Massage and Skin Conditions

The skin is actually the largest organ in the body. It protects your bones, muscles and organs, helps resist disease, and allows you to sense and ract to stimuli like hot, cold and pain. Your skin sheds close to 50,000 cells every minute.

Virtually everyone will suffer some sort of skin condition at some time in their lives. Whether it’s something like acne or skin tags, or something more chronic like basal cell carcinoma, treatments and proactive and preventative measures can shorten the duration of the condition.

When it comes to getting a massage, you should always disclose to your therapist any skin conditions you are aware of before the session. A qualified therapist is well trained to made decisions about how (or if) they will massage the affected areas. In some cases they’ll send you back to your physician for clearance before a massage session.

Here’s a short list of common skin conditions that are generally OK for massage:

  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Vitiligo
  • Rosacea
  • Mild sunburn (depending on how recent sun exposure occurred)
  • Dry skin

Here are few skin conditions that call for avoiding the specific area of the condition, but it’s OK to get the rest of your body (the unaffected parts) massaged:

  • Folliculitis
  • Boils (foruncles) & carbuncles
  • Acne
  • Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot)
  • Unexplained lumps, lesions or rashes
  • Varicose veins
  • Bruises
  • Sunburn (moderate to severe)
  • Inflammation, including arthritis
  • Cancer (need approval from a physician)
  • Radiation sites (approval from physician required)
  • Cuts

Here’s a list of skin conditions where massage is specifically not recommended (contraindicated) for any part of the body because of the risk of infection of your therapist and/or the risk of spreading the disease on the client :

  • Impetigo
  • Cellulitis
  • Erysipelas
  • Herpes (HSV1, HSV2)
  • Chicken Pox
  • Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
  • Tinea Corporis and other forms like ringworm
  • Open cuts
  • Dermatitis
  • Lice or mites (scabes)
  • Pitted edema
  • Frostbite

Your therapist is not an MD, so it’s important not to rely on them to diagnose or treat any skin condition. ¬†Instead, discuss the condition candidly with your therapist, they are well trained to know which things to stay away from and which may benefit from massage.

 

Sources:

AMTA: https://www.amtamassage.org/uploads/cms/documents/ce_wi10_web.pdf

ABMP: http://www.abmp.com/massagemarketplace/downloads/TenForToday_ND10.pdf

Massage Education: http://www.massage-education.com/skin-disorders.html