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Can you overdo a massage?

Massage therapy can provide many benefits, such as relieving muscle tension, reducing stress, and improving circulation. However, it is possible to get too much of a good thing when it comes to massage. Understanding the pros and cons of massage can help you determine if you are overdoing it.

The benefits of massage

There are several evidence-based benefits to receiving regular massage therapy:

  • Reduces muscle tension, stiffness, and pain
  • Lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol
  • Improves circulation and nutrient delivery to muscles
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhances athletic performance and recovery
  • Alleviates anxiety, depression, and headaches
  • Promotes relaxation and sleep quality

The frequency of massage needed to obtain benefits depends on your individual needs and goals. Generally, getting a massage every 1-2 weeks provides ongoing relief for issues like chronic pain and high stress.

Risks of overusing massage

While massage therapy is relatively safe when performed by a licensed professional, getting too frequent or intense massage can lead to:

  • Overuse injuries – Repeated massage of sore muscles can cause microscopic tears.
  • Nerve damage – Excessive pressure on nerves can cause numbness or shooting pains.
  • Bruising – Massage can rupture blood vessels, leading to skin discoloration.
  • Inflammation – Frequent massage aggravates swollen, injured tissues.
  • Dependency – Some people psychologically crave daily massage even if it’s not medically necessary.
  • Financial cost – Frequent massage adds up quickly and may not be covered by insurance.

Certain medical conditions also warrant caution with frequent massage:

  • Blood clot disorders – Pressure from massage may dislodge clots.
  • Osteoporosis – Fragile bones are vulnerable to fracture.
  • Cancer – Massage may spread cancer cells from tumors.
  • Skin infections, rashes – Contact risks spreading contagious skin conditions.
  • High blood pressure – Stroking techniques can spike blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy – Hormonal changes may increase risks of prenatal massage.

Signs you may be overdoing massage

Watch for these signs that you may need to scale back on massage frequency/intensity:

  • Muscle soreness lasts longer than 48 hours after massage.
  • You regularly get bruises or skin irritation from massage.
  • You feel dependent on massage to function or relax.
  • You experience numbness or tingling after massage.
  • You avoid exercise and activity between massages.
  • Your budget is strained from frequent massages.
  • Your therapist recommends less frequent sessions.

Tips for safe, effective massage

To optimize the benefits of massage while minimizing risks, consider these tips:

  • Increase massage frequency gradually under your therapist’s guidance.
  • Schedule sessions based on your body’s needs and recovery capacity.
  • Choose a certified therapist who adapts pressure and techniques to your responses.
  • Stay well hydrated before and after massage to avoid soreness.
  • Speak up during your session if something is uncomfortable.
  • Supplement massage with other self-care like exercise, sleep, and nutrition.
  • Keep communications open with your therapist about your goals.

How often should you get a massage?

There are no definitive medical guidelines on optimal massage frequency. Some general recommendations based on your goals:

Goal Suggested Frequency
General relaxation 1-2 times per month
Chronic pain relief 1-2 times per week
Injury rehabilitation 2-3 times per week
Sport performance 1-2 times per week
Stress management 1-2 times per week

For most people, aiming for 1-2 massages per month provides health benefits while minimizing any risks of overuse. It’s best to start slowly and find the optimal frequency that meets your individual needs.

Should you get a massage every day?

Getting a massage every day is likely excessive for most people. Potential downsides of daily massage include:

  • Increased risk of injuries like muscle tears or nerve damage
  • Financial costs can add up quickly
  • May become a psychological dependency
  • Prevents muscles from fully recovering between sessions

There are a few cases where daily massage may be warranted, such as:

  • Short-term intensive therapy for sports injuries
  • Hospitalization or hospice care
  • Prescription from your doctor for a specific condition

However, daily massage is not a long-term, sustainable solution. It’s best to scale back to 1-2 massages per week after initial rehab or intensive therapy.

Risk factors for overusing massage

Certain conditions or situations that may increase your risk of overdoing it on massages include:

  • High pain levels – Severe chronic pain may lead you to overuse massage for temporary relief.
  • High stress – Massage can become an unhealthy coping mechanism for high anxiety.
  • Competitive athletes – The drive to excel may result in excessive massage.
  • Weekends or vacations – Having extra leisure time may tempt you to add more massages.
  • Massage addictions – A small percentage develop a psychological dependency on massage.
  • Uninformed therapists – Poorly trained massage therapists may not advise proper frequency.

Being mindful of these risk factors can help you make informed decisions about massage schedule.

Signs of massage addiction

For a small percentage of people, an unhealthy addiction to massage can develop. Signs include:

  • Feeling irritated or distressed when you miss a regular session.
  • Increasing massage frequency over time without medical need.
  • Continuing frequent massages against a therapist’s advice.
  • Prioritizing massage over responsibilities or social activities.
  • Hiding your massage habits from family/friends due to guilt or shame.
  • Feeling like you “need” a massage to get through the day.
  • Ongoing massage even if causing financial hardship or physical injuries.

If you recognize several of these signs in yourself, seeking help from a counselor or doctor is advisable. Massage addiction reflects an unhealthy relationship with the practice.

When to avoid massage

It’s best to avoid massage in the following situations:

  • Fevers – Massage can further increase body temperature.
  • Infections – Risk of spreading infectious diseases is higher.
  • Skin wounds – Massage may irritate or infect open wounds.
  • Blood clots – Dislodging risks serious complications.
  • Recent surgery – Massage may disrupt healing tissues.
  • Undiagnosed pain – Cause of pain should be determined first.
  • After strenuous exercise – Muscles need rest to recover.

In some cases, your doctor may advise avoiding massage based on your specific health status. Always consult your physician if you have any concerns.


Massage is generally beneficial when not overdone, with most people doing fine with 1-2 massages per month. More frequent massage may be appropriate in some cases but also raises risks of overuse injuries, dependency, and financial costs. Finding the right balance means paying attention to your body’s signals and communicating openly with a qualified therapist.