Can Massage Make Inflammation Worse?

Have you ever wondered about the effects of massage on your body, particularly when it comes to inflammation? It’s a common question, and one that deserves a thorough answer.

Can massage make inflammation worse? Let’s find out…

Key Takeaways:

Now, let’s set the stage. Inflammation is a natural response of your body to injury or illness, a protective measure designed to help you heal.

But what happens when this process is disrupted or goes into overdrive? And where does massage therapy fit into the picture?

In this article, we’ll explore the intricate relationship between massage and inflammation, shedding light on when massage can be beneficial and when it might make the condition worse. 

We’ll also discuss the importance of professional guidance and alternative therapies for managing inflammation.

So, whether you’re a massage enthusiast, a health professional, or simply someone curious about the topic, this article is for you. Let’s dive in!

Understanding Inflammation

Before we delve into the relationship between massage and inflammation, it’s important to understand what inflammation actually is.

In simple terms, inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or illness. It’s a protective measure, a way for your body to signal that something’s not quite right and needs attention.

Inflammation can be categorized into two types:

  • Acute Inflammation: This is a short-term response that occurs immediately after an injury. It’s characterized by redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Think of the inflammation that occurs when you sprain your ankle or get a cut.
  • Chronic Inflammation: This is a long-term inflammatory response that can last for months or even years. It’s often less noticeable than acute inflammation but can be just as damaging. Chronic inflammation is linked to various health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

Understanding these two types of inflammation is crucial as we explore the impact of massage therapy.

So, with this foundation, let’s move on to the role of massage therapy and how it interacts with our body’s inflammatory responses.

The Role of Massage Therapy

When we think of massage therapy, we often picture a relaxing spa setting designed to melt away stress. But massage therapy is much more than just a tool for relaxation.

It’s a powerful therapeutic technique with a range of benefits.

Here are some key benefits of massage therapy:

  • Pain Relief: Massage can help alleviate pain by relaxing tense muscles and improving blood flow to the area.
  • Stress Reduction: The soothing nature of massage can help reduce stress and anxiety, promoting overall wellbeing.
  • Improved Circulation: Massage techniques can stimulate blood flow, which aids in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle cells.
  • Enhanced Flexibility: By working on muscles, connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments, massage can improve flexibility and range of motion.

But what about inflammation? Can massage therapy help, or could it potentially make things worse?

Let’s delve deeper into the connection between massage and inflammation in the next section.

Massage and Inflammation: The Connection

Now that we’ve explored the basics of inflammation and the role of massage therapy, let’s delve into the heart of the matter: How does massage therapy affect inflammation?

Research has shown that massage can have a significant impact on inflammation, particularly chronic inflammation.

The pressure applied during a massage can stimulate blood flow to the area, which aids in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. This can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

Here’s a simplified explanation of the process:

  • Massage stimulates the body’s mechanoreceptors, sensory receptors that respond to pressure and touch.
  • This stimulation triggers the release of certain chemicals in the body, including anti-inflammatory cytokines.
  • These cytokines help to reduce inflammation and promote healing in the body.

But it’s not all so straightforward. While massage can help reduce chronic inflammation, it may have a different effect on acute inflammation.

In fact, massaging an acutely inflamed area could potentially make the inflammation worse.

Why might this happen? Let’s explore this further in the next section.

When Massage Could Make Inflammation Worse

While massage therapy can be beneficial in many cases, there are certain situations where it might not be the best option. Specifically, massaging an area that’s acutely inflamed could potentially exacerbate the inflammation. But why is this the case?

Here are a few key reasons:

  • Increased Blood Flow: Massage stimulates blood flow to the area being worked on. While this can be beneficial for chronic inflammation, it could potentially worsen acute inflammation by bringing more inflammatory agents to the area.
  • Physical Agitation: The physical pressure and manipulation involved in massage could potentially irritate an already inflamed area, leading to increased inflammation.
  • Delayed Healing: If an injury is causing the inflammation, massaging the area could potentially delay the healing process by disrupting the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

This doesn’t mean that massage is off the table if you’re dealing with inflammation. It simply means that professional advice is crucial before getting a massage when inflammation is present. In the next section, we’ll discuss the importance of professional guidance and communication with your massage therapist.

Precautions and Considerations

Navigating the world of massage therapy when dealing with inflammation can be tricky. But with the right precautions and considerations, you can still benefit from massage without exacerbating your inflammation. Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Seek Professional Advice: Before getting a massage, especially if you’re dealing with inflammation, it’s crucial to seek professional advice. This could be from your doctor, a physical therapist, or a qualified massage therapist.
  • Communicate with Your Massage Therapist: If you decide to go ahead with a massage, communication is key. Make sure to inform your massage therapist about any areas of inflammation or pain. They can then adjust their techniques accordingly.
  • Listen to Your Body: Everyone’s body responds differently to massage. If a massage feels uncomfortable or painful, or if you notice increased inflammation after a session, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your approach.

