Swedish vs Deep Tissue vs Shiatsu vs Sports Massage: What’s the difference?

Aie PaelanoPerformance, Recovery4 Comments

Have you felt stressed out lately because of pressure at the office? Or you recently suffered an injury by accident and you want to reduce pain? Either way, there’s an answer to these problems that often help – a massage!

Massage therapy is a manual manipulation of soft tissues in the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues. It involves rubbing, manipulating and pressing and may range from light strokes to deep pressure. Massage therapy is considered a complementary and alternative type of medicine which helps in the treatment of various musculoskeletal conditions.

The techniques used during a massage therapy eases blood flow in congested areas, releases pressure and allows new blood flow to flow. One session could last for 60 to 90 minutes depending on the type of massage to be performed. One should feel relaxed and comfortable during and after massage therapy.

There are numerous reasons why people seek massage therapy and these are: reduce stress and anxiety, decrease pain, rehabilitate injuries, relax muscles and promote the overall well being of a person. That’s why massages are not only offered on spas or clubs nowadays. Hospitals, private clinics and other businesses are now providing this alternative medicine to enhance health and wellness of people.

Massages have been effective in managing stress, pain and muscle tension. It has gained people’s attention through the years and is still increasing its popularity. With that said, there are dozens of different variations and types of massages that often confuse people. Let’s take a dive into the most popular ones to figure out which is the best for you.

Swedish Massage

This is the most common type of massage which uses long strokes, vibration, kneading, tapping and deep circular movements. Normally, the muscles are rubbed with long gliding strokes along the direction of blood returning to the heart. The goal of a Swedish massage is to help your entire body relax. A lot of benefits can be acquired by people who regularly receive a Swedish massage. These include increased energy, improved circulation, decreased muscle toxins, increased blood oxygen level and improved flexibility.

During a Swedish massage, the muscles and connective tissues are warmed up by using smooth, long and sweeping strokes called effleurage. This is when the therapist evaluates your muscle tension and spreads the lotion or oil across your body. When the tissues are warmed up, deeper tissues will be worked on using heavier strokes known as petrissage. This frees up knots and tight muscles.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, comfortable session, then this is likely the best option for you (as opposed to a deep tissue and sports massage, which we explain down below – those are much more aggressive and intended more for people who want to reduce knots and severe muscle tension).

Deep Tissue Massage

This massage technique targets the deep layers of muscles and connective tissues. It uses the same techniques in Swedish massage but more forceful strokes are done to release chronic muscle tension. Deep tissue massage is also helpful in treating damaged muscles caused by injuries and aids in flushing lactic acid out of the tissues.

Some people complain about muscle soreness the day after a deep tissue massage, but that shouldn’t be a cause of alarm as it only means plenty of waste products were eliminated out of the tissues.

Shiatsu Massage

Shiatsu massage originated from Japan – it means finger pressure. Pressure is applied to the different pressure points in the body by using thumbs, elbows, hands, knees or feet. Shiatsu also focuses on stretching and rotating the limbs and joints. It is also known as acupressure and is based off of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) framework where the concepts of qi and meridians are used. This is quite different from the Western framework and will be immediately evident when you try this type of massage.

Shiatsu reduces fatigue and muscle tension and, improves the function of the lymphatic system and blood circulation. Shiatsu also provides help in dealing insomnia, relief from headaches, restore body’s energy, reduce stress and promote healing from stiff neck, backaches and sprains.

Sports Massage

As the name suggests, this type of massage is designed for those who regularly participate in sports – whether recreationally or professionally. This is similar to a deep-tissue massage, however the therapist is usually well versed in sport injuries and therefore able to target pains and problematic areas specific to your sport. As they understand the demands of your sport, they’re able to not only treat injuries but help prevent them as well.

Sports massage is now a useful component of a balanced training for athletes. Other benefits of a sports massage include improved endurance, promotes flexibility, decreased recovery time and fatigue and, prepares both the body and mind for optimal performance.

Can I Get My Desired Results with just One Session?

Let’s be realistic. A single, one hour session of massage therapy won’t achieve a long lasting effect.

For example, muscle tension is built over time and undoing it won’t happen in a single session. Getting rid of a muscle tension takes time and some lifestyle changes must be made. Aside from having regular massage therapy, postural awareness, exercise and relaxation techniques are helpful in getting rid of muscle tension.

On the bright side, a single session can really make a difference, but we recommend doing it regularly (once a week) if you’re a competitive athlete. Many people experience stress relief and they feel rejuvenated after their session.

No matter what type of massage you’re going to have, be open to your massage therapist and speak up. If the strokes are too hard for you, ask for lighter pressure and vice versa.

If you’ve never tried massage, it’s never too late to have one. You’ll be amazed of its health benefits and will make you keep coming back for more. Massages are not just about pampering yourself, it’s taking your health and wellness to a whole new level.

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Aie Paelano

Aie is a licensed physical therapist who has received her Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy at De La Salle Health Sciences Institute and her license in 2010. She practiced physiotherapy for three years in a hospital setting where she gained plenty of experiences in terms of patient handling and treatment.

4 Comments on “Swedish vs Deep Tissue vs Shiatsu vs Sports Massage: What’s the difference?”

  1. Traditional massages are great when you just need a little stress relief and relaxation. When you have knotted muscles, however, or have more specific ailments, more attentive techniques are required.

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