting pain in the knee is because you do not use the muscles in the back of the leg enough, potentially from a previous injury which is now causing you to use the muscles in the knee more, hence why you are getting pain.

This is important to know to give you exercises specific to getting back to the things that you want to be able to do. Sports massage on the other hand will include hands-on treatment to the area that you are getting pain BUT it will not address the route cause of the problem.

You will also get exercises in a session specific to addressing the problem at hand. Again these are catered to your individual needs.

For further reading on knee pain: Leave Your Knee Pain Behind With Pro Sport Physiotherapy Huddersfield

When Do We Recommend Physiotherapy?

We recommend physiotherapy to people that are unable to move efficiently, that are struggling to get rid of the pain or to those that may have been around the houses trying traditional approaches that have failed.

To people that have a desired goal in mind and not just wanting a short term fix. Generally these people are motivated to see results and are therefore willing to put the work in to ensure that they are able to get back doing the things they love.

When Don’t We Recommend Physiotherapy?

If you are that person wanting a short term fix then physiotherapy is not the right course of treatment for you.

Alternatively if you are in considerable pain or showing any red flags it is important that you seek urgent medical help.

Book your appointment at ProSport Physiotherapy Huddersfield

Ultimately, the best way to make sure you get the right treatment for you is to to get in touch with a healthcare professional. At the ProSport clinic our friendly staff are always on hand to discuss your current issues and advise you on the best course of action.

Alternatively if you are still unsure you can CLICK HERE to book a free assessment where you can inform one of our therapists about your injury and they will assess and then advise what is best for you.

Whatever the pain may be stopping you from doing, we want to help. All you have to do is click here, book your appointment and start your journey back to a pain-free life today.

Click here or call 01484 443173 to book your appointment right now.

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