Sports Massage vs Physiotherapy: Which is Best?

sports massage vs physiotherapy Physiotherapy in London

Figuring out if you need sports massage vs physiotherapy is simple – all you have to do is read this guide. Our physiotherapists and sports massage therapists have put together this guide to help you understand the difference. It covers the definition of each practice, what to expect from the practitioner, and how to tell which one you need.

For more in-depth information about sports massage therapy, read our Ultimate Guide to Sports Massage or book a sports massage consultation in London at One Body today.

The Difference Between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy

Let’s start with the short answer to sports massage vs physiotherapy. 

Sports massage therapy is all about recovery and relaxation to help you excel at an active lifestyle or specific sport. You don’t need to be an athlete – sports massage is suitable even for just the general aches and pains from a physically demanding nine-to-five job.

On the other hand, physiotherapy is all about diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Physiotherapists identify symptoms and conditions, treat the body, and help to restore proper function. Many patients are referred to physiotherapy by a doctor.

Next we will take a look at both practices in more detail, starting with sports massage therapy.

What is Sports Massage Therapy?

Sports massage therapy is the perfect long-term deep massage therapy for active bodies. It is favoured by athletes, gym buffs, or anyone living an active lifestyle. Whether you compete in your sport or just spend all day on your feet, sports massage therapy is designed to help you relax and recover.

Types of sports massage therapy include training, pre-event, post-event, injury prevention, and injury rehabilitation. Some of the soft tissue manipulation techniques used include:

  • Stroking and kneading
  • Hacking and cupping
  • Trigger point and knot release
  • Soft-tissue release
  • Myofascial release
  • Positional release
  • Swedish-style massage

Unlike other forms of massage, sports massage is quite intense. Using these techniques to penetrate and soften deep layers of muscle and tissue, sports massage is used to boost recovery, reduce pain, and relax the body. It can also be used by athletes during training, helping them to understand their bodies, enhance performance, and prevent injuries.

Sports Massage Therapists

In the UK, a sports massage therapist is usually educated to the diploma level. A diploma in Advanced Clinical Sports Therapy, for example, is a good education for a sports massage therapist to have. Compared to physiotherapists they tend to have less rigorous education, as their scope of practice is more limited. A sports massage therapist cannot refer to their services as physiotherapy unless they are a licensed physiotherapist.

Experience is just as important as education for a sports massage therapist. They are employed in sports massage clinics, sports centres, and by independent organisations to offer services to gym members or athletes. Look for sports massage therapists that clearly outline their education and provide details of their experience. A good sports massage therapist will often be specialised or have more experience in one particular area – this could be a particular sport like rugby, or a particular focus, like injury recovery.

The best sports massage therapy in London: at One Body LDN, our sports massage therapists are also licensed physiotherapists. This means, unlike most London sports massage therapists, we are overqualified and ready to go above and beyond. We are also completely transparent with our qualifications and experience – use our Meet the Team page to find a sports massage therapist that best fits your needs.

Conditions Treated by a Sports Massage

Sports massage is ideal for athletes, amateur athletes, gym-goers, yoga teachers, runners and joggers, or anyone with a sports-related injury. You can be a total beginner or at the top of your game – sports massage therapy is for all!

Furthermore, sports massage therapy is the perfect relaxing treatment for anyone leading a busy, active lifestyle. We even see office workers with stiff and tense muscles from sitting at a desk all day. If you have aches and pains, sore muscles, or just want to boost your performance, the practice can really help.

Some of the typical reasons our customers seek sports massage therapy include:

  • They feel especially achy and sore after an intense workout or activity.
  • They have a sports injury and want a smoother recovery.
  • They want to better understand their strengths and weaknesses to boost performance.
  • They’re preparing for (or need to relax before) an important competition or event.
  • They’ve just completed an event and want to recuperate before resuming training.
  • They feel discomfort or pain from an active lifestyle – this could be moving around all day, lifting objects in a warehouse, or just walking the dog.
  • They have stiff and sore muscles from sitting at a desk or behind the wheel all day.

What to Expect from Sports Massage Therapy

At sports massage therapy, you’ll first sit down for an assessment. We’ll talk about why you’ve chosen sports massage therapy and your goals. Next, we’ll do a quick check to look at your posture, mobility and flexibility. If you have a current or past sports injury, we’ll need to know about that too.

Sports massage therapy is hands-on. So, come to your session with loose fitting clothes so we can perform a deep tissue massage. The massage may be whole-body or focus on a particular area. For injured joints or muscles, we adjust our technique to promote healing. For tension release, you can expect an intense massage that really penetrates and relaxes the muscles.

