You Shouldn't Get A Massage If This Happens To You

Many of us feel the daily stress of appointments, deadlines, and to-do lists. Sometimes, that stress shows up as tension and knots in our muscles. When it does, massage therapy — from deep tissue to Swedish to shiatsu — might be just the answer for relief and relaxation. According to the National Holistic Institute, about 47.5 million Americans received massages in 2018.

Research has shown that therapeutic massage is effective for more than just inducing relaxation. Massages reduce muscle pain and soreness, improve blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and boost the immune system. Massage therapies also can provide relief of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and digestive diseases (via Mayo Clinic).

As relaxing as lying on the massage table sounds, a massage may not be the right option for you. Although massages don't involve medication or any surgical procedure, they could do more harm than good in some instances.

When it's best to avoid massage

It's hard to imagine anything but good coming from a massage. Yet, according to the Minnesota School of Cosmetology, if you have certain medical conditions or are taking specific medications, you are not a good candidate for massage therapy. Because there are many conditions or symptoms that could be contraindications for massage, it can help to speak with your doctor about whether or not massages are right for you.

Importantly, certain kinds of massage during pregnancy can be dangerous and even life-threatening (per Minnesota School of Cosmetology). A 2020 study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth reports a pregnant woman went into cardiac arrest following a leg massage. The study determined that a leg massage could be fatal for pregnant women who have undetected deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Because pregnant women are at greater risk of DVT, they should avoid massage in the leg and foot areas, unless that risk has been ruled out. 

A massage can aggravate other conditions

Although massages are generally safe, you shouldn't get one if you have a skin condition. Contagious skin conditions such as warts, boils, or herpes, as well as cuts or abrasions, sunburn, excessive bruising, or varicose veins are all reasons to stay away from massage. Receiving massage, especially with lotion or essential oils, could inflame, irritate, or bruise the skin (per Minnesota School of Cosmetology).

Also, if you've recently had surgery, it's not a good idea to get a massage over that area. A massage could aggravate the area and slow down the healing process. You should wait to have a massage until you are cleared by your surgeon.

Feeling a little under the weather might not seem like a reason to skip your massage appointment. But if you're feeling dizzy, nauseous, or running a fever — a sign that your body is fighting something — a massage can exacerbate your condition. In these cases, experts at the University of Minnesota state that first, you should stabilize your medical condition, and then once you've recovered or your doctor gives the okay, you can hop on that massage table.