5 Dangers Of Deep Tissue Massage!

We Can’t Stop Raving About It!

If you’re looking for a post that goes over deep tissue massage benefits, this isn’t it. Today, I take a completely different approach. Today we’ll look at the dangers of deep tissue massage, and specifically:

What happens when things go wrong?

What are some of the adverse side effects associated with this massage type?

Don’t worry though, I still love me some deep tissue and that will never change. That being said, the purpose of this post is simply to provide insight and educate!


The 5 Dangers Of Deep Tissue Massage!

It’s important to note that the 5 dangers presented here may not all be applicable to you specifically. Always consult with your physician before commencing a massage regimen!


#1 Risk Of Fracture

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about massage, it’s that every therapist has a slightly different technique and style. That’s not to say a well trained therapist can’t adjust his/her technique to suit a client’s needs. But that’s hardly the problem!

The problem arises when excessive pressure is applied to a patient’s body!

And when excessive pressure is applied, fracture is certainly a possibility. Is it an exaggeration? Not in my opinion, no.

Excessive Pressure Can Result In A Fracture!
Excessive Pressure Can Result In A Fracture!

There is good news, however. The chances of getting a fracture from deep tissue work is relatively low. Most therapists today are well trained, and certified. But sometimes the cause of fracture has nothing to do with the therapist….it could be because a patient forgot to mention an existing medical condition (Osteoporosis for example). Pro tip: disclose everything!


#2 Tissue Tears

In Paul Ingraham’s post titled “The Pressure Question In Massage Therapy”, he speaks about 3 types of pain: good, bad, and ugly. According to Paul, ugly pain is that which is caused by overly excessive pressure. It’s the level of pain that can result in damage (source: The Pressure Question In Massage Therapy). I reference Paul’s article because it exposes a well known myth in the massage industry:

The myth of no pain, no gain!

Not Necessarily True For Massage!
Not Necessarily True For Massage!

Some therapists are hell bent on the no pain, no gain principle. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not effective. This sort of mindset can be very problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. It can do more harm than benefit—Too much pressure can cause serious problems such as tissue tears, fractures (as discussed above), and sever bruising.
  2. It takes away from the experience—Unless your idea of relaxation involves sitting through 1 hour of vicious tugging, pulling, and pressing!

There’s obviously many more reasons why overly excessive pressure is bad, but I won’t go through them here. I suggest you check out Paul’s article (linked above) for more information. He shares some very interesting stories of people who’ve had nightmare massage experiences!


#3 Blood Clots

If you suffer from blood clots, it’s very important you speak to your doctor & therapist before doing deep tissue work. The reasoning behind this is that deep tissue massage may force a blood clot to break free and travel in the blood stream, and this can lead to serious health issues.

I know, who would’ve thought right!?

Don’t believe me? Check out this article titled “When Is Massage Dangerous?” from Dr. Andrew Weil. As you go through each of these tips, you probably notice a recurring theme: speak to your doctor beforehand, and disclose everything to your therapist! Hopefully you can now see that it’s not a waste of time.


#4 Deep Tissue Massage & Cancer

In my post titled “9 times you shouldn’t get a massage”, I spoke about how Cancer patients should seek medical advice before beginning  massage. But why? What are the dangers of deep tissue massage to cancer patients?

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to have a single answer apply across the board!

There’s a myth circulating that suggests cancerous cells and tumors can disintegrate and spread faster via lymph fluid when subjected to deep tissue pressure. Based on my research, I see that there is very little truth to this. The Canadian Cancer Society reflects this in their article about massage therapy (source: Canadian Cancer Society). The same has also been noted on the Cancer Council Australia site. You can check out that article by clicking here. Still don’t believe me? Watch the video below (all credit to Live Sonima).

However, that doesn’t mean deep tissue massage specifically is 100% completely safe for all cancer patients. For those with cancer that has spread to the bone, deep tissue can potentially break or fracture bone (source: Canadian Cancer Society).

Look, I’m no doctor so I can’t give medical advice!

The only advice I can give is to consult with your oncologist/doctor if you’re planning on getting a deep tissue massage. Don’t take this advice with a grain of salt!


#5 If Done Incorrectly, It Results In A Negative Experience!

