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Sports Massage or Sports Therapy?

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

applying sports massage to the leg

Sports Therapy or Sports Massage? Which should I choose, and what is the difference?

The two are commonly confused, however, Sports Massage is a single element of Sports Therapy.

Level 3 Sports Massage focuses on basic massage techniques, performed on ‘non pathalogical’, or ‘uninjured’ tissue. This level of course, in our opinion is suitable as a foundation course, but not practitioner level as one cannot work on injuries. Most of our Level 3 graduates go on to do the higher levels.

Level 4 Sports Massage has additional soft tissue skills and allows for sports massage to be performed to prevent and treat injury. As injury treatments primarily involve the use of additional techniques such as cryotherapy, ultrasound, taping etc, sports massage treatments will be very limited for this purpose. At this level many of your injury treatments will be referred to Sports Therapists or Physiotherapists. This level is most preferred by Physiotherapists and Osteopaths, as they already have assessment and treatment skills within their remit. It is also favoured by Personal Trainers, as they already work with muscle dysfunction.

Level 5 Sports Massage involves a greater amount of functional anatomy, and also includes some additional soft tissue techniques, so you can treat a wider range of muscle dysfunction. This is the highest level in Sports Massage Therapy, but it is still not Sports Therapy as it contains none of the treatment and rehabilitation modalities of a Sports Therapy course.

Sports Massage Therapists at any level cannot call themselves a Sports Therapist. Sports Massage Therapists at any level can register with the Regulator as Massage Therapists. Sports Therapy is not within the remit of a Sports Massage Therapist.

applying trigger point therapy to the neck

Sports Therapy courses start at Level 5 and contain Sports Massage and Anatomy & Physiology. Sports Therapy builds on Sports Massage to include advanced soft tissue techniques, orthopaedic assessments, cryotherapy, thermal therapy, athletic taping, kinesiology taping, sports first aid and injury rehab.

Most Sports Therapists will find that Sports Massage becomes a small proportion of their treatment.

Sports Therapists can also work as Sports Massage Therapists should they wish as this is within their remit, and this is usually termed Sports Therapy Massage. Sports Therapists can register with the Regulator as Sports Therapists.

At Active Health Group we understand that the levels and titles can be confusing, and we are very keen to explain the difference so that our graduates do not get into trouble with the Advertising Standards Agency and Trading Standards, as some therapists from other schools have.

What is the difference between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy?

A Sports Therapist is trained to treat and rehabilitate musculoskeletal injuries and dysfunction including sports injuries. These can include conditions such as back pain, joint pain, postural dysfunction, and rehabilitation after injury or illness. A physiotherapist is trained to work in the NHS, with a range of conditions such as Respiratory, Cardiovascular, and Neurological. If a physiotherapist wishes to offer sports massage or sports therapy they would need to do additional training as this is not covered on their course. A physiotherapist has to have a degree and be registered with the HCPC to practice.

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