Sep 23 2008
Massage therapy is a wonderful and beneficial form of holistic health care. Massage can provide stress relief, muscle tension relief, improve circulation, and the list goes on. But massage can be detrimental to your health if you have certain physical conditions, illnesses, or disease. You can also put your therapist at risk of contracting certain illness or disease if you are in a contagious state of health.
The term “massage contraindication” means you are not able to receive massage, or the massage may be limited to certain areas of your body. When you are contraindicated for a massage it is for your health and safety as well as the massage therapists. Not all contraindications mean that you will never be able to have a massage. There are two types of contraindications: local contraindications and absolute contraindications.
Local contraindications are conditions involving a pathology related illness/disease or an acute injury. These conditions mean caution must be exercised and the massage must be adapted to the condition. This is to ensure the safety of both the client and the therapist. For the client, the massage must be adjusted as to ensure it will not spread the condition, or further injure the client. For the therapist, it is to ensure the therapist does not contract the disease.
If you have what is determined to be a local contraindication your therapist may require a doctor’s release before he will agree to provide you with a massage. While some local contraindications only require that you and your therapist discuss the condition and tailor the massage accordingly. In either case, it is the therapist that will make the final decision as to whether or not you will be able to receive the massage. This is done to protect your health and safety as well as the massage therapist.
A massage may be adjusted for a local contraindication in several ways. It can mean an area is to be avoided, such a the lower leg of a recently sprained ankle. It can require that the pressure be adjusted during the massage. The position in which the client is lying the massage table is adjusted, such as using a side lying position for pregnant women. It can also mean the time allowed for the massage be adjusted.
Some of the more common local contraindications include, but are not limited to: Abnormal lumps, Ance Vulgaris, athlete’s foot, blisters, bruises, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Cystitis (Baker’s and sebaceous), Decubitus Ulcers, Gouty Arthritis, Graves’ Disease, hernia, Hyper and Hypothyroidism, infectious diseases, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, local inflammation, open wounds, Phlebitis, poison ivy - oak - sumac, Shingles, swollen lymph glands, ulcers, unhealed burns (sunburn if not widespread), Varicose Veins, and warts.
The following conditions will require a medical doctors clearance: Acromegaly, Aneurysm, Atherosclerosis, Burns, Cancer, Cerebrovascular accident, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Congestive Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, Hemophelia, Hodgkin’s Disease, Kidney Stones, Leukemia, Myasthenia Gravis, Nephrosis, Peritonitis, Polycystic Kidney Disease, and Uremia.
Absolute contraindications are conditions where you cannot receive a massage. Giving a massage to someone who has an absolute contraindication can result in serious health risks for the client and/or the therapist. Some absolute contraindications can even cause death to the client.
Not all absolute contraindications are permanent; meaning you may have a condition that, once it clears, you can receive a massage. These conditions are typically an illness such as a viral infection. Some conditions are permanent and unfortunately if you have one, you will not be able to receive massage. In either case, as long as the condition is in an acute stage, you will be denied massage therapy.
The following is a list of common, but temporary, absolute contraindications for massage: Chickenpox, Contact Dermatitis (if wide spread), diarrhea (if due to infection), fever, German Measles, Gout (during acute phase), Hepatitis, Hives, High Blood Pressure (unless controlled by medication, diet or exercise) Influenza (the flu), lice, Lupus (during a flare up), measles, Mononucleosis (mono), Mumps, Pneumonia, Ringworm, recent injuries or surgeries, Scabies, and Tonsillitis. This list is not definitive, but a list of the more common conditions that are absolute contraindications. These are all temporary conditions that once they have run their course, you can receive a massage.
The following conditions are a permanent condition that will prevent you from receiving a massage. These are serious conditions and if you receive a massage it can cause further health related problems or even death. Your massage therapist must be informed of these conditions. This is one of the reasons you are required fill out a health history form when you enter a professional massage therapists office.
Some common absolute permanent contraindications (this is not a definitive list): Blood Clots, Cirrhosis of the liver, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), Embolism, Hypertension (unless controlled by medication, diet or exercise), Intestinal obstruction, Kidney failure, Lymphangitis, Myocarditis, Pericarditis, Pulmonary Embolism, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Syncope (fainting), and Tuberculosis.
While massage has many benefits certain conditions warrant caution. If you have a condition that has not been listed here, or you are unclear about whether you can receive massage, talk to your massage therapist and you family doctor. They will both be happy to discuss this with you. Remember, if you are turned down for a massage because of a condition you have, it is because the massage therapist has your best health at interest.
Daniel J. Brownell, LMT
Full Throttle Massage, Inc.