Contra-indications & Precautions for Self-Massage

What are the Contraindications to Massage Treatment?

Gentle self-massage treatments are non-invasive, relaxing and natural. It is therefore generally considered a safe treatment for most people. Here is a list of contraindications and precautions to protect your health and well-being. If you are unsure about anything then you must contact your medical professional for advice first.

A contraindication is a situation when massage should not be performed. Continuing with treatment may be more detrimental than beneficial and in some cases may cause serious medical problems. Below we list a number of massage contraindications but do not claim it to be an exhaustive list. Always get professional advice.

Total Contraindications

When massage should not be performed at all and it is time to see the doctor.

When you have any of these conditions, please do not self- massage:

  • Fever
  • Contagious diseases, including any cold or flu, no matter how mild it may seem
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol-including prescription pain medication
  • Recent operations or acute injuries
  • Neuritis
  • Skin diseases
  • Acute inflammation
  • Recent fractures
  • Unexplained fatigue and/or weight loss
  • Unexplained swellings or lumps
  • Severe facial or dental pain

Local Contraindications

You can massage but not over any areas affected by:

  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed lumps or bumps
  • Pregnancy (unless qualified to do so)
  • Bruising
  • Cuts
  • Abrasions
  • Sunburn
  • Undiagnosed pain
  • Inflammation, including arthritis

Medical Contraindications

If you suffer from any of the following conditions, self-massage can only take place once it has been approved by your health care professional.

  • Cardio-vascular conditions (thrombosis, phlebitis, hypertension, heart conditions)
  • Any condition already being treated by a medical practitioner
  • Oedema
  • Psoriasis or eczema
  • High blood pressure
  • Unexplained fatigue and/or weight loss
  • Unexplained swelling or lumps
  • Severe facial or dental pain
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer
  • Nervous or psychotic conditions
  • Heart problems, angina, those with pacemakers
  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Bell’s palsy, trapped or pinched nerves
  • Gynaecological infections, menstruation massage could cause a heavier flow

Does a contraindication mean that treatment cannot take place?

Not always. In fact, massage can be very therapeutic for many medical conditions. However, in the above cases it is best to have advice from your health care professional (e.g. GP. Physio, Nurse, Consultant, Advanced Practitioner and other highly qualified practitioners).

Open Wounds

Any cuts, lacerations or grazes. Obvious really, but it has to be said. You should wait until the scar has properly formed. This is usually between one and two weeks.

Muscle Ruptures

In the acute stage these may still be bleeding. Massage will increase bleeding and tissue damage and prolong recovery. After the initial 48 to 72 hours massage may be possible but it will depend on the extent of the injury.

Tendon Ruptures

The above also applies to tendon injuries. Complete ruptures will need surgery, not massage.

Muscle and tendon partial tears

Massage may be suitable after a minimum period of 48 hours, longer for more serious injuries.

Infections of the skin and soft tissue

Bacterial infections, viral infections and fungal infections can be spread to other areas of the body. Pain may also result from the infection, not an injury so massage will not help.