Remember, massage therapy is just one tool in your wellness toolkit.

There are many other therapies and strategies that can help manage inflammation. Let’s explore some of these in the next section.

Alternative Therapies for Inflammation

While massage therapy can be a powerful tool in managing inflammation, it’s not the only option. There are several other therapies and strategies that can help manage inflammation effectively.

Here are a few worth considering:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can provide exercises and treatments specifically designed to manage inflammation and improve function.
  • Dietary Changes: Certain foods are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating these into your diet can help manage inflammation.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to manage inflammation. This should always be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
  • Mind-Body Practices: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help reduce stress, which in turn can help manage inflammation.

Remember, it’s important to seek professional guidance before starting any new therapy or treatment for inflammation. With the right approach, you can effectively manage inflammation and improve your quality of life. Let’s wrap things up in the next section.


Navigating the world of massage therapy and inflammation can feel like a complex journey.

But with the right knowledge and guidance, you can make informed decisions that support your health and wellbeing.

To recap, here’s what we’ve covered:

  • Inflammation is a natural response to injury or illness, but it can become problematic when it’s chronic or in response to an acute injury.
  • Massage therapy can help reduce chronic inflammation, but it might exacerbate acute inflammation.
  • Professional advice is crucial before getting a massage when inflammation is present, and communication with your massage therapist is key.
  • There are several alternative therapies for managing inflammation, including physical therapy, dietary changes, medication, and mind-body practices.

Remember, everyone’s body is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. So, listen to your body, seek professional advice, and find the approach that works best for you.

Here’s to your health and wellbeing!


  1. Mayo Clinic – Massage: Get in touch with its many benefits: An overview of the benefits of massage therapy from a trusted medical institution.
  2. Harvard Health Publishing – Foods that fight inflammation: A guide to anti-inflammatory foods from Harvard Medical School.
  3. Cleveland Clinic – Why Does My Body Feel Worse After a Massage?: An article discussing why some people might feel worse after a massage, including the potential for increased inflammation.
  4. American Physical Therapy Association – Physical Therapy Guide to Chronic Inflammation: A guide to managing chronic inflammation with physical therapy.
  5. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Mind and Body Practices: An overview of mind-body practices for health and wellbeing, including their potential role in managing inflammation.
  6. Massage Magazine – Pain and Inflammation: Could Massage Make It Worse?: An article discussing the potential for massage to exacerbate inflammation in certain situations.
  7. – Does Massage Therapy Work?: An in-depth look at the effectiveness of massage therapy, including its impact on inflammation.

Please note that while these sources are reliable and respected, they should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new therapy or treatment.

Q: Can massage make inflammation worse?

A: It depends on the type of massage and the individual’s condition. Generally, massage can help reduce inflammation and alleviate soreness and stiffness. However, deep tissue massage or sports massage may cause temporary discomfort and increase inflammation in some cases.

Q: How can massage relieve muscle soreness?

A: Massage helps increase blood flow and reduce muscle tension, which can relieve soreness and tightness in the muscles. It also helps release endorphins, which are natural painkillers, and can improve range of motion and flexibility.

Q: What is DOMS, and how does massage affect it?

A: DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, is the muscle soreness and stiffness that occurs after exercise. Massage can help reduce the duration and severity of DOMS by increasing circulation, breaking up knots and scar tissue, and promoting faster muscle recovery.

Q: What should I do if I experience pain during a massage session?

A: It is important to communicate with your massage therapist if you experience pain during a session. Your therapist can adjust the intensity of the massage or use different techniques to make you more comfortable. However, some discomfort during deep tissue massage or trigger point therapy is normal.

Q: How can I find a good massage therapist?

A: Look for a licensed massage therapist with training and experience in your particular condition or needs. You can ask for recommendations from friends or healthcare providers, or search online for reviews and ratings.

Q: Is it normal to feel sore after a massage session?

A: It is common to experience some soreness or discomfort after a deep tissue massage or trigger point therapy, especially if you have tight muscles or chronic pain. However, this should subside within a day or two, and you should feel overall better and more relaxed.

Q: Can massage help reduce chronic pain?

A: Yes, massage can be a helpful part of a treatment plan for chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or back pain. It can help reduce pain, improve range of motion and flexibility, and promote relaxation and stress relief.

Q: What are the different types of massage?

A: There are many different types of massage, including Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, trigger point therapy, and myofascial release. Each type uses different techniques and approaches to address specific needs and conditions.

Q: Can massage therapy help reduce scar tissue and adhesions?

A: Yes, massage can help reduce the buildup of scar tissue and adhesions that can occur after injuries or surgeries. It can also improve circulation and promote faster healing and recovery.

Q: What do massage studies say about its effect on inflammation and pain?

A: Several studies have found that massage can help reduce inflammation and levels of pain, especially in conditions such as arthritis or fibromyalgia. However, more research is needed to fully understand the processes of inflammation and how massage affects them.