This is an age-old and ongoing question. The answer? Sports massage is one of the many techniques physios use to facilitate their patient’s healing. Sports massage can be done in isolation by sports massage therapists. This form of massage targets the deeper layers of soft tissue and the muscles of the affected area. This is very different to going to your favourite day spa where deep tissue massage is the order of the day and muscle injury should not be your main reason for attending.

sports massage is part of the physiotherapist's therapy kit

What’s important to consider with sports massage?

A level of understanding of anatomy, physiology (normal function) and pathophysiology (abnormal/injured function) is crucial. When it comes to sports massage therapist training, it is isolated to the technique taught and as a patient, we urge you to ask your therapist questions in order not to cause more harm to an injured muscle.

This is where the medically trained background of a physiotherapist and the technique of sports massage make a winning combination in injury prevention and the process of facilitated healing.

Treatment differences

Your physiotherapist is trained to take your symptoms (the pain, tenderness, stiffness, etc.) and signs (the clues your pain, stiffness, body etc provides) to determine the reason behind your discomfort. A physiotherapist is a medically trained professional that has knowledge of your anatomy, as well as the physiology and pathophysiology of your neuro-musculo-skeletal system. This means that they look at the relationship between the nerves, muscles and joints. In addition, they look at your body composure; your posture, your daily demand and the things your love to do. Your physiotherapist aims at optimising your function in what you love doing.

sports massage can help with a variety of injuries

Physiotherapy is beneficial in the prevention and treating of injuries. Physios do intensive postural and biomechanical assessments to determine our course of action. Some of these treatment methods used are:

  • Neural mobilisation
  • Spinal and limb specific joint mobilisation
  • Muscle activation (underactive)
  • Muscle deactivation (overactive)
  • Muscle alignment (muscle co-working in movement)
  • Myofascial release
    • Forms of massage (including sports massage)
    • Fascial stretching/manipulation
  • Trigger point release
    • Ischemic pressure
    • Dry needling

So who should you see?

This is based on personal preference. If your discomfort or injury is new, we recommend you see a medical professional and as first-line practitioners a physiotherapist is a good option. Most athletes who know their injuries and bodies will have a sports masseur they trust and there is nothing wrong with going to that therapist.

A Key Note:

Maintenance is not the same as ‘my injury doesn’t go away, but feels better after massage’. In this case, please get a medical opinion on your condition/injury in order to facilitate a return to full health.

Maintence with physiotherapy is a good way to prevent injury

This article was authored by the Douglasdale branch of Lamberti Physiotherapy. Contact them directly for an assessment or use our appointment form to request a session at any of our Practices in the group.


  1. Brukner P, Khan K 2012 Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine, 4th ed. McGraw-Hill Australia Pty Ltd, Australia
  2. Muscoline J 2009 The Muscle and Bone Palpation Manual with Trigger Points, Referral Patterns, and Stretches, 1st ed. Mosby, Inc. an affiliate of Elsevire Inc., Missouri

Other online blogs:

  1. https://lambertiphysiotherapy.co.za/why-choose-preventative-physiotherapy
  2. https://www.elephantplains.co.za/big-5-blog/2011/11/the-difference-between-a-deep-tissue-and-sport-massage
  3. https://www.brightonsportstherapy.co.uk/standard/sports-massage-vs-physio