When Massage May Not Be a Good Idea


List of Contraindications in Massage

Most people are great candidates for the relaxation and health benefits of massage therapy. However, there are times when a massage may not be the right choice. Certain conditions contraindicate massage, either because of the risk it may pose to the client or to the therapist.

The list of contraindications for massage may be longer than you expect, and it includes some conditions that at first glance don’t seem like massage would affect at all. Take a look:

  • Cold, flu, or other contagious viral or bacterial infection. Your therapist may decline to work with you because they don’t want to catch a cold. Most importantly, they don’t want to risk passing the infection to other clients.
  • Intoxication with narcotic drugs and alcohol, may spread in a very bad way these substances in your body and you may go to the hospital. Combining massage therapy and alcohol or drugs only increases the toxic load on the body. It also desensitizes a person to pain and even clouds judgment. The client may perceive the intent of the massage therapist differently than if just getting a massage.
  • Blood pressure medications, which can result in low blood pressure and dizziness upon sitting up or standing after a massage.
  • Injectable medication, such as insulin. The therapist should avoid the injection site, since massage can interfere with how the drug is absorbed.
  • A muscle damage, an acute injury is also likely to be a contraindication to massage. Although it may seem like a great idea to get a massage immediately after straining a muscle, if there is damage to the area, massage may actually interfere with the healing process.
  • Fever: When you have a fever, your body is trying to isolate and expel an invader of some kind. Massage increases overall circulation and could therefore work against your body’s natural defenses.
  • Inflammation: Massage can further irritate an area of inflammation, so you should not administer it. Inflamed conditions include anything that ends in –itis, such as phlebitis (inflammation of a vein), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), and so on. In the case of localized problems, you can still massage around them, however, avoiding the inflammation itself.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure means excessive pressure against blood vessel walls. Massage affects the blood vessels, and so people with high blood pressure or a heart condition should receive light, sedating massages, if at all.
  • Infectious diseases: Massage is not a good idea for someone coming down with the flu or diphtheria, for example, and to make matters worse, you expose yourself to the virus as well.
  • Hernia: Hernias are protrusions of part of an organ (such as the intestines) through a muscular wall. It’s not a good idea to try to push these organs back inside. Surgery works better.
  • Osteoporosis: Elderly people with a severe stoop to the shoulders often have this condition, in which bones become porous, brittle, and fragile. Massage may be too intense for this condition.
  • Varicose veins: Massage directly over varicose veins can worsen the problem. However, if you apply a very light massage next to the problem, always in a direction toward the heart, it can be very beneficial.
  • Broken bones: Stay away from an area of mending bones. A little light massage to the surrounding areas, though, can improve circulation and be quite helpful.
  • Skin problems: You should avoid anything that looks like it shouldn’t be there, such as rashes, wounds, bruises, burns, boils, and blisters, for example. Usually these problems are local, so you can still massage in other areas.
  • Cancer: Cancer can spread through the lymphatic system, and because massage increases lymphatic circulation, it may potentially spread the disease as well. Simple, caring touch is fine, but massage strokes that stimulate circulation are not. Always check with a doctor first.
  • Other conditions and diseases: Diabetes, asthma, and other serious conditions each has its own precautions, and you should seek a doctor’s opinion before administering massage.
  • HIV infection: Some people still think of AIDS as something that can be “caught” through simple skin-to-skin contact, but most of us know that’s not the case. If there is no exchange of bodily fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or mother’s milk), HIV can’t be transmitted during massage. So, HIV infection is not contraindicated for this reason. However, some of the infections that people suffering from the later stages of AIDS experience are contraindicated, and you should avoid those infections. Loving, soothing contact is extremely important for people at any stage of infection, but in the case of any visible rashes, sores, lesions, or swelling, massage is best left to a professional. If you have any cuts or scrapes or scratches on your hands, it’s an especially good idea to wear thin surgical gloves while massaging an HIV-infected person with any signs of open lesions.

Always let your massage therapist know of any health issues, or any medications you may be taking, prior to a massage. A massage therapist may ask to consult with your physician if he or she is concerned about how massage will affect your condition.