Archive for January, 2011

What is the Difference Between Sports Massage and Russian Sports Massage?

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Many of my Salt Lake City, Utah clients are athletes who train their muscles on a daily basis.  A lot of them incorporate massage therapy into their routines for body maintenance.  Athletes push their bodies to the limit, creating tense muscles and often sustaining injuries.  Massage therapy helps to lengthen and broaden these over-trained muscles and prevents re-injury of tissues that have already been damaged.

I regularly get calls from athletes inquiring about how sports massage can benefit them as competitors or in their daily trainings.  But I am frequently having my potential new clients asking about Russian Sports massage and what the difference is.  I would like to explain both of these modalities.  Because they are both sport-based therapies, they have many similarities, but here we can define their differences.  Lets start by talking about where they both originated from.

Researchers have found that many ancient cultures used sports to develop and test human skills in order to respond to nature and the environment.  Ultimately, sports taught skills of survival and aided the overall progression of these societies.  In our earliest history, China’s most popular sports were gymnastics and acrobatics.  Monuments of ancient Egypt depict images of swimming, fishing, high-jump and wrestling.  And by 1778 on the Hawaiian Islands, surfing had become popular.  Going further back in time we acknowledge that the Greeks founded the Olympic games which is a very large part of our culture still today.

The earliest records of Sports massage were found in Greece.  Around 130 A.D. massage was performed on Greek Gladiators. Modern Sports massage history begins in the 1900s with the founding of the Finnish School of Massage which used Swedish massage strokes to develop a timely and systematic arrangement useful for athletes.

Russian massage emerged around 1860 when Swedish massage was brought to Russia as a medical practice.  In 1918, the research Institute of Physical Education opened in Russia to  help train coaches, nutritionists and fitness instructors.  By 1925, the massage course went from being optional to being mandatory.  Massage is now considered a scientific modality in Russia.  Every physician and nurse must take massage courses as part of their training.

Sports and Russian Sports massage are similar in that the techniques and strokes applied must be done in a systematic fashion.  Also, both of these modalities utilize various stretches for each muscle group on athletes.

Now let’s list the strokes and order of strokes for Sports and Russian Sports massage and see how they differ:


  • Compression
  • Effleurage
  • Petrissage
  • Friction
  • Vibration
  • Tapotement
  • Stretching


  • Effleurage
  • Wringing
  • Petrissage
  • Friction
  • Vibration
  • Percussion
  • Passive Movements (stretching and range of motion)

This organization of strokes is fairly similar in both modalties, but what is the difference in the effects of these 2 systems?  Sports massage has three categories – Event (pre and post), Maintenance and Restorative Massage.  Pre and Post Event massage are usually only 10-20 minutes.  Pre-event massage is used to prepare the body for exercise while post-event’s purpose is to cool it down.  Maintenance massage lasts 60-90 minutes and is used for recovery from training.  And Restorative massage has no set duration but it focuses on rehabilitating injuries to get the athlete ready for more training or competitions.

Russian massage is styled more like a Swedish massage.  It’s duration lasts usually 60-90 minutes and while it is also used to ease muscle fatigue, its purposes are different than Sports massage.  Russian Sports is done in a specific direction to promote Lymphatic Flow.  Your lymph nodes are located all over you body.  In the illustration to the right, all of the black dots are lymph nodes.  These nodes contain disease-fighting white blood cells and filter out harmful microbes and toxins.  Therefore, moving in the direction of the lymph nodes with different massage strokes helps those toxins to be eliminated quicker which highly benefits an athlete.  Athletes produce a lot of Lactic acid in their muscles from strenuous training and this type of massage helps filter it out so they are more quickly ready for their next work-out.

Also, the rhythm and direction of a Russian Sports massage helps to calm down your Central Nervous System (CNS) immensely.  Because of this, I tend to use this therapy mostly for clients who suffer from auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia.  These diseases cause an interruption of the neurological firing mechanisms in the brain and brainstem – an over-firing if you will.  This over-firing causes intense pain in the body.  In my experience, I have found that Russian massage greatly calms the Central Nervous System, therefore calming the over-firing mechanisms and alleviating much of the pain associated.

So even though these 2 modalities are Sports related, I tend to use them for different cases.  They are both very effective treatments and both help to increase circulation, lengthen muscle tissue, and promote relaxation.  Please call me today at (801) 349-3934 if you have any questions on either of these therapies or if you would like to schedule an appointment for your sports massage in Salt Lake City, Utah.