Massage for Cardiovascular Conditions
To acknowledge February as American Heart Month – created to educate the public about cardiovascular disease – we offer the following information on massage for specific cardiovascular conditions.
According to the Heart Foundation.org about 80 million Americans have heart disease or high blood pressure. The 2010 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics update of the American Heart Association reported that 17.6 million persons in the United States have heart disease, including 8.5 million with a history of heart attack and 10.2 million with chest pain. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death among women.
Many people with heart disease can benefit greatly from receiving massage. The main benefit is stress reduction, which in turn can help mitigate complications of heart disease. But there are certain types of massage that can possibly cause serious damage. You need to be sure you’re in a knowledgeable practitioner’s hands to make sure you are safe.
Because there are so many different types of cardiovascular conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Your complete health history must be considered before making a decision. If you have a medical condition, you should always talk to your doctor before deciding to embark on a personal massage program.
The following cardiovascular conditions may be helped or prevented with the appropriate massage treatment from a qualified professional:
Blood thinner medications cause the body to be more sensitive and in some cases, even fragile. Deep tissue massage on a patient taking blood thinners can cause inflammation, bruising, and tissue or organ damage, including bruised kidneys. Gentle massage is generally the best choice in this case.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a life-threatening disease that is closely linked to stress, diet and exercise. Massage may be just the thing to help you manage stress and subsequently your high blood pressure. The opposite condition, low blood pressure, is also a concern, and because massage can lower blood pressure, you may feel a bit lightheaded just after receiving a massage, until the blood pressure returns to normal. Sitting up gradually before standing after a massage will help normalize blood pressure.
A blood clot is a mass of coagulated blood entrapped within a blood vessel and impedes the flow of blood to and from the heart and other body areas. Individuals with a history of blood clots should avoid deep massage, which could possibly dislodge a clot and release it into the blood stream. In a worst-case scenario, this can induce a stroke or heart attack.
A pacemaker is a medical device that uses electrical impulses to regulate the heartbeat. If an individual has a pacemaker, stent, or any kind of apparatus implanted into a vein or artery, the therapist must avoid pressing over that area so as not to dislodge or damage the device or surrounding tissues. But the massage can usually be safely done on the rest of the body.
Massage can usually be beneficial for someone who has arrhythmia or a disruption in the heart rate, if that is the only health concern. This is especially true if the arrhythmia is induced by stress.
Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain blood flow to meet the needs of the body. Patients with this condition should avoid vigorous massage or massages that are longer than 15-20 minutes. This is because massage will shift the flow of blood to the organs, which may create a greater burden for the heart. Start with brief 5-10 minute massage sessions, and gradually lengthen to tolerance.
Before receiving massage therapy for a heart condition, first consult your primary care physician or your cardiologist. If your doctor advises that massage may help you, find a massage therapist who meets the licensing requirements in your state. If you live in a state that does not require licensing, choose a therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or is a member of the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org).
With a little bit of homework, you can find a therapist who is experienced and knows how to keep you safe. If they ask about your medications and medical history, this is one indication that you are on the right track. Interview them on the phone before making an appointment and check their credentials. You can even ask your doctor to consult with your therapist.
Each therapist has varying levels of training, awareness and experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the therapist’s qualifications, and what they’re going to do during the massage. While you’re receiving massage, continue to ask questions as they come up. If at any time during your treatment, the massage hurts or feels uncomfortable, you should speak up. Everyone has different levels of comfort and tolerance and a good therapist wants your session to be right for you.
Regardless of your age, size, gender or health, massage therapy performed by a qualified therapist can improve your heart health by reducing the effects of stress on the body, promoting relaxation of body and mind, and enhancing your overall well-being.
At Pacific Massage Services, our staff therapists are trained and experienced in massage for many different medical conditions. Give us a call to discover how massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and pleasurable approach to helping your cardiovascular system feel better and function better!