So you broke your ankle (oh, wait… that’s me), or arm, or leg, or dislocated your shoulder. Or maybe you sprained or tore something, or had surgery. Your body probably hurts in places you didn’t injure as a result of using splints, braces, crutches, knee scooters, or other mobility aids, or possibly from tightening your muscles due to actual or anticipated pain. Can you still get a massage?
Well, it depends. (You knew I was gonna say that didn’t you?) It depends what is injured, broken, or bears recent surgical scars. It depends how it’s injured. It depends what your doctor says, if you’re still under a doctor’s care. It depends on a lot of things.
This is a question I’ve been wrestling with myself since breaking my ankle. I could really use a massage right now, but I haven’t gotten one yet for lots of reasons. I figured that if I wrestled with this question, you might too.
Below is a list of things to consider when deciding whether to book that massage now, or to wait a while.
Can you safely and easily get into your therapists office and use the restroom? – Are there access ramps if you need them? What about elevators? Is there a really long trek from the parking area to where their office is? If it’s winter, is there adequate snow and ice removal? These are all things you need to consider before making that appointment.
Can you get on and off the massage table? – If this is a temporary injury, you’re probably best waiting until you can. If you have a permanent condition like paraplegia, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, etc., talk to your therapist. Some have hydraulic tables which can lower enough for you to get on in privacy (also useful for temporary injuries), some will have other accommodations available, and some specialize in clients with mobility issues.
Can you turn over when you’re on the massage table? – This is huge. Massage tables are narrow. In fact, they’re narrower than a twin bed. You need to be able to pretty much roll over in place or you’ll roll right off the table and either re-injure yourself or injure another part.
Can you tolerate laying in the same position long enough to get a massage? – Be honest. Do you find yourself frequently shifting position because of pain or discomfort? Is it injury pain or discomfort from having to sit, stand, lay in a different way to accommodate your injury? If it’s the latter, massage might be good for you. But… if part of it is due to the injury, you’ll want to have an honest conversation with your therapist as well as your doctor to find out if massage is a good idea at the moment.
Will the bolstering your therapist uses cause pressure to your injury either directly or indirectly? – For instance, is your ankle broken? Will the bolster under your ankles when you’re face down put pressure on your injury? If so, you should wait.
Can you comfortably get a massage with out the bolsters? – If you forego the bolster under your broken ankle, are you able/allowed to have your toes pointed for long periods of time? Or if you’re still in a cast or splint, will the pressure on the toes cause pressure on your break? You need to consider all these things.
Are you taking prescription pain meds? – Some prescription pain meds will impair your ability to feel if your therapist is using too much pressure, and not just on or near your injury. You could end up with bruises because you couldn’t feel that the therapist was a bit too zealous in trying to get that “knot” out. Depending on the type and amount of pain meds you’re taking, you may want to postpone getting a massage. Talk to your doctor or massage therapist if you really want to get a massage before your prescription is finished, or if you’ll be on the meds long term. Seriously. Do you really want bruises on your arm(s) when you have to use crutches to get around?
Does the slightest touch or jostle send your pain through the roof? – Kind of a silly question, but it needs to be asked. If this describes you, getting a massage will likely be an exercise in frustration for both your and your therapist. Please wait to get a massage.
But what if another area is in pain from overuse because of the injury? – There may be time or position accommodations that your therapist can make if they’re only working on one area. Ultimately, it will be a decision you need to come to with your massage therapist, as well as your doctor.
If you’re going to have a good massage experience after an injury or surgery, you need to consider these things and be honest about your tolerances and abilities. There’s nothing to be gained from trying to appear stronger or healthier than you really are.
Hopefully you can now get the massage you want and need at time that it’ll benefit you most!