Image of a 3d foot
August 12, 2019

Physiotherapy vs. Sports Massage

Jamie Fullerton
Head Physiotherapist
Lady performing exercise using resistant band
Have you ever felt physical pain or discomfort and weren’t quite sure if you needed physiotherapy or a sports massage? Both can help manage pain, so it can be a little confusing choosing between the two. To help, we’ve summed up some of the main differences so that you can look into the right treatment for you!

The purpose of each service

Sports massage is commonly used for immediate relaxation, whereas physiotherapy is used to rehabilitate muscle and joint function and relieve pain symptoms.

The level of education acquired by each of the health care providers

Physiotherapy requires a BSc Hons degree, i.e. three years in university with experience in three areas. Musculoskeletal, Cardio Respiratory and Neurology. Physiotherapistss work across numerous environments in a hospital or sports setting. They acquire an extremely high level of anatomical knowledge and treatment variations. They are also able to notice/suggest alternative treatment if the problem is disguised as something else.

Sports therapy can be done as a degree or as an intensive course. Therapists acquire a basic level of knowledge to allow them to deal with basic musculoskeletal injuries. They also offer massage for relaxation and muscle recovery and can be used pre and post sporting event.

Both physiotherapists and sports therapists are skilled professionals but another big difference is the setting they work in. Physiotherapists have the skills to work in hospital and acute care, whereas sports therapists do not. Physiotherapists also often have a more in depth knowledge base of the body and the different anatomical systems.

Key differences in both treatment options

Physiotherapists create individually designed programmes to help treat the specific needs of the client
and clients are regularly referred from other medical facilities.

Some common treatments include:
• Exercise programmes developed for the individual’s strength, range of motion and function
• Joint mobilisation and manipulation exercises to reduce pain and stiffness of muscles
• Management of incontinence through pelvic floor physiotherapy
• Treatment for arthritis and multiple sclerosis
• Programs for fractures, sports injuries, and back and neck sprains
• Physiotherapy foot exercises

Individuals often seek physiotherapy treatment because they are in pain or they may have an ongoing condition that requires long-term management. Physiotherapy can also be used as a preventative measure by providing education and on-going exercise advice for pain/injury prevention.

In contrast, sports massage is designed to prepare the athlete for their best performance, reduce fatigue, and relieve muscle swelling and tension. During physical activity - especially anything particularly strenuous - muscle tension builds up in the body's soft tissues. Sports massage can produce benefits for athletes physically, physiologically and psychologically.

Benefits of sports massage:
• A regular routine of massage therapy is very effective in relieving effects of heavy exercised muscles
• Sports massage can be used as a way of ongoing maintenance for the body if you participate in regular physical activity, you do not need a specific and/or painful injury as reason book an appointment
• Can be used before/after the sporting event, with the pre massage focusing on improvement of pliability and the post massage focusing on rehabilitation
• Sports massage can also help an athlete to prepare mentally for an event and wind down afterwards

To summarise

Physiotherapists are qualified and able to perform both physiotherapy and sports massage treatments, whereas this is unlikely to be the case vice versa. Sports therapists, however, are an excellent option if you are looking to incorporate ongoing post workout/sporting event maintenance for your body.

What next?

We hope this piece has helped to educate you on the main differences, benefits and functions of the two treatment options, but please know that your medical provider should always advise you properly on the best solution for your problem. If you would like any further information, please email us or call 0151 559 1107 and we’ll be happy to help.

Are you struggling with an injury or pain that has been troubling you for too long?