Massage Post Heart Attack and CVDs

Our nation’s number one cause of death is heart disease. 787,000 people died of heart disease, stroke, or other cardiovascular related diseases in 2011. 17.5 million people died from CVDs (cardiovascular disease) worldwide in 2012. Every 34 seconds a person in the US has a heart attack, and every 60 seconds someone dies from a heart disease related event.

Depending on the severity of the attack can determine the course of treatment and recovery plan. Most individuals survive their first heart attack and are able to return to their normal lives granted they may have to take medications and possibly make changes in their diet.

If you are an individual with heart disease or CVD such as (but not limited to) hypertension (or high blood pressure), CHF (congestive heart failure), Angina, Artery disease; even if your condition has been deemed stable by your primary care physician you MUST tell your massage therapist prior to treatment. Massage can elevate blood pressure. Most (if not all) massage focuses on moving fluids towards the heart; working with the circulatory system. Even a light pressured relaxing Swedish massage can cause BP to unsafe levels.

Is massage safe for folks with heart disease or CVDs? It can be as long as certain precautions are taken. Consider receiving and expecting a more relaxing massage and not deep tissue or aggressive techniques which can cause BP to rise. Expect to have your BP read prior to massage and if considered normal or mild hypertension, then massage can proceed as usual. BP reading should also be taken after the massage to ensure there aren’t any adverse effects.

Depending on the degree of hypertension or the intensity of damage caused by the heart attack can also affect how the massage therapist should have you lay on the table and the techniques used to help limit the venous return (such as starting the session at the hands or feet). The more the massage therapist knows about your condition and side effects of any medications you are also taking for your CVD the more effective your session will be. Massage can decrease the sympathetic nervous system (you know when your stomach makes those weird gurgling noises about 20 minutes into your massage even though you aren’t hungry? Yeah, that a parasympathetic response, meaning you are relaxed and the massage therapist is doing their job!) which can also decrease BP.

If you are uncertain or have questions about massage therapy for your condition, I strongly recommend talking with your primary care physician prior to scheduling your massage. You could also schedule an appointment with one of our amazing naturopaths Dr. Sullivan or Dr. Thomas.

Statistics listed in the first paragraph were derived from:

http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/LifeAfteraHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Recovery-FAQs_UCM_303936_Article.jsp#.WLXwTm_yuJA

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs317/en/