Dangers of Massage
Like any other kinds of therapy, massage has its own dangers.
In my more than 20 years of doing massage, there is one place, of the body, believed to be a dangerous spot that caused the death of some clients.
I was warned many times that massaging the back of the neck is dangerous. In effect, some patients were wary to have massage for this reason alone (I thank the One who gave talents and skills- no one died after I massage their neck and head). Still, the question that comes to mind is why others resulted in disaster while others did not.
That same question has been bothering me for years. Why is it that if neck massage is contraindication of massage how come no one showed even a slight problem during the stretch of my practice, as I always focus on the neck and head as my last finishing touch. (I admit, some effects were felt by some patients in response to some massage moves and health conditions, but it will be discussed in a different page)
I confess I never saw one gave a massage where the patient died afterwards. I only heard it, so, I was not giving weight to it. Nevertheless, I was disturbed because it is sworn by people who saw and know people who actually died after the massage. The fifth and last story I heard was from a friend whose friend was like kind of blaming herself because a 60 years old woman whom she gave a neck massage about two years ago, died a few hours afterwards. Not a big number, but when three or four different people are talking of the same issue, especially when it involves life, then we better listen if we are serious about our profession as massage therapists.
From all the stories I heard, there are common circumstances, and group of people who are casualties of such kind of massage. Here are the common conditions and health of people that succumb to the side effects of massage:
A. Middle age and above
B. People with high blood pressure
D. Having neck pains when they ask for the magic of massage
E. All are women(maybe no man became a victim yet)
However, in my own experience, I encountered all the conditions and people enumerated above without any trouble afterwards( Big thanks to the ONE who gave talents and skills that nothing undesirable happened).
In fact, massage can lower high blood pressures as we learned during our outreach with my students in the latter part of 1990s. All those with high number of BP’s before the massage became normal or were closed to normal, and those who had low BP’s gained numbers.
Since I never experience the problem, I speculated that there must be a connection to the technique of the massage therapist. So, to discover what it is, I went around as a patient to anyone I learn as massage therapist: paid or not, licensed or unlicensed, experts or non-expert just to learn how they massage the neck.
The Probable Cause
In my wandering, I experienced light massages to just a brush on the neck moves. When I ask them to do more and make it with more pressure they told me it’s dangerous or repeated it with same light touch. Out of about closed to 50 masseuses/masseurs, however, there are two techniques I found to be the most probable reason why some massage ends in tragic result. Not so common techniques, I experienced from about three people, and who were not aware of the danger of massaging the neck.
Being not aware about the danger of massaging the neck, coupled with their unique style of applying pressure could almost certainly caused problems to the patient – and the worst – death.
The hand technique I am referring is the Claw hand massage technique or commonly known as the letter C. This is the technique used by three people in my search as the possible cause of death in few clients.
This technique, while it is good when applied to some clients, it usually results to flu-like-pain the following day for the receiver. Especially, when the clients have chronic muscle lethargy it could also make the patient to have fever.
The technique works with great precision pressing into the muscles, hence, if it is not used correctly could damage muscles which result to blood clots very visible on the skin. It is therefore strongly advised never use it on the neck region. Even a mild press could damage arteries going into the brain remarkably to people who have high blood condition.
This technique is common to people using reflexology, acupressure, and sometimes shiatsu to dig deeper on a calloused feet, and to reach a deep point of the body.
However, this technique should never be used on the neck area because of its limited muscle cover. In addition, one could not control the pressure because it is directly pressing on the cervical bones.
Using the tip of the thumb to apply pressure on the sides of the neck and any part of the body could cause injury, trauma on the muscles and, arteries and veins. Therefore, a great caution must always be observed when applied to the body for therapeutic purpose.
This is the right thumb position when applying thumb pressures anywhere in the body.
The Safer Hand Technique
To be safe, I recommend this finger style when massaging the neck.
I don’t know how to best describe the pictures above but I like to call it “relaxed-snake-mouth style” without the fangs and teeth. It looks like a toothless snake’s open mouth. This method is safe to use because it glides easily over the skin and has a minimal chance of hurting an artery or vein.
Nevertheless, I am not saying that the other technique cannot be used, because there are points and places where a concentrated pressure is needed, although a great care must be always remembered. I often use the letter C to treat the arms, and lower legs.
If you’re a beginner better practice caution. And to master the technique (C position) better do it to yourself until you are comfortable with it and when applied to clients, be sure to practice it with caution and care. And of course, never apply the technique to anyone’s neck.
If you heard a similar story, or had a personal experience about the topic you just read, I am glad to hear about it. Please, leave your comments below. Thank you