Massage therapists use deep tissue massage to produce changes in your posture, movement and flexibility. It increases your range of motion, reduces pain and stimulates blood flow. Because of all the beneficial effects of deep tissue massage, it might be hard to believe that there are times when it isn't a good idea. Blood clots are an example of a serious health condition that can be adversely affected by deep tissue massage or indeed any kind of massage. If you have a blood clot in your leg, consult your doctor before you consider having deep tissue massage, to avoid a potentially fatal reaction.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage focuses on layers of connective tissue in the body. Connective tissue lines the skin, divides muscles into functional groups, covers each individual muscle, covers bundles of muscle cells and also connects muscle cells to each other and to your bones. The name of this kind of massage refers to the location of the tissues, some of which are located deep in the body, rather than the amount of pressure used to reach those muscles. The purpose of deep tissue massage is to stretch connective tissue layer by layer until all tightness has been released, down into the deepest layers of the body.
Blood clots are a normal part of your body's defense system. When there's an injury, platelets in your blood stream become sticky, gathering red blood cells and fibers to make a blood clot. The purpose is to prevent bleeding and begin healing the injury. Blood clots also can form in inflamed or blocked blood vessels. Deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in your leg, can form from an injury, or because of dilated weak blood vessels or simply from sitting far too long.
If you have any kind of massage, not just deep tissue massage, over the area where there is a blood clot, the risk is that the blood clot can break loose and travel through your blood vessels to your heart or lungs, causing a possibly fatal heart attack or blocked artery. Massage is absolutely contraindicated if you have a blood clot. Even after your blood clot has been treated your doctor may not want you to receive a massage.
According to Art Riggs, author of "Deep Tissue Massage," a blood clot can form in any vein, and deep tissue massage is inadvisable until your doctor says you can have a massage. Whitney Lowe, author of "Orthopedic Massage," agrees that massage can dislodge a blood clot leading to cardiovascular or pulmonary damage. Finally, Ruth Warner, author of "A Massage Therapist's Guide to Pathology," says that blood clots are a medical emergency and any kind of massage is contraindicated. Even after treatment, deep tissue massage may not be advisable because you will be taking anticoagulant drugs and may bruise too easily.
- "Deep Tissue Massage, Revised"; Art Riggs, Thomas Myers; 2007
- "Orthopedic Massage: Theory and Technique"; Whitney Lowe; 2009
- "A Massage Therapist's Guide to Pathology"; Ruth Werner; 2008
Ramona French owned a massage school and taught massage for 28 years. In that time she wrote textbooks on Swedish, acupressure, deep tissue and lymph drainage massage. She is the author of "Introduction to Lymph Drainage Massage" and "Milady's Guide to Lymph Drainage Massage." Her book, "The Complete Guide to Lymph Drainage Massage," published by Milady, was released in October 2011.