On the surface, massage therapy seems like it would be safe for everyone–no matter what. After all, it’s not a drug or a vaccine where there’s actually something entering the body, but merely just touch. However, this is actually false, and there are quite a few situations where massage therapy is not advised or should not be given at all.
These situations are called contraindications and relate back to the idea that in order to have massage therapy, there must be an “indication” or reason. “Contra” simply refers to an opposing idea, or “being opposed to indication”. An example of one contraindication for massage therapy is rheumatoid arthritis. Through studies and patient experience, many have found that instead of helping, massage therapy can actually worsen the pain, and therefore, it is not an advised form of treatment.
Cancer is another example. The deep or intense pressure of massage could press down on a tumor which could possibly cause a spread of these cancerous cells, or for patients receiving radiation therapy, it can bruise and break the skin down. Generally, the idea is that cancer patients should always speak with their oncologist before going for massage therapy.
With low blood pressure, the concern for many massage therapists is that massage has proven to lower blood pressure, and an individual already suffering from hypotension could begin to feel dizzy or even pass out. Therefore, hypotension is considered a contraindication and should be taken up with a patient’s doctor beforehand.
Despite the attitude that massage therapy can’t be harmful, there is scientific evidence that demonstrates the exceptions to this belief. Since the rhythmic pressure of massage can alter the flow of blood in the body, consideration must be put on people with blood-related conditions, or cancer patients with malignant cells in their bodies. Overall, while massage therapy is not a bad thing, many patients must speak with their doctor before seeking treatment.