If done properly, deep tissue massage not only feels great but it’s also incredibly beneficial. The problems happen when therapists incorrectly abuse the technique. Earlier on, I touched on how excessive pressure can cause all sorts of trouble from fractures to tissue tears, but there’s another problem:

A single negative experience may completely alter an individual’s perception of deep tissue massage!

And that’s a big problem, because there really is so much good that can come from deep tissue massage. Don’t believe me? Do a quick google search, and read up on the benefits. To me the biggest of the 5 dangers of deep tissue massage is this last one, simply because more and more people are less likely to experience the benefits if they’ve had a bad experience first time round.

Did You Say Deep Tissue Massage? Not A Chance!
Did You Say Deep Tissue Massage? Not A Chance!


3 Common Side Effects Of Deep Tissue Massage!

We’ve looked at the 5 dangers of deep tissue massage, now let’s look at 3 very common side effects.

3 Deep Tissue Massage Side Effects 

#1 Soreness

Soreness is a common side effect of all massage, not just deep tissue.

Your muscles are sore because they’ve been pulled, stretched, and manipulated!

Is it a bad thing? Usually not, and your body should recover within a couple days. Remember to take a warm bath/shower, and drink lots of water, as this can help speed up recovery!


#2 Drowsy & Tired

Another common side effect especially after deep tissue massage, and one of my personal favorite! I love the “drowsy” feeling because it helps me sleep easier at night. How do you feel better?

Listen to what your body is telling you! Get some shut eye!


#3 Hot Red Skin

Doesn’t happen to me much anymore, but I know people who get red like a tomato after deep tissue! Why does this happen? It’s simple.

All those firm strokes not only stretch your muscles, they also push out toxins and improve blood circulation.

As such, skin redness after massage is common and usually not something you should be concerned about.


If There’s One Takeaway From This Post!

If there’s one thing you should takeaway from this post, it’s the importance of having clear communication with your therapist, irrespective of your condition.

It's In Your Best Interest!
It’s In Your Best Interest!

Your therapist is in the business of healing by touch, so reading your mind is kinda out of their scope. A trained, qualified therapist knows how important it is to provide care and comfort to the patient, but they need to work with you to achieve this. Lastly, there’s one more thing I want to remind you of, and that is to:

Always speak to your doctor before commencing a massage regimen, deep tissue or otherwise!

We’ve seen the dangers of deep tissue massage above, but the good news is that most of these dangers can all be prevented if we seek guidance from our doctors and therapists.


What About You? I’m Sure You Have Some Stories!

What are your crazy massage stories when things didn’t quite pan out as you expected. What were the results? Hopefully no broken bones or torn tissue! You know what, let’s make things interesting:

Leave a comment below telling me about your worst massage experience of all time!

And don’t forget to include the juicy details!

Finally, I hope you enjoyed reading and got some value out of this post. If you did, a share on social media (Facebook and the likes) would be hugely appreciated. If you didn’t, let me know what I can do to make it better. After all, I do write for you guys, so anything I can do to improve will definitely be considered. Have an awesome week, and i’ll see you in the next post!

About Eve

Just an average bloke intrigued by massage and its incredible benefits. Oh, did I mention I also own a massage chair? More on that in the blog posts!

16 thoughts on “5 Dangers Of Deep Tissue Massage!

  1. I had a deep muscle massage on leg between knee and hip. Three weeks ago. I have been in terrible pain since. On heating bags and ice. Can’t walk without terrible pain. Went as sent by spine doctor now terrible pain. I still try to do exercises they had recommended. But walking by noon impossible.

    1. Hi Judith,

      That sounds awful! I’m sorry you had to go through so much pain. I would recommend you visit a doctor ASAP to let him/her know about your issue. Hopefully they are able to determine the underlying cause. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Was out with the grandkids, noticed a massage chair, put my 2.00 in and away it went, was very rough on the back but I just raised up a little to make it better. What got me was the legs, the chair begin to squeeze my legs so tight it hurt. I thought well it’s suppose to do that, I sit through the whole session. Afterwards I went and sit back at the table and waited on my grandkids to finish playing. I noticed my foot felt like pressure was on it, I looked down and it was swollen twice it’s normal size. Very red and painful, it started to turn from red to purplish as if it was bruised. This is day three and it is still a little swollen, and discolored, what happened to me?

