Man standing in an apartment holding his lower back in pain, with a circle around his lower spine indicating inflammation and discomfort after an injury from massage.

Injury From Massage: How to Avoid Massage Therapy Injuries

As a massage therapist, you want to give your clients a case of the ahhhs. You want to decrease their pain and soreness, improve their sleep, lower their stress, and help them relax.

But massage therapy injuries can quickly turn your clients’ relieved ahhhs into pain-induced AAAHs! This happened to one woman in New Jersey who asked her massage therapist not to touch her head. The masseuse worked on her neck and head anyway. In doing so, the masseuse allegedly caused a herniated disc and other serious, permanent injuries, reported Advance Local Media.

Cases like these leave massage therapists and their clients wondering:

  • Can a massage cause an injury?
  • What negative side effects of massages can your clients experience?
  • What causes severe pain after a massage?
  • When should you not massage a client?
  • What are safety measures in giving massages to prevent massage therapy injuries?

Read on to find out.

Can a massage cause an injury?

Around the world, massage clients are consulting Dr. Google with queries like these:

  • Can massage make rotator cuff injury worse?
  • Spine, back, or neck pain after massage
  • Post massage soreness! Sore after massage!
  • Blurry vision after massage???
  • Post massage headache

As a massage therapist, you know massages are meant to help and heal—not hurt. But poor massage technique or pre-existing damage make massage therapy injuries more likely.

What negative side effects of massage can your clients experience?

What massage therapy injuries can harm your client’s experience?

According to science writer and former massage therapist Paul Ingraham, here are some negative side effects of massages:

  • Bruises, nerve lesions, and other new injuries.
  • Aggravation of existing injuries and chronic pain.
  • Headaches.
  • Dizziness or vertigo.
  • Mild stress to the nervous system.
  • Slightly impaired athletic performance.

The most common negative side effect of massage is post-massage soreness–especially after a deep tissue massage. While some clients experience same-day soreness, most experience it the next day. Nevertheless, soreness isn’t inherently a sign of injury, explains the Massage Centre Chiswick.

“If you’re experiencing muscle soreness after a massage, it is because the soft tissues have been manipulated to break down adhesions, knots, and holding patterns to restore muscle condition to a functional state,” the Massage Centre Chiswick said in their article. “Just like with a heavy exercise workout, the soft tissues can feel the effects of ‘good hurt’ by feeling sore and needing time to repair the resulting mini traumas afterwards.”

What can cause severe pain after a massage?

While soreness after a massage may be common, severe pain after a massage can require medical attention.

Some of the more dangerous massage therapy injuries include:

  • Excessive protein release (rhabdomyolysis).
  • Fractures or broken bones.
  • Spinal cord injuries.
  • Strokes.

If a client says they’re experiencing intense pain after a massage (or during), don’t minimize or ignore their complaints. Direct them to primary care or emergency medical professionals for diagnosis and treatment.

When should you not massage a client?

In other cases, a massage therapy injury can occur from exacerbating a pre-existing condition or injury.

These pre-existing health conditions are called massage contraindications, and massaging can make them worse.

According to the MBLExGuide, the most common massage contraindications are:

    1. Infections.
    2. Contagious conditions.
    3. Inflammation.
    4. Recent injuries, treatments, or surgeries.
    5. Certain medications.
    6. Under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    7. Competing medical treatments.
    8. Skin conditions that affect superficial tissues.
    9. High risk conditions, like cancer.

What are safety measures in giving massages to prevent massage therapy injuries?

You want to keep your clients safe and prevent massage therapy injuries. Here are two straightforward safety measures to protect yourself, your business, and your clients.

1. Know their health history.

Since you’re most likely to hurt a client when they have one or more contraindications, you’ve got to know their health history. Ask about your clients’ health conditions, health history, and allergies before each session. MBLExGuide says to ascertain any massage risks by asking these questions:

    1. Does the client have pre-existing conditions?
    2. Could a massage make those conditions or their symptoms worse?
    3. Could a massage create new issues or stress for the client?
    4. Does a massage pose a risk to the client’s health?
    5. Could massaging the client put my license or reputation at risk?
    6. Is there another treatment I could provide without risk or harm?

This doesn’t just apply to new clients. Recurring clients get new illnesses and injuries, too. So always ask if anything has changed about their health since their last appointment. Also ask them to fill out new forms every six months to a year, MBLExGuide recommends.

And what if someone does have a massage contraindication? To protect compromised clients from worsened health problems or injuries, it’s important to modify your treatment or avoid it entirely until they’ve recovered. Remember, you have the right to say “no” to giving a massage.

2. Make sure they’re comfortable.

While massage pressure is often personal preference, the feeling of too much pressure can indicate discomfort or pain. Frequent check-ins can mitigate massage risks, including injury from massages.

Before you start, make sure your client understands they need to let you know if they’re uncomfortable during the massage. Then, ask how your client is feeling—and often. While a client may be happy with the pressure you’re applying at the start of a massage, they may be unhappy once you move to a different area of their body or after they’ve been experiencing that pressure for an extended period of time.

Remember that communication with difficult clients goes beyond spoken words. Pay attention to your client’s body language, too.

If your client is fidgeting, shifting, or tense, ask your client if they’re comfortable (and what you can do to make them more comfortable). They may just need another blanket. But they could also need you to avoid an injury they forgot to mention.

Feeling the pressure of potential claims?

As a massage therapist, getting coverage should be as painless as the soothing services you offer clients.

With over 20 years in the massage industry, we at WellnessPro know what masseuses like yourself are up against. Our massage therapist insurance offers peace of mind under pressure—like if someone accuses you of causing a massage therapy injury. Moreover, with our professional liability insurance, you can rest assured that someone will be there to defend you and your hard earned reputation against such allegations.

Apply for a quote today.

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