Massage Contraindications

Massage is perceived as one of the safest medical practices, with the least risks involved. However, there are situations when massage contraindicated because it would worsen an existing condition. Sometimes the advice of a physician should be asked for a massage. The massage is contraindicated in the following situations, and maybe other that were unintentionally omitted:

  • Fever, and any type of infectious disease – fever indicates an infection, so it is contraindicated because of the chances to spread the infection. Another reason is the protection of the massage therapist.
  • Systemic infections – see above.
  • Fracture - definitely contraindicated. After the fracture is healed massage is an excellent help for recovery. But before the healing no massage is allowed.
  • Bleedings, burns, or other acute injury – it is obvious that massage will do more damage to the injury.
  • Liver and kidney diseases. For any liver and kidney disease you have to have the physician’s advice. For some conditions that may progress you have to have the physician’s advice on a regular basis. For example hepatitis could turn into cirrhosis in time. Massaging a person who suffers of cirrhosis increases the blood flow and with this the amount of toxins in the body because the cirrhotic liver doesn’t have the same toxin processing ability as a healthy one.
  • Blood clot – Massage, by increasing blood circulation could start the movement of the cloth. The clot could end up in the lungs. Get the physician’s consent to massage clients who have blood clots.
  • Pregnancy-induced diabetes, toxemia, (preeclampsia, eclampsia) – We don’t want to  
  • High blood pressure. Massage increases blood pressure on a short term span because of the blood flow increase. As a result if you suffer from blood pressure a spike could intervene at the time of massage. As a long term result gentle massage can actually decrease blood pressure, but you have to keep under control the sudden rise at the time of massage. Always ask the physician advice. As a therapist, make sure you are covered.
  • Heart disease – it depends on the condition. You have to ask the doctor’s advice.
  • Cancer – the effect of massage on cancer patients is little known so the recommendation is to avoid massage therapy. There is a lot of debate. If you want to be safe ask the doctor’s advice. There could be a risk that the massage helps the cancer metastasize. On the other hand for some types of cancer, massage helped patients feel better.   
  • Open skin lesions or sores; the reasons are obvious – mechanical workout on open lesions will open the lesions even more. The therapist may work around them if they are localized. That will actually improve blood circulation thus reducing the time of healing.
  • Osteoporosis - massage is not actually contraindicated, as long as it’s a light massage and not a deep one. There is a high risk to accidentally break fragile bones.
  • Neuropathy and/or numb sections of body – the insensitive sections should be massaged very light or avoided at all as the patient can not offer any feedback on the force to be applied on these sections so the therapist could damage the area.
  • Asthma - unless there is an acute attack should be fine and even decreases the need for an inhaler. Caution is needed, however. Also you shoul carefuly choose the essential oils.
  • Diabetes – ask the physician’s advice if you plan to get a massage and suffer from diabetes. There are some studies which suggest that diabetes could reduce blood sugar levels. The patient, however, has to be very careful because after a massage blood sugar drops. A snack should be available. It is always best to ask for primary’s healthcare practitioner advice.
  • Menstruation – massage is actually very good for menstruating women. It calms down the back pain and cramps. However for women with menstrual dysfunctions, such as abundant menstruation, massage should be avoided as it could increase the bleeding. If unsure ask the doctor. For some women the lower back pain becomes more acute during massage.
  • Thrombosis - massage can cause the spread of emboli which is life threatening.
  •  Phlebitis - any pressure on or below the affected area will cause an increase in venous tension and will help the formation of thromboses.
  • Allergies – Massage oils can contain allergens.

The first and foremost rule, for a massage therapist, is "Do no harm."
If you have doubts about a particular condition, do not give the massage.

As a Massage Therapist always ask you customers to fill out the client intake form asking them about all of these conditions and any other not on the list. Even if some customers find these forms tedious to complete it is necessary for both parties.
As a patient always be honest and mention any of the conditions you suffer, it is in your best interest. If you're not asked about new medical or physical conditions, volunteer the information if there is anything new.

If you have a question regarding a condition in relation with massage, feel free to comment.