Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Are There Times When I Shouldn't Have a Massage?

It's not a good idea to schedule a massage appointment if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Have a fever
  • Were recently involved in an accident
  • Are dizzy or nauseated
  • Are bruised or have wounds, rashes, or severe sunburn.

In these cases, it's important to stabilize your medical condition first. After you have recovered, or the condition is under the management of a medical provider who agrees that massage would be helpful, you can call to schedule an appointment. 

In general, medical concerns or conditions might mean the therapist needs to adapt the massage technique or length of session.

What should I do if I have a specific condition?

If you have a temporary or chronic health condition, it is important to select a therapist who demonstrates sensitivity to and an understanding of your conditions or symptoms. Many therapists have advanced massage training on how to provide an effective treatment protocol that will complement other treatments/efforts you are following to reduce or eliminate symptoms. (If you don't already have a massage therapist, see the section: How Can I Find the Right Massage Therapist?.)

Before you make an appointment, review the list of medical conditions below and inform your therapist if any of these conditions apply to you. Also be sure to let your therapist know who diagnosed your symptoms/conditions (your physician or primary care provider, a complementary therapy provider, or you, yourself).

It is important to let the therapist know if the conditions/symptoms are ongoing but managed effectively, or new and not managed effectively. To help you identify which is which, read the descriptions below.

Conditions/symptoms are ongoing, but managed effectively if they are:

  • Familiar, you understand what makes condition/symptoms better or worse
  • Under control with medications
  • Managed effectively with supportive activities, such as exercise 
  • Successfully stabilized and tested over time or with specific activities

Conditions/symptoms are new and not managed if:

  • You are just beginning to balance medication dosage and daily activities
  • You are just beginning to observe the control or lessening of symptoms
  • Your symptoms seem to be better, but have not been tested by additional daily activities

Tell the therapist if you have these conditions

Tell your therapist if you have (or in some cases have had) any condition from one of these categories:

  • Contagious skin conditions (boils, warts, or herpes)
  • Other skin conditions (burns, rashes, or sores)
  • Circulatory system issues (high blood pressure, varicose veins, or stroke)
  • Digestive system issues (ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, or colitis)
  • Edema
  • Endocrine system issues (diabetes or thyroid dysfunction)
  • Musculoskeletal system conditions (carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Lymph/immune system issues (chronic fatigue or HIV/AIDS)
  • Nervous system conditions (herpes or Parkinson's disease)
  • Respiratory system issues (asthma)
  • Miscellaneous conditions (pregnancy, migraines, cancer)

Click for a more complete list.

What are some other cautions?

There are additional conditions where massage therapy could cause adverse effects. Once again, if you have any condition (chronic or acute), or are taking any medications, you should consult with your primary healthcare provider before seeing a massage therapist. In some cases, massage may be appropriate with some changes to the techniques or session.

For example, if you have an open wound or burn, the massage therapist would avoid that area. Or if you have any pins, staples, or artificial joints, the massage therapist may need to alter the techniques as well. Individual decisions must be made according to circumstances and, in many instances, medical advice.

Also, if you are allergic to certain massage oils, creams, cleansers, or disinfectants used on sheets and or tables, you may need to ask the therapist to use different products, or bring your own.

Expert Contributor: 
Beth Burgan, MA, MFA
Reviewed by: 
Dale Healey, DC

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