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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

When Should I NOT Get A Massage?

There are hundreds of articles, web pages, and experts who will tell you all the benefits of massage therapy and how often you should get them. Massages can help with a multitude of conditions, mentally and physically, and can become a vital part of your regular self care or health routine. But there are some times when massage is not a good idea. You should consider not getting a massage if:

You are sick

Illness can mean your body hurts and you feel terrible, but massage makes you feel better, so it seems like they work together, right? Not really. When you are sick, your body is internally fighting hard to attack whatever it is that is making you ill, so massage can actually make you feel worse rather than better, and can make you take longer to recover. Plus, if you have a stuffy nose or cough, laying face down to have your back worked on can put an uncomfortable amount of pressure on your sinuses. Not to mention, if you are contagious, you are putting your therapist, other people in the practice, and other massage clients at risk of also getting sick, and that just isn't nice. If you have a massage scheduled, but are experiencing:



Cold or flu symptoms

Runny nose


GI issues or diarrhea

Nausea or vomiting,

You should probably call your therapist to reschedule the appointment until you feel better.

If you have certain medical or physical conditions

Massage is generally very good for overall health and can help many conditions, but there are some conditions that massage can aggravate. These conditions are called contraindications. Some contraindications for massage include:

Severe or uncontrolled high blood pressure

Contagious or communicable diseases

Skin conditions or diseases such as shingles or ringworm

Blood clots

Heart, liver, or kidney disease

Massage has a strong effect on the circulatory, lymphatic, and muscular systems, so massage can run the risk of overloading some systems. If in doubt, always check with your primary care provider if you have a condition that may be a contraindication for massage, or your therapist can check with your doctor as well.

If you are pregnant and have certain high-risk conditions

Massage during pregnancy has wonderful benefits for both mom and baby. However, sometimes conditions arise that make a massage be "too much" for a woman's already overworked and constantly changing body. Usually, a woman's doctor will inform her if she has a high-risk condition, but some things classified by doctors as high risk are not necessarily contraindications for massage such as multiples or the mother's age (if the pregnancy is progressing normally). Some high-risk conditions that would make massage unadvisable during pregnancy would include:

Preeclampsia or eclampsia


Pitting edema (A severe form of swelling)

Placenta previa or other bleeding risk disorders

Blood clots or DVT

Signs of pre term labor

High blood pressure

Uncontrolled gestational diabetes

With a high-risk condition present, always check with a doctor before getting a massage and specifically ask about massage. Many doctors will tell moms to "relax and take it easy", and many people feel that a massage fits this instruction, however some conditions are high risk for a reason, and it is better to wait until the condition has resolved before getting a massage. If a pregnancy is progressing normally, massage should be absolutely no problem for a pregnant woman.

If you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Legal or otherwise)

It may seem like the perfect scene from a chick flick: Go out for a girls lunch, sip a few too many mimosas and decide "Let's all get massages!" Not so fast. There are several reasons why getting a massage while intoxicated is not a good idea. First and foremost - the law. Legally, a massage therapist can not work on someone who is intoxicated or "altered" mentally in any way. In order for you to get a massage, you must give informed consent before your therapist may lay a finger on you, and if you are intoxicated or under the influence of any narcotics, you are incapable of giving informed consent and therefore, your therapist could be charged with assault. Aside form the legal ramifications, when you are in an altered state, your body absorbing the alcohol or drug puts added strain on your organs, and massage can intensify the negative effects of the substance. Plus, you leave yourself open to injury because drugs and alcohol dull your pain receptors, so if your therapist were to press too deeply or stretch beyond your tolerance, you could be injured because you can't feel or communicate when too much is too much. Massage can be mind-altering in itself. It doesn't need 'outside help'.

So while massage is an amazing health tool, occasionally something comes up that makes massage not a good idea. If you are ever in doubt if you have a condition that would make massage not advised, check with your doctor. You can always reschedule, and your therapist will likely thank you for taking the precaution. Also, if you do have something going on, do not hide it from your therapist, no matter how badly you want that massage. Your therapist will usually ask if anything is going on before the massage starts, so do not cover it up. Massage is meant to heal and help you, so let it. Like every good thing, there is a good time for it, and a time when it may be a good idea to wait, and massage is no different.

Side Note from the Therapist:

I actually wrote this article long before the COVID-19 issues started, but I held off publishing it because I didn't want it to sound like I was taking advantage of the situation just for the sake of an article. I decided not to alter the original article to add any COVID-19 language or precautions because I feel the information in this article is quite timely and I hope it can be useful, both at this time, and in the future.

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