DB Therapeutic & Advanced Bodywork
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When Not to Get a Massage: 26 Reasons You Cannot Get A Massage

Provided by Massage Therapy Reference: 


When is Massage NOT ALLOWED?

Note: Contraindicated means the treatment should not be used; Massage being contraindicated means massage should not be used or applied in the given condition or circumstance. In the following cases below, massage is totally or absolutely contraindicated. Massage in these cases is not recommended in any part of the body – No massage must be given at all.

When Not to Get a Massage:

Massage Therapy performed by a well-trained massage therapist can benefit our bodies in a lot of ways . But, there are instances where massage CANNOT be performed at all at any part of the body.  The reason the patient cannot get a massage is for the patients’ own safety and and in some cases (eg. if the patient has an infectious disease – for the safety of the massage therapist and other patients). Patients must be referred to a physician/ medical doctor instead.

When Massage Cannot Be Performed:

  1. When patient is in shock, is having or just had a stroke, or a heart attack (acute stage).  The patient must wait until the disease is PAST the ACUTE PHASE/ ACUTE STAGE before getting a massage – better yet, ask for your physician for the ‘go ahead’. For example,  in stroke patients, there is a high risk of a second stroke occurring within one month of the first stroke. After about six months, the risk of the occurrence of another stroke becomes lower.
    • Shock is a critical condition where there is a sudden drop in blood flow through the body –  sharply curtailing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs.
  2. Intoxicated patients (drugs and alcohol) – patients who are heavily intoxicated with drugs and alcohol must not be given a massage.
  3. High Fever – patients with significant fever (above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or above 38 degrees Celsius) cannot be given a massage. If you are sick and have a fever, it is better to wait until you are healed from before you get a massage. Most people get fever because they are fighting an infection from virus or bacteria (which also could be contagious).
  4. Massage must not be performed Right After a Major Surgery. A major surgery is any surgical procedure that penetrates and exposes a body cavity – surgery that has the potential for causing permanent anatomic or physiologic impairment, any procedure related to orthopedics or extensive tissue transaction or dissection.
  5. Meningitis – patients with meningitis cannot be massaged. Besides meningitis being a life-threatening condition because it affects the brain and spinal cord, meningitis can also be contagious.
  6. Patients who are experiencing severe unexplained internal pain cannot have a massage treatment – they must immediately see a doctor.
  7. Hemorrhage (the escape of blood from vessels).
  8. Massage therapy is not recommended for people who have severe Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis – a group of diseases where there is thickening and loss of elasticity of the arterial walls
  9. Massage for patients who have Acute Pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs – bacterial or viral) is not allowed.
  10. Pregnant women who are suffering from Eclampsia: convulsions  occurring in a pregnant woman associated with hypertension, proteinuria or edema. Note: Healthy pregnant women can get a massage (see Pregnancy Massage Procedure for more information)
  11. Massage therapy is not recommended for patients with severe Hemophilia. Haemophilia is a hereditary hemorrhagic disease that causes varying degrees of spontaneous bleeding. Internal bleeding (in joints and muscles) can be caused by even a minor trauma to muscles and joints in people with severe and moderate hemophilia.
  12. Massage therapy for Advanced Kidney Failure is contraindicated. Patients who have advanced kidney failure must not be massaged.
  13. It is absolutely not recommended to massage patients with Respiratory Failure.
  14. It is absolutely not recommended to massage patients with Liver Failure.
  15. It is absolutely not recommended to massage a person who is suffering from Appendicitis.
  16. Patients with highly Metastatic Cancers eg. lymphoma, malignant melanoma should not be massaged.
  17. Patients who have Diabetes Mellitus 1 or 2 with advanced heart or kidney disease or advanced vascular complications, cannot be massaged.
  18. Massage is contraindicated for sudden onset of severe undiagnosed headache – when there is no previous history of similar severe headaches,and dizziness or numbness or sleepiness, the person must be referred to a doctor before being given a massage.
  19. It is absolutely not recommended to massage patients with Advanced Organ Failure.
  20. Patients with Pitting Edema cannot be massaged. Pitting Edema is edema/swelling where when pressure is applied to the skin of the swollen area, and then released — an indentation is left behind.
  21. Massage is contraindicated for chronic active hepatitis (persistent and progressive inflammation of the liver).
  22. Massage is not allowed for patients with (infective and non-infective) endocarditis/pericarditis. Endocarditis is the inflammation of the heart’s inner lining. Pericarditis is the inflammation of the pericardium – the fibrous sac surrounding the heart.
  23. Patients with lung abscess or lung tumour should not be given a massage treatment.
  24. Patients with sepsis (blood infection) or Bacteremia (blood stream infections), cannot be given a massage therapy treatment.
  25. To protect the massage therapist and other massage patients, massage is contraindicated and should be rescheduled if a patient has a contagious, airborne, infectious disease such as flu, colds, sore throat due to strep throat, shingles, etc.
  26. Patients with Infectious Skin Conditions must not be given a massage. Examples of Infectious Skin Conditions where massage anywhere in the body is not allowed/contraindicated are:
    • Infectious Skin Conditions where Massage Is Absolutely NOT Recommended are:

      • Cellulitis – a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection. Cellulitis appears as a swollen, red area of skin that feels hot and tender. It can spread rapidly to other parts of the body.
      • Generalized Exfoliative Dermatitis – redness and peeling of the skin over large areas of the body. The term “exfoliative” refers to the exfoliation, or shedding, of the skin. Dermatitis means irritation or inflammation of the skin
      • Acute Psoriatic arthritis –  a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales.
      • Impetigo – a highly contagious bacterial skin infection causing blisters and sores. Impetigo mainly affects children, often on the face, especially around the nose and mouth, and sometimes on the arms or legs.
      • Staphylococcal Infections;
      • Scalded skin syndrome – is an illness characterised by red blistering skin that looks like a burn or scald. SSSS is caused by the release of two exotoxins (epidermolytic toxins A and B) from toxigenic strains of the bacteria Staphylococcus aureu.
      • Toxic Shock Syndrome – (TSS) is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by bacteria (Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus, or staph) getting into the body and releasing harmful toxins. It’s often associated with tampon use in young women, but it can affect anyone of any age – including men and children.
      • Folliculitis – an infection in the hair follicles – usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. A person can have folliculitis on any part of their body that has hair. But it is most common on the face and scalp and areas rubbed by clothing,such as the thighs and groin.
      • Carbuncles –  a red, swollen, and painful cluster of boils that are connected to each other under the skin.
      • Erysipelas – a bacterial skin infection involving the upper dermis that characteristically extends into the superficial cutaneous lymphatics. It is a tender, intensely erythematous (red/inflamed), indurated plaque with a sharply demarcated border.
      • Scarlet fever – also known as scarlatina, is an infection that can develop in people who have strep throat. It’s characterized by a bright red rash on the body, usually accompanied by a high fever and sore throat. The same bacteria that causes strep throat also causes scarlet fever
      • Necrotizing Fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) – Necrotizing fasciitis is a type of soft tissue infectionthat results in the death of the body’s soft tissue. It is a severe disease of sudden onset that spreads rapidly. Symptoms include red or purple skin in the affected area, severe pain, fever, and vomiting. Necrotizing fasciitis is most commonly caused by an infection with group A Streptococcus, commonly known as “flesh-eating bacteria.”

For a List of Medical Conditions where you can get a therapeutic massage but would need treatment modifications, see  LOCAL, RELATIVE Massage Precautions and Contraindications