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Navigating contraindications: When not to get a massage, and who to see instead

Updated: Mar 11

While massage therapy is desirable for various reasons, including personal relaxation and comfort, there are instances when it is contraindicated, meaning it may not be suitable or safe for certain individuals. Understanding these contraindications is crucial for both clients and massage therapists to ensure the well-being of everyone involved. In this article, we'll explore situations where massage is contraindicated and another health-care practitioner should be sought out. In most cases Massage Therapy is not harmful, and unlikely to make a condition worse, but there are a few instances to look out for. It is never my intent to suggest Massage Therapy be a replacement for all other health-care, or regular visits to your Doctor.

  1. Acute Injuries and Inflammation

  • Contraindication: Massage may be contraindicated for individuals with acute injuries, such as recent sprains, strains, or fractures, as well as those experiencing acute inflammation.

  • Recommended: In the hours following a severe sprain, Urgent Care may be needed to correctly diagnose and rule out fractures to bone. This is one I've experienced myself. The home treatment indicated is known as RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). After potentially traumatic damage to tendons and ligaments, and other connective tissue, massage should be held off for 48-72 hours, so as not to exacerbate the injury. If the pain is severe with movement, or requires analgesics to be tolerable, it is not a good time for manual manipulations. Physical therapy or targeted rehabilitation exercises may also be recommended after some time healing, depending on tolerability. 2. Certain Medical Conditions

  • Contraindication: Individuals with specific medical conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), severe cardiovascular issues, or infectious diseases, may be advised against massage therapy.

  • Recommended: For individuals with medical conditions that contraindicate massage, It is recommended you speak with a Primary Care Physician, an MD, DO, or Physician Assistant. If you have a condition localized to a certain type of tissue or organ, you can refer to a physician trained in that specialty. This could involve medication management, specialized medical procedures, or other therapeutic interventions. 3. Fever or Infectious Diseases

  • Contraindication: Massage is typically contraindicated when a client has a fever or is suffering from an infectious disease. This is to prevent the spread of illness and to ensure the safety of both the client and the therapist. If you have symptoms that easily spread germs, such as regular coughing or sneezing it is time to reschedule. At this time it is advised to practice good hygiene and minimize contact with others.

  • Recommended: Rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications to manage symptoms are often recommended for individuals with fever or infectious diseases. Seeking medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment is essential if symptoms do not go away on their own in 2-3 weeks. In addition to your recovery time, it may be appropriate to add in a treat that makes you happy, a preferred choice of my own is Ginger Ale. 4. Pregnancy Complications

  • Contraindication: While prenatal massage is generally safe and beneficial, certain pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia or a high-risk pregnancy, may contraindicate massage therapy.

  • Recommended: In cases of pregnancy complications, it's crucial for individuals to consult with their obstetrician or healthcare provider. Alternative options may include modified physical activities, prenatal yoga, or other forms of supportive care. Side-lying, or back supported positions for massage may be available. 5. Skin Conditions or Infections

  • Contraindication: Active skin conditions or infections, such as contact dermatitis, recent scabbing, or contagious skin diseases, may contraindicate massage to prevent exacerbating the condition or spreading the infection. If a new rash has recently appeared, especially one that is red, circular, and itchy, one should get an accurate diagnosis before seeing a massage therapist, as this is symptomatic of a fungal infection like ringworm.

  • Recommended: Dermatological consultation is recommended for individuals with skin conditions. Topical treatments, prescribed medications, or other dermatological interventions may be explored. The condition may require a routine of anti-fungals to completely heal. Non-contagious skin conditions may respond well to the extra lubrication provided with a massage, but it is important to clear this with your dermatologist. If you don't already, I recommend getting regular skin cancer checks at your own determination, or annually if there is a family history of skin cancer. 6. Recent Surgeries or Trauma

  • Contraindication: Massage may be contraindicated for individuals who have undergone recent surgeries or experienced trauma until they have received clearance from their healthcare provider.

  • Recommended: Post-surgery or trauma recovery often involves physical therapy, rehabilitation exercises, and guidance from medical professionals. Adhering to postoperative care instructions is crucial for a safe and effective recovery. 7. Mental Health Conditions

  • Contraindication: In some cases, individuals with certain mental health conditions, such as severe anxiety disorders, acute psychosis, or recent trauma, may find massage therapy contraindicated due to potential triggers or discomfort.

  • Recommended: Mental health conditions often benefit from specialized therapeutic approaches. Individuals are encouraged to explore alternative options such as psychotherapy, psychology, counseling, mindfulness practices, or other mental health interventions recommended by mental health professionals. In some cases the advice of a Psychiatrist may be suitable to seek.

Understanding when massage is contraindicated is essential for responsible and informed healthcare choices. In situations where massage is not advisable, individuals should seek guidance from healthcare professionals for alternative options tailored to their specific needs. Whether through medical interventions, therapeutic exercises, or other forms of supportive care, there are numerous paths to wellness that align with individual health conditions and circumstances. Listen to wisdom and address conditions before they become complicated. Address them with the correct type of treatment.

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