Sports Massage Therapy

What Type of Massage Is Best for Back Pain?

Breeze Academy December 7, 2023
close up of lower back massage

Over 2.8 million adults in the UK suffer from chronic back pain, enduring long periods of discomfort without adequate treatment. Getting a massage for back pain without doing your research is a waste of both time and money. So, what type of massage is best for back pain?

When it comes to back pain, sports massages, and deep tissue massages are the best options. These two types of massage both use intense pressure to break up knots and release tension to provide longer-lasting relief. 

Read on to learn more about both sports and deep tissue massages, whether it is normal to feel sore after a massage, and whether back pain can cause chest pain.

What Massage is Best for Back Pain?

The most effective massage for relieving back pain is either a sports massage or a deep tissue massage. These kinds of massages involve applying firm pressure to release tension, knots, and adhesions in the muscles, promoting increased blood flow and reducing inflammation. By addressing the underlying muscular issues, deep tissue, and sports massages can help alleviate chronic back pain.

Sports Massage

A sports massage serves to promote overall relaxation of the musculoskeletal system while also addressing specific problem areas. Particularly effective for alleviating back pain, a sports massage focuses on targeting and easing tension in muscles and soft tissues affected by pain or injury.

Benefits of a Sports Massage for Back Pain

Sports massage relieves back pain by targeting muscle tension, enhancing flexibility, and improving circulation. It reduces inflammation, promotes quicker recovery, and releases endorphins for natural pain relief, offering a holistic solution to back pain management.

Deep Tissue Massage

According to a 2018 review, a deep tissue massage aims to enhance and relax deep muscle tissue. A deep tissue massage employs intense pressure, incorporating deliberate, slow strokes and significant finger pressure. The objective is to alleviate tension and tightness deeply embedded in your muscles and connective tissues, making it an excellent choice for addressing back pain.

Benefits of a Deep Tissue Massage for Back Pain

A deep tissue massage provides advantages both physically and psychologically. In contrast to relaxation-focused massage techniques, deep tissue massage specifically addresses muscle pain and enhances flexibility, offering relief from stiffness. A 2014 study involving 59 participants proved that a deep tissue massage helped to decrease pain in people with chronic lower back pain.

What’s the Difference Between Sports Massage and Deep Tissue Massage?

Opting for a deep tissue massage proves optimal for alleviating general pain and tension, while a sports massage is ideal for those seeking treatment for injuries, repetitive sprains, or strains that have accumulated over time in specific soft tissue and muscle areas. See our graph below for further details:

Deep Tissue Massage

  • A deep tissue massage is more focused on addressing chronic muscle tension and knots (adhesions) in the deeper layers of muscle tissue.
  • As the name suggests, deep tissue massage involves applying sustained pressure, usually with the therapist's fingers, thumbs, or elbows, to reach the deeper layers of muscle tissue. The therapist may use slow strokes or friction across the muscle grain to release tension and break down adhesions.
  • This type of massage is generally scheduled as a standalone session and is not necessarily tied to a specific event. Individuals seeking relief from chronic pain, muscle tension, or postural problems may opt for deep tissue massage as a therapeutic treatment, and the focus is on addressing long-term issues rather than immediate athletic performance.

Sports Massage

  • Designed for athletes and individuals involved in sports activities, sports massage aims to enhance athletic performance, prevent injuries, and facilitate recovery.
  • While sports massage can involve deep pressure, it often incorporates a variety of techniques, including Swedish massage, stretching, and trigger point therapy.
  • Typically done before, during, or after athletic events, sports massage is often used as part of an athlete's training routine. It can be tailored to address specific issues related to the sport or activity, such as muscle tightness, range of motion, or injury prevention.

Learn more about this in our dedicated blog, what’s the difference between sports massage and deep tissue massage?

How Often Should I Get a Massage For Back Pain?

For maintaining your body's optimal condition and general well-being, you should get a massage every 3-4 weeks. Receiving a professional massage every 3-4 weeks can contribute to injury prevention, pain relief, and the relaxation of muscle tension. Moreover, it enables early detection and resolution of potential issues before they become more serious concerns.

How Does Massage Help Back Pain?

A massage is an incredibly beneficial and non-invasive way to relieve back pain. Besides relieving back pain, massage therapy also releases endorphins, which create feelings of euphoria and happiness in the brain. Here are some of the reasons why a massage helps back pain:

  • Supports recovery from sore muscles and injuries by supplying nutrients to the tissues through the bloodstream
  • Relief of tension "knots" in the back or shoulders, which many people acquire as a result of stress
  • Reduces depression symptoms by releasing endorphins
  • Muscle toxins are eliminated

Alternative Back Pain Treatments to Consider

Back pain sufferers may also find acupuncture  beneficial. Some evidence actually claims that acupuncture is not only good for back pain, but may be more effective than standard treatment. That being said, many experts recommend acupuncture for back pain in conjunction with other treatments, such as massage, to be most effective.

Final Thoughts

Massage is known to be an effective treatment for back pain, in particular sports massage and deep tissue massage are recommended as they both involve applying firm pressure to release tension, knots, and adhesions in the muscles, promoting increased blood flow and reducing inflammation.

If you’re interested in offering Massage Therapy to your clients to help reduce back, take a look at our courses today. We offer both beginner and more advanced Massage Therapy courses that provide all the skills and knowledge needed to safely and effectively practise massage.


Is Pain After Massage Normal?

Yes, some soreness after a message is normal. Most of the time, it is a sign that the massage has been effective. Nevertheless, it is crucial to openly discuss any discomfort with your massage therapist and adhere to their suggestions for post-massage care. This can include staying hydrated and engaging in recommended stretches.

Why Do Knots Hurt When You Massage Them?

There are several reasons why muscle knots hurt when they are massaged. These include:

  1. Increase in blood flow. Massage increases blood circulation to the affected area. While improved blood flow is generally beneficial for healing, the initial rush of blood can temporarily exacerbate the discomfort, especially if the muscle knot is tight and constricted.

  2. Release of metabolic waste. Muscle knots can trap metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid, within the muscle tissues. Massage can stimulate the release of these accumulated waste products, leading to temporary discomfort.

  3. Nerve sensitivity. The presence of trigger points can make nerves more sensitive to touch and pressure. When you apply pressure to a muscle knot during a massage, it can stimulate these sensitive nerves, causing pain.

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