Massage Dangers

Note: Some of the things in this node may seem strange and may not even apply to you if you are not into giving long serious massage. I assure you though, that if you getting into massage these things laid out here are real dangers.

The greatest danger in giving a massage is that while massage feels great it has much more powerful and systemic effects than most people take into account. The first few things you want to ask your subject is how they got the pain? Have they had any kind of trauma recently? Are they are on any kind of drugs, over the counter or otherwise? Do they have any serious medical problems? Even if they don’t think they have anything to do with massage it is important to find out.


If they are on anything sensation altering, like pain killers or muscle relaxants, then make sure you don’t go to deep as you could damage already injured tissue and make things worse with out them even knowing it. An excellent and very common example of this is: Them: “Oh my low back is killing me, you give such good massages would you give my back a rub” Your proper response: ”Ok, well are you taking anything for it” Them: “Ya, I’m on Tylenol and (Name of over the counter muscle relaxant)” Your Proper Response: ”Well I can do some really light stuff, but I can’t do a deep massage like you enjoy because I could hurt you more because you can’t feel properly and make things worse.” - -> Whining ensues. Keep in mind that to the person may have gone from, I can barely move (and they wouldn’t let you touch their back with a ten foot pole) too a deep ache that probably feels like a deep massage would do wonders. The underlying problem hasn’t gone away though and massaging it deeply in a way that is going to loosen up the muscles that are guarding the problem will just make things worse, possibly much worse. In fact as an amateur, if I were you, I would stay away from working on anyone that is taking anything, especially if it is a prescription or you don’t know of its exact effects of the drugs. Serious Medical Conditions The same goes for any kind of serious medical condition, especially if they are seeing a doctor for it. This is because a good full body massage can increase blood flow in the body up to three times by mechanically increasing return blood flow to the heart. Which then taxes every other system in the body. This is great if you are trying to say help the stiffness and soreness from a hard work out the day before. Through assisting the removal of lactic acid from the muscles. But it can be extraordinarily dangerous if your subject (or you receiving a massage for that matter) have any sort of serious medical condition such as heart problems, like angina, high blood pressure, or chronic congestive heart failure. Other systems that are already over taxed will be further stressed by the kind of deep muscle massage that most people like to get. So if a person has existing problems with there kidneys, pancreas, liver etc. like diabetes, hepatitis etc. It is best to explain the reasons why you can’t work on the person then not do it as it is better to be safe than sorry. Deep Neck Massage on Both Sides of the Spine Another thing I see a lot of, which has the potential to actually kill/cause serious brain damage to a healthy person is deep massage right under the base of the skull on both sides of the cervical spine (neck bones). The two main arteries that feed the brain run through here. So that person you think you just put to sleep by giving a really good deep massage too may in fact be blacked out and sustaining brain damage. No I am not exaggerating. As my sensei is fond of saying “the brain likes its blood”, in fact in Ju-jitsu we would call this a blood choke. This is especially the case if you have you have a good one handed grip, and aren't completely leaving off the pressure when you kneed. Or if the person is lying on there back and you are supporting their head below the base of the skull, deep in the top muscles and are working other areas with your opposite hand. Incidentally if you do have a person on their back and are doing a deep neck massage this is a good thing but just hold the back of the skull with one hand and work one side with your other hand. A towel can be useful at this point to keep greasy hands out of your friend’s hair too. But I digress.

Pregnant Women Not all dangers are this obvious though take for example working on the lower extremity of a pregnant person. One of the most common presenting complaints for these women looking for massage is sore feet and calves (You carry around with an extra 60-70 pounds for a couple of months and see what it does to you). Unfortunately pain deep in the calf is also the presenting complaint for a condition called deep vein thrombo phlebitis. With this issue It feels like a good deep massage is exactly what it needs. The danger here is that you can dislodge a thrombus (see: chunk of something in the blood stream). That can kill the woman or give her severe brain damage. Probably not a good call no matter how much she has been driving you nuts, sending you to the grocery store for weird food and playing guess that mood swing. We were taught a test called Homans sign to find out for sure whether it is safe to work on the subject. This was done by inflating a Blood Pressure cuff till it cuts off the circulation just below the knee and dorsiflexing (see pushing up on the balls of the feet so that it moves the toes towards the knee. If this produces pain deep in the calf Do not massage the persons feet/calf. Though I don’t recommend doing this test if you are an amateur. Your best bet is to get her to see a doctor and have him test for it. Now at this point if she has been to the doctor, make sure he tested for it (not just looked at her and said “ya, sure, your fine get a massage”) as while I was practicing I actually had patience show up with doctors note prescribing massage for this problem. Now I am not saying Doctors are retarded, but some are and many don’t understand massage and its effects and dangers, or don’t take them seriously. If your still not sure you’re better off facing the wrath of your subject than killing the love of your life and your unborn child. Remember deep pain in the calf of a pregnant woman. That really feels like massage would feel good is bad, bad, bad. Check with your doctor and make sure he administers a Homans sign test. Having your wife and unborn child die in your arms, because of your actions could fuck you up really, really badly for a very, very long time not to mention it would be bad for them.