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Contraindications to Massage


Here is a list of common contraindications to massage.  A contraindication means that in some cases massage should be avoided or adapted dependant on the condition. Next to each condition there is a very short description and action I would take regarding treating you or not. Scroll or use the Find On Page feature on your device to search for a specific category.


Contagious skin disorders 

Impetigo - usually found around face and mouth, client won't be treated if suspected and would suggest visit to GP if not seen already.

Chickenpox - more common in children. Client won't be treated if suspected and would suggest visit to GP if not seen already.

Shingles - red rash that produces leaking blisters.  Client won't be treated if suspected and would suggest visit to GP if not seen already.

Cellulitis - redness, swelling, possible warmth to affected area. Client won't be treated if suspected and would suggest visit to GP if not seen already, urgent care or A & E.

Molluscum contagiosum - multiple, pearly white, shiny pimples. Harmless and most common in children, but I would refer client to their GP if suspected.


Viral skin disorders

Cold Sore - cluster of tiny painful blisters by the lips localised skin disorder, It is OK to treat the rest of the body as required, the face will be avoided to prevent any discomfort.

Warts or verrucas - usually skin coloured, may be a little darker, firm, round growths on the skin localised skin disorder, OK to treat the rest of the body as required.

Fungal Ringworm - itchy ring shaped patches Clients with ringworm won’t be treated as this can be passed on without physical contact. Any client with suspect ringworm should contact their GP and refrain from massage until it is cleared.

Athletes foot - cracked, sore, itchy skin between the toes Localised skin disorder, OK to treat the rest of the body as required.

Hives - red or white raised spots or patches (wheals), can sting or burn Massage not advisable as it could cause discomfort.

Circulatory conditions

Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure) - It is fine to massage someone with low blood pressure, although greater care must be taken after massage as the chances of feeling dizzy after the massage are higher.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) - It is safe to massage if the client's blood pressure is under control and permission by a GP is given. Deep tissue massage isn’t recommended on a client with high blood pressure.

Thrombosis (Blood clot located in the body) - these can move location. I wouldn't massage anyone with a DVT, as massage could move these or they may have moved without the client's knowledge.

Severe varicose veins - Bulging veins usually at the back of the legs, often caused by standing for long periods of time.  This is a localised contraindication.  Massage can't take place directly over the veins or the surrounding area, but massage can be adapted.


Nervous system

Parkinson’s Disease - progressive brain disorder which causes shaking and tremors. Modified massage for clients with Parkinson's, using varied techniques, not spending too long using one type of stroke.

Epilepsy - disorder of brain function caused by abnormal electricity activity in the brain. It is generally OK to massage if client has seizures under control with medication, GP consent is required. If you are subject to frequent seizures, a chaperone might be wise.

Stroke - occurs when blood supply to brain tissue is affected. Usually by a clot or burst blood vessel. It is best to wait at least 6 months after a stroke to receive massage treatment. It is wise to gain GP advice prior to massage.

Migraine - an intense headache, often accompanied with nausea. Sports massage can help reduce symptoms of migraine, however I would not massage while a flare is happening.

Meningitis - inflammation of the membrane (meninges) which cover the brain and spinal cord. I would not massage a client with meningitis.

Psychosis - the client’s sense of reality could be affected. Although physically a client with psychosis should be OK to massage it would be wise to have a chaperone, so they have someone familiar to explain what's happening.

Pain on medication - you should speak to your GP if you are on medication and in pain prior to booking a massage and gain GP consent. It is not advised to receive treatment while on pain medication as it can alter pain perception and lead to further injury.


Pregnancy - I would not massage due to not currently being trained in this area.

Asthma - a condition which affects the lungs airways. The small airways are inflamed and triggers can set off an asthma attack.  Clients should mention in consultation what triggers an asthma attack.

Cancer - abnormal body cells that grow uncontrollably in a specific part of the body, but then spread through the blood or lymphatic system to other parts of the body. I will not massage cancer patients. Any client who has cancer and wishes to be massaged should seek approval from their doctor or nurse and seek a therapist that is trained to massage clients with cancer. Cancer Research UK website has information regarding massage while suffering with cancer.

Diabetes - disorder which effects blood sugar levels (either low or high). Massage is OK if under control and GP permission is obtained. Massage can not be performed on site of insulin injections.

Haemophilia - this is a condition where by the blood doesn't clot. This is a total contra-indication.  I won't massage someone with haemophilia.

Medical oedema - this is when fluid collects in the tissue as it isn't draining properly I would suggest the client obtains the advice of a GP before massaging them.

Osteoporosis - When bones become brittle, usually affects older people. I won't massage someone with osteoporosis unless your GP has advised it is safe to do so.

Alcohol intake - drunk or High clients will not be treated.

Diarrhoea, vomiting Illness of the stomach - massage is suitable 48 hours after the last bouts of sickness or diarrhoea.

Fever Temperature over 37.5C  - a client with a fever won’t be treated until the fever has passed.

Recent operations - depending on the magnitude of the operation, it may be possible to modify massage. If the operation has been on the leg or arm it would be possible to massage the rest of the body.

Recent injury - massage will not be performed on areas of acute/ recent injury (within 5 days), however areas around the injury can be seen to. 

Swelling - area of the body which has become enlarged, possibly warm and/ or bruised. I won't massage over areas of acute/ new swelling as this could be painful and is in its primary stages of healing. I would massage chronic/ long term swelling as long as it is not bruised or warm, massage would involve more gentle work and mobilisation.

Undiagnosed lumps - cysts or lump under the skin which may be visible.  Any client with undiagnosed lumps to speak to their GP for permission first.

Hernia - When part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm (hiatus hernia) or part the abdominal organs protrude through the abdominal wall (abdominal hernia) Both these conditions are localised contraindications. Massage will be modified to avoid the stomach.

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