When NOT to Get a Massage

Colds, Flu, and Massage at SeaRhythms Massage & Bodywork in Charlottesville, VA

It’s cold and flu season and I’m getting a lot of questions about whether or not it’s a good idea to get a massage before, during, or after an illness.  Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when deciding whether you are well enough for a massage.  This applies to anytime of year, not just Winter!

Don’t spread germs

First and foremost do not, I repeat, DO NOT, share your germs.  If your nose is running other than clear, you are coughing up gunk, you have a fever or feel achy, or have any other sure signs of illness, please wait until these symptoms clear up.   If you arrive for an appointment and I can see that you are obviously ill, I will ask you to reschedule. Under no circumstances should you take cold medicine or pain relievers that suppress the symptoms and come in for a massage anyway.

I work with many different people each day in very close physical contact and although I am a stickler about washing my hands before and after each client and cleaning and disinfecting my equipment, if you are sick it is inevitable that some of your germs will be left behind for me to catch or the next client to pick up.  That’s not fair to anybody.

Don’t make your symptoms worse

Because massage enhances circulation and immune system activity, and stimulates all your body’s fluid moving and waste removal mechanisms, a massage can make that mild bug you have more active and trigger a big response from your immune system.  I’ve seen mild cold symptoms get much, much worse in a few clients right after a massage.

You also do not want to lay face down on a massage table for 30 minutes or more with a sore, stuffy nose!  This is very uncomfortable and can make breathing feel like a chore. This is anything but relaxing, and cancels out much of the feel-good benefits of massage.

Getting a massage after recovery

With all that said, when you are pretty much feeling back to normal and are no longer contagious, a massage can be good to help your body flush out any remaining vestiges of the illness.

If you feel you are at this stage, make sure you are well hydrated prior to your appointment (ie, drink plenty of water) and be aware that you may see a temporary increase in fluids (clear runny nose, stuffiness, maybe some coughing) as your body’s circulation and fluids are stimulated during the massage.  As long as it is a normal so-called “detox” response (which is very common during a massage) and not an active illness, this is okay.  I have tissues and eucalyptus aromatherapy to help!

Get regular massage as part of your normal health routine

Although I can’t promise you will never get a cold or flu if you get regular massage, I CAN say that doing so is likely to keep your immune system generally healthier overall and may help prevent some of those illnesses.

So, here’s to your health this year!  May you get many massages and experience much health, peace, and happiness.