Massage is a non-invasive, relaxing and natural treatment. It is therefore generally considered safe for most people.

A massage consultation

A massage consultation

However there are certain conditions that are contra-indicated for varying reasons.

It is important that your therapist check for contra-indications as the massage could worsen an existing condition.

A shortened or adapted treatment may be possible while still providing an effective treatment, for example,  by avoiding the affected area.

What is a contra-indication?

It is a condition where the therapist must exercise caution or possibly avoid working on an area of the body.

In more extreme cases, you may need to avoid treatment altogether (but at the same time, in such extreme cases a person would rarely be wanting a massage).

Today we will look at LOCAL contra-indications to massage i.e. those where massage can still be given but the area affected must be avoided.

Below is a list of local contra-indications to massage as advised in the UK during massage training.

Skin conditions

Cuts, abrasions, bruises, bites, stings, boils, carbuncles, septic foci (pus present), weeping ulcers, verrucas, athletes foot.

The area affected is contra-indicated because of the risk of infection. Also there may be possible discomfort if the area affected were to be massaged.

If there is slight bleeding, a plaster should be used to cover the infected area as well.

NOTE: Any skin disease (herpes simplex  or cold sores, impetigo, ringworm, scabies, conjunctivitis, folliculitis, head lice) would be a total contra-indication for massage because of the risk of cross-infection.

Pregnancy (over abdomen)

Avoid massaging abdomen in first 12 weeks

Avoid massaging abdomen in first 12 weeks

This is especially important in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and care should be taken not to exert any pressure over the abdomen area.

Menstruation (1st 3 days over abdomen)

There is a risk of causing nausea and queasiness if massaging the abdomen area. Light effleurage however is often beneficial in the treatment of associated stomach cramps. In some cases the abdomen will be too sensitive to work on at all.

Unrecognised redness or scars

Areas of redness can be a sign of inflammation and working over them can aggravate the problem. They should therefore be avoided if it is not clear what has caused the redness.

Newly-formed scars should be avoided until they are healing. Once healing, light effleurage can be used.

Lumps and bumps

In some cases, these could be a sign of something more serious. The area should be avoided and the therapist should inform the client if anything seems abnormal.


In the first few days bruises should be avoided because of the obvious discomfort that could be caused.

Broken bones

Areas of fracture must be avoided completely until healed. It is best to avoid working on the whole limb affected.


The area of the burn should be avoided during the acute stages because of the risk of infection to the thin layer of skin at  the site. Massage would also cause discomfort. When the area is healing, light strokes may be beneficial to assist the healing process.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Massage should not be given over painful or inflamed joint areas. Sometimes light effleurage or friction can be useful as long as it doesn’t cause discomfort as it may help loosen the tendons and ligaments in the area.

This is also true of Osteoarthritis which usually affects the weight-bearing joints of the body.

Hernia, diarrhoea, ulcers (over abdomen)

Any problem in the abdomen area will be aggravated by massage so massage should be avoided in the area concerned. It is important for the therapist to check the client is being treated for the condition. Some of the symptoms may be indicative of a more serious condion and treatment should be avoided completely if the client is passing any blood or has other unusual symptoms.

Very hairy areas (yes, really)

In some cases the area to be treated is so hairy it may cause discomfort. Use more oil or cream or avoid completely.

After an operation

Wait for one year after a major operation before massage over the site of the scar. For minor operations, wait about 6 months.

This is to allow the scar to heal completely and to ensure no complications are going to set in due to the operation.

In some cases, the doctor will prescribe massage (with a physio) to help prevent the scar lesions from binding together.


In my next post we’ll look at conditions that are totally contra-indicated, conditions that may be contra-indicated but require medical advice, and additional cautions such as medication and allergies.


The ultimate pamper experience in thecomfort of your home

The ultimate pamper experience in the comfort of your home

You can contact me at Just Massage for a home massage appointment in and around the Mérignac and Pessac area (near Bordeaux, France) on: