The 2 main differences between a sports massage and a “normal” massage (you’re probably reffering to a swedish massage) is the relaxation aspect and the desired outcome.
A swedish massage is meant to relax the client utilizing calming strokes and moderate to light pressure (although some therapists like myself prefer to use a firm pressure as a default). Every therapist is different and has their own style, but the main goal is to relax the client and provide a soothing session where some clients may even fall asleep.
A sports massage is more invigorating and the goal is to prepare, treat and maintain the athlete. It is geared toward athletes, but anyone who is athletic or workouts often may benefit from this. Sports massage is broken down into 3 main groups:
Pre-Event – quick, energetic techniques are used to enhance an athlete’s warm-up. This will increase circulation, stimulate the muscles and increase flexibility and range of motion. This reduces muscle pain and soreness and preps the athlete for their performance.
Post-event – a more calming technique is used to aid muscles in returning to their natural state. This can also bring the athlete down from the adrenaline of performing. Circulation is increased to aid in elimination of toxins to prevent muscle soreness, fatigue and spasms.
Maintenance – this uses different techniques to aid an athlete throughout their training. Myofacial release, neuromuscular therapy, orthopedic sports, pnf stretching all help keep an athlete in top shape. Some techniques are used to aid during certain injuries as well.
I don’t suggest you get a sports massage if you are having back and shoulder issues. A deep tissue massage would be more beneficial, but make sure you focus on your breathing as this can sometimes be uncomfortable. And always let your therapist know if the pressure is too much for you to handle.
Hope this helps!