Indications and Contraindications

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In the massage context an indication is a condition that massage may be able to positively influence, or a reason to give someone a massage. (e.g. pain, tension, swelling, etc.)

A contraindication is something that massage may interact negatively with, or a reason to avoid massage.

Contraindications may be further defined as Absolute or Relative, General or Regional. Absolute and relative contraindications may be considered as polar opposites, as can general and regional contraindications.

Absolute Contraindication

Something is an absolute contraindication when under no circumstances should the client be given a massage. An example is that when someone has deep vein thrombosis under no circumstances should they receive massage to the lower calf.

Relative Contraindication

Something is a relative contraindication when there is some danger associated with the provision of massage, but massage may be modified to provide safe treatment. An example is massage to the site of a recent injury where massage may be extremely useful and effective but can only be provided by a suitably qualified therapist who can avoid any strokes that would damage the newly healing tissues.

General Contraindication

Something is a general contraindication when the contraindication affects the entire body.

Local Contraindication

Something is a local contraindication when the contraindication affects a localized area of the body.

Combined Contraindications

A condition may be any combination of (absolute or relative) and (general or local). Following are some examples of conditions which fall into each category.

Absolute Relative
General the Flu

Any infectious disease

Local Deep vein thrombosis Acute injury to the biceps insertion into the radial tuberosity

What types of things are contraindications to massage practice?

Certain medical conditions, medications, and specific areas of the body may be considered contraindications to massage practice.


Read your textbook to find out more about Indications (or conditions that massage can benefit)

  • Salvo(2007) - p. 93 - 96