Should You Still Get a Massage When Sick?

massage when sick

As I lay here in bed this morning after having to cancel my appointments today due to being sick, I figured I might as well do something ‘work related’.  I know it is never a good idea for myself to work when I am sick.  I am sure most of my clients would appreciate that I am not hacking up phlegm all over them.  What about to receive a massage when sick though?  

Some might think that it could be a good idea.  Massage does boost the immune system and relieve your tension.  However, when your body is already fighting off a virus due to a cold or flu, a massage can actually make things worse.

Massage increases circulation throughout the body.  I talked about this in my previous post about why drinking water after massage helps with recovery.  With this increased circulation and manipulation of the muscles, it releases and/or pushes metabolic waste through your system faster than normal.  Have you ever gotten a massage and noticed about halfway through you might be getting a little congested?  That is something I notice is quite common with my clients.  That is a sign your body is ridding itself of waste, it gets a little backed up in the sinuses.  When you are already dealing with symptoms in the early stages of the sickness, the massage can increase your symptoms and make you feel worse.  Your body is already having to fight off the virus, you don’t want to be adding to it.  Best idea is to stay home and rest.  If you are too sick to go to work, probably too sick to get a massage.

There are some benefits of having massage when sick if you can deal with it (and if your therapist does not send you home, which most will).  It is not very comfortable lying with your head in the face cradle, trying to keep your snot from running out your nose.  Make sure you are past the initial, acute stage of the sickness. Never come in for a massage if you are contagious.  That is just being considerate of your therapist and the other clients.  A massage can actually speed up your recovery time.  That is, if you don’t mind experiencing the full-blown symptoms of the sickness over 3-4 days by having the massage push everything through your body, as opposed to letting it happen naturally at a slower rate over 1-2 weeks. If you have been coughing a lot, odds are your chest, upper back and neck muscles are very tight. Massage will help relax these areas, and even some more aggressive techniques, such as tapotement, can help break up any trapped phlegm/mucous in your respiratory system.  It can also relieve any headaches or sinus pressure you may still be having.

My advice if you are wondering if you should get a massage while you are sick would be to just stay home. Your therapist won’t mind rescheduling your appointment, and they should send you home if you show up with a sickness (they shouldn’t charge you a late cancellation fee under these circumstances in my opinion, I never do). We are in a small room working closely with you, with little ventilation, and germs can spread through the air easily in those conditions. If we do not get sick, one of our other clients is more prone to catch it. Best for everybody if you come back when you are feeling better. 

8 thoughts on “Should You Still Get a Massage When Sick?

  1. Holistic Massage says:

    This is a great article, and one which I may print out and display in my waiting room. Often when people are sick they tend to stay in bed away from people, which is fine, and for the most part, is the best idea. However, if you get sick at a bad time and need the cold to be gone in less than a week because you have a big meeting or event etc, then massage can help. You may have to endure a severe cold for a few days, but the massage will help the sickness to be pushed out of the body quicker.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m not so sure about this being a great article. I am home for the second day with a BAD chest cold from a client coming to me sick. I do not get sick pay. I don’t think it’s a good idea to still get a massage when you’re sick. How is this fair to the massage therapist? I’ve now lost two days of pay because I was too ill yesterday to perform 90 min massages without having to cough explosively and sneeze! Today I called clients and gave them an option. Two of them rescheduled because one is going on vacation and did not want to get sick. The other one just found out she was pregnant and decided to reschedule. PLEASE cancel your massage if you are sick or atleast call your therapist and see if they don’t mind!

    • Casey Holliman, LMT says:

      Lisa, I agree with you that people should not get a massage if they are contagious and risk getting the therapist sick. I turn away people who are in this phase. After the acute, contagious phase you are usually left with lingering issues of a cough, congestion, fatigue that may last for a couple weeks. This is the time period I was referring to, which is stated in the article.

  3. Heather says:

    I am a massage therapist. I have been getting sick constantly because sick people come into get a massage. My children are catching what I bring home. I kills me to watch them suffering. I am forced by my boss to work on these people even though I know it’s a bad idea. Here I am with a swollen red throut, having to go into work because I do not have sick leave and can not afford to miss anymore. A person recently called into work sick, them came in for a massage. If your sick stay home, do not make us therapist have to take care of it. Have your spouse, mother , or your family help you.

  4. Melissa says:

    Well I would have to agree with everyone else. If you are sick DON’T touch your clients! DON’T massage your clients when they are sick also. As a former nurse I can say this because germs linger around a person who’s still sick, even if they are only coughing! And yes it still can be contagious to others! Absolutely DON’T massage clients when they still have a touch of anything! No one pays massage therapists if they are at home sick. It’s not worth massaging any sick client! Period! Thanks for posting!

  5. Melissa says:

    IF YOUR SICK STAY HOME! PERIOD! A massage therapist who is licensed WON’T work on you! We can’t afford to get sick and take time off with NO pay! A massage will make you sicker! As a former nurse and licensed massage therapist for over 12 years I know what I’m talking about! Please be honest and just reschedule a massage after you feel better.. could take a week or two Thank you! 😁

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