Hit your head; bang your knee; trip and fall; what do all of these accidents have in common? Your reaction. Most likely, immediately after impact, you rub the affected area. That is, you give yourself a massage.
Massage benefits include pain relief, relaxation, blood pressure moderation, stress reduction and anxiety management. The American Cancer Society recommends massage for some cancer patients and The Touch Research Institute regularly reports clinical trials that tout the benefits of massage. Unfortunately, there are some risks to massage therapy that you should be aware of before getting the benefits.
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) cautions massage therapists about the risks of massaging a client with high blood pressure. Approximately 31 percent of Americans over the age of 21 have high blood pressure, a disease that causes plaque to build up in the arteries. The pressure exerted during a massage could potentially cause the plaque to rupture and release blood clots into the system. Though the risk is low for such an event, blood clots can travel to the heart or brain.
Clients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that causes blood clots to develop in the deep veins of the body, are especially at risk. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with DVT often do not even know they have it. Massage greatly increases the risks of a clot being released and travelling to the lungs.
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Some forms of massage, such as deep tissue massage and rolfing, require the massage therapist to exert pressure past the skin layer, in order to manipulate muscles and connective tissues. An untrained therapist, or even a trained therapist who does not receive proper feedback from the client, might exert too much pressure, resulting in temporary nerve damage to the client.
Infectious Skin Conditions
A number of infectious conditions of the skin can be transmitted between client and massage therapist during massage, if the massage therapist is unaware of the outbreak. These include herpes cold sores and ringworm. Likewise, as in the case of warts, a massage therapist can unknowingly spread the contagion from one area of the client’s body to another.
When to Avoid Massage
Certain medical conditions may increase the risk of experiencing negative side effects from massage. These include cancer, fractured or broken bones, blood clots, burns, lesions, burns, certain forms of arthritis and osteoporosis, mystery pains, skin rashes, and infectious diseases of the skin. If you suffer from any of these, or another serious illness, consult your physician before seeking massage therapy. Many massage therapists have been specifically trained to work with patients under medical care, including patients with cancer. Your doctor may have a list of these. If not, contact the American Massage Therapy Association to ask for a recommendation.
Katherine Mariaca is a professional freelance journalist who specializes in alternative and complementary medicine, and skin and body care treatments. A longtime spa director and VP of skin care companies, Mariaca developed products and services for the spa industry. She earned a B.S. from Tufts and an M.F.A. from Lesley.