Sports and Remedial Massage are suitable and beneficial for many people, but there are circumstances when even these generally safe and effective forms of treatment should not be given.
I am only allowed to commence any treatment once I am satisfied that it is appropriate to proceed, and that it should be beneficial to you. This is the reason why all treatments start with an initial verbal consultation.
There are a number of differing circumstances which I need to consider before deciding to go ahead with treatment. Factors which would rule out treatment are known as contraindications. Here are the questions I have to consider:
- Is there a fresh, significant soft tissue injury?
Sports and Remedial Massage is hugely beneficial in you recover from all sorts of injuries. But if you have just torn a muscle, any manipulation of that muscle at the point of the injury will only risk further tearing the fibres apart – and will also cause you significant amounts of pain! For this reason I will never treat what we call “acute” injuries, but will wait until sufficient healing has taken place.
However this is not to say that I would simply turn you away in these circumstances. There are two things that can still be done. Firstly, such acute injuries respond very well to kinesiology taping which supports the injured area during the acute stage and promotes more rapid healing. Secondly, any muscle which has suffered an acute injury will be at best limited in its function and at worse unable to function at all. This has a knock on effect on other muscles in the body as our bodies compensate to try and work around the injury. Think of a torn calf muscle – this will put more burden on the other muscles in that calf, and also on other muscles not only in this leg but also the other leg too, and the hips, back and even further up the body. All those other muscles will be crying out for some tlc and there is no reason not to treat other, non-acutely injured areas of the body.
- Is there an injury or inflammation to a tendon or ligament?
Tendons are the strings that join our muscles to the skeleton. Ligaments are the strings that hold our joints together. Both are made of tough fibres but they can be torn – think of what happens when you “go over” on your ankle. And because they are enclosed within sheaths, if they get inflamed, that then causes them to rub against the sheath which can cause further inflammation.
Now, it is something of a design flaw in our bodies, but neither tendons nor ligaments have a decent blood supply, and therefore they will take a long time to heal, if at all. One of the benefits of massage is that it promotes the flow of blood to soft tissues which can encourage healing, but with tendons and ligaments, there is a danger that prolonged massage will simply inflame the tendon/ligament, without bringing significant benefits of increased blood flow you get in muscles.
In these circumstances I would assess the injury, and would consider limited massage (to avoid inflammation) and the application of kinesiology taping. I would also consider using my Novasonic which can also promote healing in areas like tendons and ligaments.
- Is there a medical condition where massage could do more harm than good?
Massage is generally very safe but it is not suitable for everyone and there are a number of medical conditions where at best massage should only proceed having first sought the approval of the doctor or other medical practitioner who is caring for you.
Let’s look at some examples. Someone with untreated high blood pressure or someone with a long history of diabetes will have weaker blood vessels, and massage could cause these blood vessels to rupture. Massaging someone with cancer could carry a risk of spreading the cancer further through the body (though there are developing guidelines for massage for cancer; speak to a provider like St Mary’s Hospice as often doctors will now approve massage because the benefits can be seen to outweigh the risks). And someone with thrombosis should avoid massage because of the risk of the clots moving to the heart or lungs and causing a medical emergency.
- What about more minor illnesses?
If you have for example a skin condition, it may well be advisable to avoid that area, either to prevent the spread of infection, or to limit discomfort to you. If you have varicose veins, I will avoid the vein, but actually treating the surrounding area will help, because this will promote blood flow there and take pressure off the varicose vein.
If you’ve got a short term infectious illness such as a heavy cold, flu, vomiting, diarrhea etc. then treatment should be delayed until you have recovered. You will not want to be treated, and everyone else will be grateful you have not spread the germs around!
- What about medication?
Given that most prescription and over-the-counter drugs aim to restore the body to a more normal state, they are likely to actually reduce the risks of massage (someone who has been treated for high blood pressure should have more normal BP and therefore the risks are lower, for example). A few medications can cause issues. For example, some anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication can reduce your perception of pain. Sometimes Sports Massage or Remedial Massage can hurt, even if this is felt as “good pain”, but I rely to a certain extent on feedback from you during the treatment, and a high dose of medication might give me a misleading impression about the impact of the pressure I am using. I can adjust my techniques for anyone on this type of medication, but this another reason I might ask for the blessing of a medical practitioner before proceeding with treatment.
- What about allergies?
The oils I use are hypoallergenic, but I always ask about allergies before a treatment, just in case you have an unusual intolerance of any of the ingredients. If needed, I can use an unscented base oil or even a treatment without any oil at all.
- Would another form of treatment be more suitable?
I work alongside a number of therapists at Queen Street Consulting Rooms, and might discuss referring you to one of them should I feel their skills would be better suited to your needs. I might also suggest you speak to your GP or another NHS practitioner if appropriate.
If having read this post you feel any of the above applies, please consider whether you need to speak to your GP before booking an appointment.