You may want just a single session to loosen your muscles and release some knots. However, for the long-term benefits mentioned in our Sports Massage Guide, book a bundle of multiple sessions with one of our highly experienced therapists. Just like physiotherapy, sports massage is often accepted by private health insurers if you have a private health insurance policy. Likewise, your employer may cover sports massage under corporate benefits!

One Body LDN works with all major insurers and corporate benefit plans, so don’t hesitate to book a sports massage today.

sports massage by a professional physiotherapist Physiotherapy in London

How Physiotherapy is Different

Physiotherapy assesses and diagnoses symptoms and conditions. Using a wide variety of manual techniques, it aims to restore normal function, range of motion, flexibility and strength. So, while sports massage therapy is focused on relaxing muscles and boosting performance as a supplement to your lifestyle, physiotherapy is a treatment for a problem.

Physiotherapy is a medical discipline with numerous categories. Musculoskeletal physiotherapy is the most common that we offer at One Body LDN, but there’s also neurological physio, cardiac physio, and paediatric physio, just to name a few. 

The techniques used in physiotherapy include soft and deep tissue massage, like sports massage therapy, but also extend to:

  • Taping
  • Acupuncture
  • Strength conditioning
  • Vestibular techniques
  • Osteopathy techniques

These techniques are used to reduce your pain, improve mobility, and help restore normal function to your body. Of course, just like sports massage therapy, it can also be deeply relaxing and restorative!


Compared to sports massage therapists, physiotherapists are highly trained and educated to a degree level. Physiotherapists in the UK typically have a Bachelor of Science or Master of Science in Physiotherapy that’s attained through university or on-the-job training (or a mix of both). Many physiotherapists start as trainees in hospitals and are employed in medical settings.

Most importantly, all practising physiotherapists in the UK must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Unlike sports massage therapy, physiotherapy is a regulated profession. In fact, physiotherapy is available on the NHS (if you can stomach the wait times) and many of our customers are referred to our private practice by a physician.

At One Body LDN, our physiotherapists come from a range of backgrounds. Some began as athletes and personal trainers while others came to our clinic from an NHS role. Each physiotherapist has a long list of qualifications (five times the required regulatory amount) and a specialisation too. Whether you want to see a physiotherapist or start with sports massage therapy, we can ensure you receive the best treatment in London.

Private Sports Massage vs Physiotherapy

If the service is available on the NHS, why would you choose a private clinic? 

This is a question that’s asked more frequently about physiotherapy than sports massage therapy, as the former follows more of a “diagnosis to treatment” pattern. However, for a serious sports injury, you may find that the NHS offers sports massage therapy via a physiotherapist too.

For both physio and sports massage, a private clinic is often preferable as it provides:

  • Instant access to professional sessions, enabling you to book treatment around your schedule.
  • A choice of location, times, session lengths – private clinics offer you so much more flexibility.
  • Physiotherapists and sport massage therapists with the same (or better) qualifications and experience as NHS professionals.
  • State-of-the-art equipment, gym areas and private rooms.

Many people opt immediately for a private clinic when choosing sports massage therapy, but you can do the same for physiotherapy – many of the same benefits apply. You might be surprised at the reasonable cost too.

Why You Might Need a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapy is designed for people of all ages, mobility, strength and ability. The goal is to rehabilitate the body, returning you to normal functioning, while reducing pain. Some of the common reasons people seek out (or are referred to) physiotherapy are:

  • They are experiencing pain, e.g. back pain or neck pain.
  • They have a musculoskeletal condition like arthritis or tendonitis.
  • They have a neurological condition that impacts their body, like MS.
  • They have delayed development during childhood.
  • Their flexibility, range of motion and mobility is reducing.

Physiotherapists use their techniques to minimise pain and improve recovery. This might mean building strength, working on fine motor skills, massaging muscles to release tension, or simply educating you on your body. Ultimately, physiotherapy aims to return your body to optimum health.

Book a Hands-On Sports Massage in London

Now we have explored sports massage vs physiotherapy, you hopefully have an idea of what you’d like to pursue. But don’t panic if you’re still feeling lost! At One Body LDN, we have initial sessions where you can talk with a qualified physiotherapist and sports massage therapist to find out what you need.

Our award-winning sports massage sessions involve deep and effective massage, reducing your pain and helping you feel relaxed from head to toe. Whether you want to prevent injuries, add sports massage to your training regime, or just ease away the tension in your shoulders, get in touch today.

