Sports Massage Therapy

Should You Get a Massage if You Have a Cold?

Breeze Academy March 14, 2023
Mug, tissues & glasses

When you’re ill and not quite feeling your best, the idea of a relaxing massage might sound incredibly appealing, particularly if you’re experiencing aches and pains. But, is this wise? In this article we discuss whether or not you should have a massage when you have a cold, what it can do to your body, and when you’re safe to make an appointment. 

So, can you have a massage if you have a cold? No, you should not have a massage if you have a cold or flu. Not only will a massage not make you feel better, but it can also make you feel worse. Additionally, if you’re still contagious, you risk passing the cold on to your Massage Therapist. 

Read on to learn more about why you should not have a massage when you have an illness such as cold or flu.

Can You Get a Massage When You Have a Cold? 

You should not have a massage when you have a cold or during any other sickness. There are two reasons for this; firstly, it’s disrespectful to the Massage Therapist who may catch your illness. Secondly, massage will not benefit you or make you feel better while you are ill. 

As tempting as it may be to seek comfort during illness, it is best to completely avoid personal appointments (except medical appointments). Massage has the potential to slow down normal healing; your body is already working overtime to heal and is under stress. The heat and pressure that your body experiences during a massage can negatively impact your body’s ability to combat infection.

What’s more, massage can be painful when you’re ill as your body is often more sensitive to the touch during this time. It’s likely that you wouldn’t receive the relaxing benefits of massage that you sought out.

Additionally, if you have a cold, laying face down for an extended period of time may exacerbate any congestion you're experiencing. So, not only does a massage not make you feel better, it may actually make you feel worse. 

Can a Massage Bring on a Cold?

Massage is unlikely to cause an actual cold or flu unless the Massage Therapist is contagious. However, deep tissue massage is known to cause Post Massage Soreness & Malaise (PMSM). This commonly presents with flu-like symptoms including:

  • Pain
  • Soreness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Learn more about PMSM in our blog, Can Deep Tissue Massage Cause Flu-Like Symptoms? where we go into more detail about why it happens, what it feels like, and other side effects of deep tissue massage. 

All that being said, if you think you’re coming down with a cold, massage may bring it on faster as it can spread the pathogens throughout your lymph nodes. Generally speaking, massage is good for lymphatic flow and drainage but when you have a cold, your immune system is already working hard to fight off the illness and massage can make it harder to do so. 

When to Book a Massage After a Cold

If you’re on your way to recovery you might think it a good idea to book a massage to help you feel better. But, it would be best to hold off until you have completely recovered. Before you book, consider:

  • Do you feel better?
  • Has five or more days passed since the start of the cold?
  • Do you have any symptoms?

If you feel better after five or more days since the start of your cold and are no longer presenting with symptoms, it should be safe to book a massage. Bear in mind, however, that some common symptoms of a cold, such as fatigue, phlegm and coughing, can last for weeks after you start to feel better. In such cases, wait until these symptoms have passed to book an appointment. 

Other Massage Contraindications

The advice in this article, while specific to colds, can also be applied to sickness in general. There are a number of other contraindications to massage, including:

  • Open wounds
  • Muscle ruptures and tears
  • Tendon ruptures
  • Contusions
  • Burns
  • Broken bones
  • Periostitis
  • Arthritis
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Infections
  • Thrombosis
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Tumours
  • Pregnancy

Learn more about the contraindications of massage in our recent blog, What are the Contraindications of Sports Massage? where we go into more detail about each condition and how massage can impact it. 

Final Thoughts

As a rule of thumb, it is highly recommended to not have a massage when you have a cold or other illness, particularly if it is contagious. Not only do you risk passing on the illness to the Massage Therapist, but it’s also unlikely to make you feel better. In fact, massage can make you feel worse during a cold.

That being said, once you’re back to full health, a massage may be just what the Doctor ordered (not literally…) to help you feel human again. 

If you’re interested in becoming a Massage Therapist and learning more about the contraindications of massage, take a look at our Level 3 and Level 4 Sports Massage Courses today. We provide you with all the knowledge, skills and confidence you need to successfully get started in massage and navigate any issues such as client illnesses.

Learn more online today or get in touch with us for more information.

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