Comparison: Swedish vs Deep vs Sports

Category: Massage
Last updated on: 03/09/2018
Massage crossroads sign showing directions for classic Swedish, deep tissue and sports massage

Three of the most commonly requested styles for massage treatments at home are Swedish, Deep Tissue and Sports. Whilst these specific style names exist and provide a framework for the type of movements that will be used in your treatment, it is important to remember that every single massage treatment is unique. Here we explore the the fundamental differences between the three options.


Key Differences Between Swedish, Deep Tissue & Sports Massage

Depending on which treatment style you opt for, your therapist may spend more time focussing on certain parts of your body or asking you to undress to a certain level, always ensuring you are completely comfortable.

The summary table below can be used to help you choose which might be the most appropriate treatment style for your needs. It is important however to keep in mind that real massage is not about about the touch but also personalities, empathy and interpretation by the therapist carrying out your treatment. Whichever style you book, every good massage should be bespoke and adjusted to your particular needs and delivered with personality.


  Classic Swedish Deep Tissue Sports
Pressure Soft to Moderate Moderate to Firm Firm to Very Firm
Best duration 90 - 120 mins 90 mins 60 mins
Focus areas Full body Full body Targeted to injury area
What to wear Undress Undress Undress or loose clothing
Primary technique Effleurage, kneading Deep kneading, rolling Deep kneading, trigger point therapy, stretching
Lubrication Oil with relaxing aromas Oil with relaxing or revitalising aromas Oil, cream or dry
Pain None during or after Little or none Some during and up to 2 days later
Best frequency Weekly Bi-weekly As needed
Best for Gentle relaxation Deeper therapeutic relaxation Injury assessment and recovery



Take any two therapists, trained from the same school and even on the same course and ask each of them to carry out a Swedish massage for you. You will likely find that they perform quite different massages, even though there is an underlying similarity of approach. It's a bit like ordering cheese burgers from two different restaurants - they will both be cheese burgers but taste different. Just like food, massage is a personal service carried out by individuals, each as unique as the massages they give.

So how to know which style to choose? Each treatment style provides a framework on which your particular treatment should be based. The above table sets out the key elements that distinguish classic Swedish massage from deep tissue and sports massage. Consider those underlying factors, choose the best for your needs and then lay back and let your professional therapist take control to give you her interpretation.

Remember to always discuss your preferences and any particular areas of concern directly with your massage therapist as they will be best placed to advise when they are with you.



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