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.  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 recommendations for getting a massage when sick:

If you have the flu: stay in bed
Fever, Nauseous, or Contagious: stay in bed
If it is a bad cold: wait until post-acute stage
Minor Cold: Massage is okay.  Pack your nostrils with tissue, you’ll be fine.

Use your best judgement on this one, everyone is different and there are different levels of sickness.