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Skin Deep

Colder weather can mean dryer skin for most people.  While there are some factors that can contribute to this, such as diet, genetic disposition, water intake; others simply have sensitive skin. Based on information given from the patient prior to the session can impact the way the therapist will conduct their massage for that session. It is imperative to give full disclosure prior to the massage for the health and safety of both therapist and patient. Depending upon the severity of these health conditions will also determine and potentially change the treatment plan. In this blog I want to discuss some of the skin contraindications for massage and how massage can help with other skin related conditions.

The skin being the largest organ of the human body has a lot to manage. Our skin doesn’t only protect us; it is responsible for connecting muscles to bone, absorbing vital nutrients (such as vitamin D), excreting waste products, heat regulation, respiration; skin also acts as an interface with our environment providing one of our major senses, touch.  There are different kinds of tissue in the human body, and the 4 main categories are epithelial, muscle, nerve, and connective.

Most companies that manufacture massage lotions and oils no longer contain paraben or other harmful fillers. The latest trend is organic substances that are safer for the body to absorb for both the patient and therapist.  For post-op scars, there are massage techniques that break up the ropey feeling of scar tissue as well as lessen its appearance. Cases of dermatitis psoriasis, and eczema, if there are lesions or blisters and the inflammation is extreme; massage is locally contraindicated.  If an individual has Asteatosis they can still be massaged with a mild lubricant (i.e. fragrance free).

Massage can also help those who are prone to decubitus ulcers (bed sores) because massage increases circulation which can even prevent bed sores from ever forming. Another benefit of massage for skin is by improving the circulation of blood and lymph which in turn carry nutrients to the cells; nutrients that our skin needs for growth, repair, and nourishment.

Inflammation can be any of the three contraindications of massage, just depends on the severity and the cause of the inflammation. For example acne is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the skin, usually related to hormonal changes and overactive sebaceous glands during adolescence. Common acne is known as acne simplex or acne vulgaris. Modern studies show that acne is often due to heredity; however, the condition can be aggravated by emotional stress and environmental factors. Massage should be avoided if the acne is severe.

A contraindication is simply a medical reason not to massage. There are three categories of contraindication.

1)      Absolute contraindication: meaning massage should not be given until condition subsides.

2)      Partial or regional: specific areas that are affected.

3)      Conditional: meaning there are health concerns in which certain massage techniques can have adverse effects while other techniques would be beneficial.

For the conditions listed below; massage cannot be given over the affected areas:

Seborrhea, rosacea, steatoma or sebaceous cyst, furuncle (boils), carbuncle, warts, fungal infections (i.e. ringworm and athletes foot), open decubitus ulcers (pressure sores or bedsores). Bacterial infestation, varicose veins, burns, blisters, carbuncles, hypersensitive skin, impetigo (which should be treated immediately!), inflammation (i.e. Staphylodermatitis) , lacerations, lumps, hives, rashes, scaly spots, scratches, skin cancer, skin tags, sore, stings and bites, tumor, warts, and wounds.

When in doubt see a dermatologist. While most massage therapists are educated in the ways of most pathology, we cannot cure or diagnose conditions. It is simply out of our scope of practice.

For more fun facts about skin check out this link:

Jennifer Roldan, LMP Northwest Wellness Federal Way, WA

Works cited

Theory and Practice of Therapeutic Massage, Fifth Edition, Mark F Beck