Most people are great candidates for the relaxation and health
benefits of massage therapy. However, there are times when a
massage may not be the right choice.
"Certain conditions contraindicate massage, either because of
the risk it may pose to the client or to the therapist," says
Patricia Coe, DC, ND, clinic supervisor for National University
of Health Sciences' massage therapy
At NUHS, massage students learn how to communicate with clients
about their health conditions and assess whether a massage is the
right choice for them that day, which techniques are advisable, and
when a note or consultation with a client's physician is in
For example, if a client has a cold, flu, or other contagious
viral or bacterial infection, the therapist may decline to work
with them so that they don't catch a cold and risk passing the
infection to other clients.
"When a client has a cold or flu, a massage might seem
comforting," says Dr. Coe. "However, when someone has an infection,
their body is already working hard to fight it and recover. A
massage can be very stimulating internally and place certain
demands on the body during a time when your client should be simply
Another occasion when a massage should be postponed is if the
client is intoxicated. Many folks seek out massage while on
vacation or under stress. They may have also had a few cocktails to
relax as well. "Intoxication is a risk during massage," says
Dr. Coe, "primarily because it desensitizes the client. This makes
it hard for them to give the therapist reliable feedback. A massage
therapist needs to know what level of pressure is comfortable and
what is too much. If you're client is intoxicated, those sensations
""An acute injury is also likely to be a contraindication to
massage," says Dr. Coe. "Although it may seem like a great idea to
get a massage immediately after straining a muscle, if there is
damage to the area, massage may actually interfere with the healing
"A good therapist will guide the discussion on health issues so
that they can determine the right technique for a client and
whether or not a massage is contraindicated," says Dr. Coe. "In our
program we give students the tools to do this."
"The healing benefits of massage therapy are many, and it is
fairly rare to encounter situations where massage is
contraindicated for very long," according to Dr. Coe.
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