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Erica Garza

May 20, 2024

Should You Get a Massage if You're Sick?

Is it safe to get a massage when sick, or will it make you feel worse? Find out what the research says about massage therapy and illness.

Massages are useful in boosting your immune system, relieving pain, and helping with lymphatic flow and drainage, but many people avoid massage therapy when sick. While massage is discouraged in the early stages of illness when you’re most contagious, getting a massage in the later stages of your illness can help you recover faster. It can also prevent you from getting sick in the first place.


Find out if it’s safe to get a massage when sick, the potential health benefits of massage and how a massage bed at home can provide a safe alternative.


Avoid Massages in the Early Stages of Illness


There are a few different reasons why you shouldn’t get a massage when you’re just starting to feel sick. According to doctors at John Hopkins, colds are very contagious, especially in the first 2-4 days after symptoms start. If you’re planning on getting an in-person massage, it’s best to cancel your appointment so you don’t get your therapist sick. 


Another reason to avoid a massage during those early days of illness is because you don’t want to interfere with your body’s ability to fight off the virus on its own. In an interview with Shape, Maya Heinert, M.D., a Sacramento, California-based pediatric emergency medicine physician explains that getting a massage could potentially slow down the normal healing process in your body. 


When you're sick, your immune system is doing everything it can to fight the illness. Massage may hinder your body's ability to combat infection and circulate waste through your body. Lying facing down can also exacerbate congestion. In some cases, you also may be overly sensitive to touch, which can make a massage feel too intense or even painful.


When Is It Safe to Get a Massage, and What Are the Benefits?


You don’t need to avoid massages completely when you’re feeling sick. After those first few days of illness, getting a massage can actually help you recover faster by increasing your white blood cell count, relieving aches and pains, and pushing toxins out of your body. Here’s what the research says.


Increases Your White Blood Cell Count


Research shows that massage therapy increases the number of lymphocytes in the body, which are white blood cells that help control immune responses to fight off disease and infection. Getting a massage can also decrease cortisol and increase the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, a neurochemical effect that can boost immune function and improve your mood. When cortisol runs rampant in the body due to stress, inflammation goes up, worsening illness and weakening the immune response.


Relieves Aches and Pains


Body aches are a common symptom of the cold or flu, and they can often stick around if persistent coughing has taken a toll on your body. Getting a massage can help relieve soreness and tension because of increased circulation, or blood flow. This is why massage therapy is commonly recommended to people who have autoimmune disorders and experience chronic pain. And if you’re having trouble breathing due to sinus congestion, trigger point massage can be extremely helpful. Simply tap the area between your eyebrows to help the blood vessels open up. 


Pushes Toxins Out of the Body


This increase in circulation doesn’t just relieve pain. It also pushes toxins out of the body by increasing venous return, the rate of blood flow back toward the heart. Improved venous return helps both blood and lymphatic circulation, allowing for more efficient removal of metabolic waste products and excess fluid in the body. 


Can Prevent Illness


Along with helping you get better faster when you’re recovering from a virus, regular massages can also help you prevent getting sick altogether. Researchers working with patients with compromised immune systems have found massage therapy can improve how the immune system functions. By increasing white blood cell count and increasing serotonin, massage can be used to fight off the common cold, flu, and other seasonal illnesses. 


Massage Beds as a Safe Alternative


Now that you know the benefits of getting a massage when sick, you may want to schedule a massage right away. But it’s important to remember that an in-person massage with a therapist may not be possible until you’re completely well. In some cases, people are contagious for up to two weeks, and if you’re immunocompromised, maybe even longer.  


An at-home massage chair or bed, however, can be a game changer in helping you recover faster in the privacy of your home. The CERAGEM V4 and CERAGEM V6 are therapeutic thermal massage beds that use patented scanning technology to assess your unique spinal length and curvature and deliver a customized massage just as you would in a spa. 


Combining acupressure, deep-tissue massage, stretching, and heat therapy at a soothing 149°F, the devices are cleared by the FDA as Class II medical devices, designed to relieve minor aches and pains, increase circulation, and reduce stress. The massage beds are even safe to use twice daily as part of your wellness routine, so you can build stronger immunity and enjoy the pleasures of massage therapy without leaving home.


Erica Garza is an author and essayist specializing in health and wellness. She has written for TIME, Health, Glamour, Parents, Women’s Health, VICE, and the Telegraph.



John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital - Colds

Shape - Why You Shouldn’t Get a Massage When You’re Sick

National Library of Medicine - A Preliminary Study of the Effects of Repeated Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Healthy Individuals: A Study of Mechanisms of Action and Dosage

National Library of Medicine - Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy

National Library of Medicine - Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function

PR Newswire - Massage Therapy May Boost Immune System to Combat Cold, Flu

Cedars Sinai - Am I Still Contagious?

by Erica Garza

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