    1. Hello Myra. First off, I hope you are keeping well. I know my response is several months late, and I do apologise for this. To answer your question of what happened to you, it’s hard to say for sure, but based on the information you have provided it seems like the compression massage offered by the chair was too intense for you! If you follow my blog posts (specifically those on massage chair reviews), you’ll see I always recommend to start off at a low intensity and then work your way up. The intent of massage is not to torture yourself, it’s to relax and enhance our well being. Take care and let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. I will try to make it short but I had a deep tissue with cupping. She moved the cups (not the stagnant kind). It was great and I knew I needed to break up the fascia in my IT bands so she did my legs but then went on to also do my whole back. Fast forward 24 hours and I got VERY ill. I felt like I had the worst flu ever. I ached from head to toe and had a fever that went up to 103+ and I became so lethargic that I could barely get up to bed. Once in bed I shivered uncontrollably for 2 hours with 3 heavy blankets and a heating blanket on me also. I didn’t panic because I’ve had flu-like symptoms before from deep tissue. The cupping was a different experience though.
    Long story short…after thinking I died while passing out from severe kidney pain and my head hanging in the toilet ready to puke, my fever suddenly broke and I came out of it and I could finally call my husband to help me.
    I got medical attention, blood and urine tests showed acute stage 3 kidney failure.
    She must have loosened so much toxic tissue into my blood stream and lymphatic system that my kidneys just couldn’t filter it. Follow up testing showed no permanent damage but I’ve had 2 non-stop tissue massages since my episode and each time I still had side effects with a fever. I just had my 3rd one since and got achy but no fever. Gradually, I guess I will be back to normal after a massage but not yet!
    Sorry this ended up being longer than I expected but it was the worst experience of my life! But in the end, my rock hard IT bands came out very soft and pliable after almost dying to get that outcome!!

    1. That’s quite the Story Stacy! I’ll start off by saying i’m glad you’re doing better. That’s obviously the most important thing here. Your story illustrates how something relatively safe can end up going sideways really quick. While most massage therapists are well trained in the intimate art of “healing touch”, unfortunately a whole lot are untrained and continue to inadvertently cause damage. That’s the sad reality of it, that some therapists are unable to gauge how much pressure is too much. In any case, I guess what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger? Stay safe Stacy, and take it easy with the massages!

  4. I had my first deep tissue massage yesterday, a day after recovering from a stomach virus. I am concerned by my elevated heart rate and am wondering if I had a double whammy of dehydrating events. My normal resting heart rate is in the high 40s/low 50’s and it is currently in the 80s. My normal exercising heart rate is in the low 120s and this morning it went into the 150s for the same elliptical workout. I am a fit 56 yr old with a history of low heart rate and low blood pressure. I’m not sure it’s relevant, but I did find the massage painful at times. If I am indeed dehydrated, how quickly can I expect my heart rate to return to normal after becoming well hydrated? Are there other issues I haven’t considered?

    1. Cheryl, thanks so much for leaving a comment! First things first, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the elevated heart rate is a result of massage. It could be anything. Secondly, with respect to elevated heart rates, I would strongly suggest you consult with your physician. He/she would for sure be able to provide you an accurate answer that no one on the web can. The only suggestion I can offer to you is that to only go for massage when you’re 100%. Not only will it be more effective, but you’ll also enjoy the experience a lot more than when you’re sick or have just recovered from a bug. Sorry I can’t offer more help, but I think the rest is beyond me and requires medical opinion. Please let me know how your situation progresses. Take care Cheryl.

  5. is it possible to have a deep tissue massage , ie. elbow in to thy and then have the leg collapse from a damaged nerve for three months? have you ever heard of this before?

    1. That sounds incredibly painful Ryan! No, I can’t say I have ever heard of this type of injury from deep tissue massage. Did this happen to yourself or someone you know?

  6. I have been going for deep tissue massage for a few months , trying to fix a frozen shoulder. My last treatment, she worked on my entire chest , stating I had ribs that were out of place. It was terribly painful and I have been swollen and bruised for 11 days now. The worst thing is, I have found 3 lumps in my right chest and into my armpit. Is this a normal side effect ? I’m rather concerned and can’t see a doctor until late April . I was advised to take niacin, coenzyme q-10 , and rub the lumps with castor oil . Do you have any additional information or advice ?