Book a sports massage therapy session and learn more about using private health insurance for our clinic.


Do I need sports massage therapy or physiotherapy?

If you have a sports injury, compete as an athlete (professional or amateur), love going to the gym, or simply lead an active lifestyle, sports massage therapy is all about relaxing and boosting performance and recovery. However, if you have a specific ailment or pain (like arthritis or lower back pain), then physiotherapy offers a diagnosis and treatment that brings you back to optimum health. If you think you need both or aren’t sure, start with a consultation in London at One Body.

Can a physiotherapist give a sports massage?

Yes, a physiotherapist can give you a sports massage if their education and experience have covered sports massage therapy techniques. Look for qualifications and proven experience in sports massage or sports injury rehabilitation. On the other hand, a sports massage therapist cannot provide physiotherapy services unless they are a qualified and registered physiotherapist.

When do I need a sports massage?

You can receive sports massage during training, before an event, after an event, or during injury recovery. You don’t need to be an athlete or gym-buff, however. Anyone who leads an active lifestyle or feels tense and sore from work (even if it’s a desk job) can benefit from sports massage to relax and recover.

Who can get a sports massage in London?

There’s both female and male sports massage in London. Anyone, of any age and athletic ability, can get a sports massage! Sports massage can also be very affordable or covered by insurance and corporate benefits – read our Guide to Sports Massage to learn more.

author avatar



Physiotherapy for Tennis Elbow – What to Expect!

Are you sidelined by the discomfort of tennis elbow? Whether you’re an athlete, construction worker, or an office warrior, the throbbing pain and limited mobility can be a frustrating setback. But thankfully, physiotherapy offers a path to recovery and renewed strength. In this guide, our physiotherapists will take you through what tennis elbow is, what

 Physiotherapy in London

Can Physiotherapy Help Arthritis? Everything You Need to Know

Are you or a loved one grappling with the challenges of arthritis? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Arthritis affects millions worldwide, causing pain, stiffness, and limitations in mobility. But there’s something that can help: physiotherapy.  Can physiotherapy help arthritis? In this comprehensive guide, we take a closer look at arthritic conditions and uncover how

how many physiotherapy sessions will i need at one body london Physiotherapy in London

How Many Physiotherapy Sessions Will I Need?

Curious about asking “how many physiotherapy sessions will I need?” You’re not alone. Whether you’re recovering from an injury, managing a chronic condition, or striving for peak performance, the number of physiotherapy sessions required can vary.  In this article, our physiotherapists will unravel the factors influencing treatment duration, helping you understand what to expect on

london physiotherapy Physiotherapy in London

Physiotherapy for Plantar Fasciitis: Pain Relief & Recovery

Struggling with the stabbing pain of plantar fasciitis? You’re not alone. Fortunately, physiotherapy for plantar fasciitis offers hope for relief and recovery. In this article, we’ll cover how physiotherapy techniques can ease discomfort and restore mobility, guiding you towards a pain-free life. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or simply seeking relief from everyday discomfort, understanding

what does physiotherapy do - guide at one body London Physiotherapy in London

What Does Physiotherapy Do?

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on ‘What Does Physiotherapy Do?’ In this article, we will delve into the role of a physiotherapist, what to expect during a physiotherapy session, and the importance of sticking to physiotherapy recommendations from your healthcare provider. Whether you’re recovering from an injury, managing a chronic condition, or just want to

physiotherapist vs chiropractor comparison Physiotherapy in London

Physiotherapist vs Chiropractor: Who Should You See?

Welcome to our comparison of physiotherapist vs chiropractor sessions! In this article, we are going to delve into the details of each discipline, exploring their similarities and differences. Whether you’re seeking relief from back pain, recovering from an injury, or aiming to improve your overall health, understanding the unique approaches of physiotherapists and chiropractors is

acupuncture as part of physiotherapy for sciatica at one body london Physiotherapy in London

Physiotherapy for Sciatica: Everything You Need To Know

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on physiotherapy for sciatica! If you’ve ever experienced the pain and discomfort of sciatica, you know how it can disrupt daily life and reduce your mobility. Tasks that should be easy become a challenge, and that’s no way to live. In this article, we’ll explore how physiotherapy at One Body

what does physiotherapy do - guide at one body London Physiotherapy in London

What Does Physiotherapy Do?

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on ‘What Does Physiotherapy Do?’ In this article, we will delve into the