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Should You Get a Massage When Sick with a Cold/Flu?

By Jacqueline / November 1st, 2017

Happy November! This time of the year, unfortunately, is considered “flu season,” when it is essential for our immune system to be strong enough to ward off colds, or worst influenza. Massage therapy has immense health benefits, so will getting a massage help you feel better while sick with the common cold or flu?

The answer is no…not while in the acute stage, when feeling sick and experiencing symptoms of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, sore throat, and all the other miserable symptoms associated with it. This is because the respiratory system is already overburdened  and massage only tends to stir up more toxins and aggravate the symptoms. Once symptoms subside, usually in 5 days from onset, massage can be performed. However, massage at this stage can cause the client to feel as if he or she is experiencing a relapse, so it’s important to ask the client’s permission before proceeding.

Similarly, massage in contraindicated for all stages of the flu, except toward the very end of the subacute stage when massage can help flush out residual toxins and assist the body recuperate  more efficiently, according to holistic practitioner and retired massage therapist Mark F. Beck. Even at this stage, massage can cause the client to feel as if he or she is experiencing a relapse so, again, it is important to ask the client’s permission before proceeding.

Breathing problems may still linger even at the post acute stage of a cold or flu. Massage can be very beneficial for relaxing the chest and upper back muscles, helping the client to take in more oxygen and breathe easier. However, if the client is taking respiratory medications which can induce drowsiness, “relaxing massage techniques can exacerbate this symptom.” The LMT must therefore be aware of any medication(s) the client is taking before treatment.

Studies conclude that essential oils such as lavender, peppermint and thyme has been shown to be useful for respiratory infections.

  • Lavender essential oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for relieving colds, flu and sinusitis and throat infections.
  • Peppermint essential oil has antiseptic and anti-spasmodic effect helpful in reducing mucus and relieving coughs, sinusitis, throat infections, colds, flu, asthma and bronchitis.
  • Thyme essential oil is useful for respiratory infections, asthma and bronchitis.

The LMT can add the appropriate drops of essential oils to the massage carrier oil or lotion to speed up the recovery of the client. For natural antioxidant protection against a client with a cold or flu, and an overall boost to your antioxidant levels, massage therapists can mix clove oil with a carrier oil of choice and rub it on your neck and chest. According to Dr. Axe, cloves contain 30 times more anti-oxidants than blueberries, and known as the ultimate “protective” herb.

Have a blessed month everyone!



Axe , Josh. “Clove Oil Uses and Benefits for Healing.” Dr. Axe, 9 Aug. 2017, draxe.com/clove-oil-uses-benefits/.

Beck, Mark F. Theory & Practice of Therapeutic Massage. Fifth ed. Clifton Park: Cengage Learning (Milady), 2011. Print.

Thosar, Nilima, et al. “Antimicrobial Efficacy of Five Essential Oils against Oral Pathogens: An in Vitro Study.” European Journal of Dentistry, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Sept. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4054083/.

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