    1. Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment, Charlene. I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. It’s a little difficult for me to comment on because I am no medical expert. I do think you should seek medical advice regarding the lumps. Do feel free to share with me personally through the support email if you’d like. I hope all is well, and that you are now in good health. My best to you.

  7. Told massage therapist of all medical concerns – fibromyalgia, blood clotting disorder and impressed on no deep massage. I felt the massage was too intense but she insisted it wasn’t and that she was working out muscle tightness. That was 4 wks ago – I can barely use my arm the pain is so bad. I have been using ice and taking acetametaphine, but no relief. What type of doctor determines a muscle tear and by what method? What test is there? Pain is unbearable but therapist insists it will get better. Primary care doctor is putting me on a steroid pack but that can cause problems with my coumadin – I am worried about no definitive diagnosis. What do you recommend?

    1. Thanks for stopping by Andrea. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. If I were you, I’d seriously reconsider the therapist. I think it’s very wrong for a therapist to forgo what a patient tells them! This is about your wellbeing, and there’s ways to feel better without having to suffer! First off, listen to what your doctor has to say. Secondly, it might be worth visiting other therapists in your area. Have you given this a shot?

  8. I recently went for a full-body massage at a ‘new’ place of business. I was disappointed in a couple of ways. After filling in the medical questionnaire she asked about my elbow and knee issues – both arthritic due to injury and being treated under the watchful eye of my physician. She then suggested we could focus on those two areas and I said okay, as long as it’s just part of the full massage. I got into the room where she proceeded to cause me extreme pain in my already very tender arm. It was some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my arm. At one point I wanted to scream but managed to hold it in. After asking her several times to please use less pressure, she basically ignored me and said she was testing my pain threshold… I told her to stop a couple of times, but she kept hold of my arm and told me her life story for 45 minutes instead. She said doctors are nothing but pill pushers and massage therapy could solve most problems. She eventually moved onto my knee which wasn’t nearly as bad. The session was booked for 45 minutes and I asked when she planned to do the body massage only to be told that I had to book a full hour for that. She had no intention of doing the massage and didn’t.
    She should have told me up front that it should have been booked for an hour.
    That night I had to take heavy duty pain meds due to the awful pain in my arm. I was unable to sleep a wink and spent most of the night in agony with arm pain and tingling in my fingers. I awoke to discover some small bruises as well as a red, swollen and painfully inflamed arm. Night two I had to wrap my forearm in an elastic bandage to get comfortable enough to sleep, armed with another round of pain meds. Day three the swelling and redness are gone, but my arm feels as if it was caught between the wringers of an old washer. I am 64 years old, in decent shape and an administrative assistant, not a linebacker in the NFL. I will never go back to her again and when I make my next appointment I don’t intend to let anyone touch my arm or knee for any length of time. She spent 25 minutes just on my arm and another 20 on my knee and 5 on my neck and shoulders. I felt betrayed that she would not listen to my pleas to stop. I have had massage before, but never on just certain areas. I wanted to get a massage to loosen up my muscles and relax but instead I was tortured. My elbow is burning as I write this and has never felt so painful. I felt she had an agenda to prove herself or something and I was very put off by her constant talking. Past experiences have always been serene with some mild discomfort which I expected, but this experience was beyond painful. It was very negative and did absolutely nothing to ease my arthritic discomfort. In fact, it is so much worse.

    1. First and foremost, thanks very much for detailing your horrific account, Anne. I feel very lucky when I see comments like yours, because it’s stories like yours that really need to get told. That being said, I truly appreciate you!

      I’m so sorry that you had to go through such a grueling experience. This is the polar opposite of what massage should be. Massage is not about torture and pain, it’s about helping someone achieve a state of well-being (both physical and mental) by demonstrating care, compassion, and most importantly, correct technique.

      I really don’t get why certain therapists can’t seem to understand that no means no – there’s no 2 ways about it! That to me is a red flag and deserving to halt the massage session immediately. If you can’t listen to what I am telling you, that indicates to me that you don’t care about how I feel. It’s enough to stop the massage altogether and speak to the manager directly to request a refund. It might be harsh, but this is the only way.

      Once again, I am so very sorry that you had to go through all of what you did. How are you holding up now? I realize it’s been a while since you left this comment, so I apologize for the delay. But do let us know how things are progressing for you these days. Take care and be well, Anne.

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