The temperature is dropping, the days are getting shorter, and outdoor activities are slowing down. Winter is slowly creeping in, which means that cold and flu season is also upon us. But surely massage and illness are unrelated, right? Wrong! Unfortunately, receiving bodywork when you are run down with a cold or flu, or sporting a fever, can be worse for your recovery than you think.
Massage and the Immune System The immune system protects us against millions of potentially harmful organisms and is constantly on the alert, attacking at the first sign of an invasion. When healthy, massage does wonders for the immune system, increasing the movement of fluid and improving the circulation of blood, nourishing our whole body. Massage stimulates the lymphatic system, circulating Lymphocytes, which are responsible for the destruction of harmful substances within the body.
So… What’s the big deal? When sick, your immune system is already working hard. If you receive a massage when coming down with something, you may become much more ill than you would have had you waited. Receiving a massage when suffering from a cold or the flu can spread the illness through the body faster than it would happen naturally, flooding the body with infection, exasperating symptoms and increasing the recovery time of the illness.
Avoiding massage during the acute stages of infection will keep symptoms contained, making it easier for the immune system to treat symptoms and will allow your body to heal faster. One of the best immune supports may truly be resting and drinking plenty of liquids. The best time to reap the immune system benefits of massage is through regular massage while you are healthy!
Spreading the infection to others When you receive a massage while in a decreased state of immunity, you not only take the risk of feeling worse yourself, but you also risk passing your infection on to your therapist. Some people can work while under the weather but Massage Therapists cannot and should not. Your Therapist will thank you, and anxiously be waiting for your speedy recovery!
How long should I wait to reschedule my appointment? If you are on the post-acute side of the infection (four or five days after the symptoms have appeared), massage may help to speed recovery time. Be aware, however, that it is possible to feel like you are having a relapse the day after your massage due to the kick-start of fluid circulation.
How about other, non-infectious illnesses? Contrary to fever, cold and flu, other illnesses can benefit from massage. It is best to discuss your condition and your desire for massage with your doctor to see if it would be both safe and recommended.
It's not all bad!
Enough with the Negative. Massage is extremely beneficial in Winter months! As athletes, the winter months decrease our opportunities to do our favorite activities. We tend to stay indoors, exercise less, sleep and eat more. Never fear! Here are a few ways that massage can benefit us during these winter months.
Keep that Circulation Flowing Massage plays a crucial role in increasing circulation and providing stress and pain relief throughout the colder seasons. Improved circulation increases body warmth, provides healthier blood pressure levels, and increases the flow of oxygen throughout the body. Treat your body to a warm and relaxing massage to ease those muscles!
Boost the Immune System Improve immune system function and increase your body’s stamina with regular bodywork, a healthy diet, and be sure to maintain a regular exercise schedule. Send those lymphocytes on their mission to do what they do best. KA-POW, infection!
Keep the Winter Blues at Bay Massage creates positive changes in the endocrine system where hormones are formed. Hormones affect mood, desire, depression, alertness, sleep, hunger, sense of touch and sex drive; the balance of which are very important for the well-being. After receiving bodywork, cortisol levels are decreased (the nasty hormone responsible for stress!), and oxytocin levels are raised (the happy, contentment hormone). What better way to cheer yourself up than with a massage!
Enhance your state of mind and overall well-being with regular bodywork. (And of course, try to maintain a regular exercise schedule!)
References and Further Reading: http://www.discover-massage-therapy.com/benefits-of-massage-physiological.html http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/Supporting_The_Immune_System_With_Massage/716 http://directory.mimivanderhaven.com/blog/a-massage-when-you-are-sick.html http://www.massagetradesecrets.com/contraindications-avoid-massage-therapy http://shearchaos.net/five-winter-excuses-to-get-a-massage/
This article/video is for educational purposes only; do not attempt without your physician’s clearance. If you are in pain or injured, see your physician.