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Feeling sick after a massage? Don’t worry, it’s not just you!
Actually, it turns out that many people feel tired or otherwise lousy after their massage session – but why is this the case, and what can you do about it?
Rest assured that feeling sick after a massage is usually just your body’s response to some of the changes that happen during a massage, and usually aren’t a sign of anything serious.
Even better, there are techniques that you can follow to help minimize these side effects and feel your best after a massage.
Let’s get going!
Why Trust Our Advice and Some Disclaimer
Written by Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS, a licensed PT and our expert board member, this post is based on careful testing and research. While we do our best to share reliable info on massage guns, it’s always a good idea to chat with a healthcare expert before trying something new.
Can You Get Sick After a Massage?
While many people attribute feeling sick after a massage to the release of toxins, there actually isn’t much research to support this idea. In fact, the American Massage Therapy Association has even declared this to be a complete myth1.
However, even if you remove toxins from the equation, it’s still very possible to feel sick after a massage for other reasons – here are a few that you should be aware of:
It’s is your body’s way of bringing in nutrients to tissues and taking out waste using blood.
During a massage, blood flow is altered from the pressure being applied, and your circulation of nutrients or waste changes.
Although circulatory changes are temporary during your massage, they can lead to symptoms after a massage such as headache, dizziness, and fatigue (feeling tired).
This can affect how well your body functions in just about every way, and your body works hard to maintain steady hydration throughout your day for optimal health.
During a massage, your body can use up a lot of water in a short amount of time, leading to dehydration for some people.
When you’re dehydrated you might notice weakness, lightheadedness, or a dry mouth. In fact, dehydration might be the most common reason for feeling sick after a massage.
This is a natural part of your body’s healing process, and the chemicals that drive inflammation can be increased when your body is put under stress (like some types of massage).
Even in small amounts, inflammation can lead to a host of side effects that make you feel similar to when your immune system is fighting a disease.
If you tend to feel unwell after massage you might be wondering, is it normal to feel nauseous after a massage? Because different people react to changes in their circulation, hydration, and inflammation differently, it’s possible to experience nausea after a massage without any serious consequences.
However, if you find yourself experiencing nausea for long periods (>24 hours) after a massage, it might be a good idea to talk to your primary care doctor to rule out any rare, but possible side effects from your massage.
The good news is that for most people, most of the time, there are no side effects of feeling sick or otherwise unwell after a massage.
However, for those who do experience these side effects, we estimate somewhere in the ballpark of a few hours. Of course, this will vary depending on the individual and the type of massage being used.
The most important thing to remember if you’re feeling unwell after a massage is that these side effects are almost always temporary. This means that even if you’re feeling unwell immediately after your massage, or even for a few hours after, you’ll likely feel back to your normal self pretty quickly.
Can a Deep Tissue Massage Make You Sick?
Because deep tissue massage often involves more pressure and squeezing of muscles compared to other massage techniques, it also has more potential to “get things moving”. Although not guaranteed, this may also make side effects of feeling sick or unwell more likely following a deep tissue massage.
So, if you’re wondering “can a deep tissue massage make you sick?” the answer to that will still depend on the individual receiving the massage. However, based on what we know about deep tissue massage, it may have more likelihood to make those prone to feeling sick after a massage feel unwell when compared to other popular types of massage.
While it’s not necessarily expected to feel flu or cold like symptoms after massage, it’s still a normal experience for many people. For example, headache after massage is fairly common, especially after massaging the neck and shoulders. Another common example is fatigue after massage, which can make it more difficult to manage any other symptoms.
Deep tissue massage is also a great example for prioritizing hydration before and after getting a massage. Because dehydration likely plays a big role in feeling sick after a massage, and deep tissue massage is more likely than other massage techniques to cause dehydration, it’s especially important to drink water in order to mitigate unwanted massage side effects.
When working with a massage therapist, make sure to talk to them about your experience with massage and the level of pressure that you tend to respond best to. If they’re experienced, your massage therapist should be able to adjust their technique to avoid giving you too much pressure for your specific needs.
One other type of massage to consider is lymphatic massage, which focuses on enhancing movement of lymph throughout your body2. Put simply, lymph is a fluid that your body uses to move many different chemicals and natural waste products in the body.
While lymphatic massage is typically more gentle compared to techniques like deep tissue, it has higher potential to cause side effects in the body even with the use of lighter pressure.
Related Massage Gun for Lymphatic Drainage – Worth Using? Which One To Choose?
Okay, but what about massage guns?
Can Deep Tissue Massage Guns Make You Sick?
When we talk about deep tissue massage guns, we’re referring to a category of incredibly popular devices that feature a percussing massage head and can be used for a self-massage anywhere.
Here at MassageGunAdvice, we’ve personally tested hundreds of massage gun devices and we know just about everything about them.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to say for sure whether massage guns can make you feel sick after a massage in the same way that a traditional massage can. However, we can tell you that it’s possible to achieve many benefits from regular massage gun use that many people seek from a deep tissue massage3,4.
What this really means is that even if we can’t say massage guns definitely cause feelings of sickness, it’s likely that those who are more sensitive to these side effects after a traditional or deep tissue massage will be more likely to experience these side effects while using a massage gun.
Because massage guns use a percussing head that is unique from a standard deep tissue massage, here are some additional side effects to be aware of:
- Itchy skin on the area massaged, mostly due to friction and the material that the head is made with.
- Bruising of the area massaged, which can be made worse if too much pressure is being applied for too long.
- Soreness of the area massaged – while this is normal in small amounts, spending too much time in one area, or massaging over bone, can lead to excessive soreness.
If this is making you nervous to use your massage gun, don’t worry. Most of the side effects being explained here are rare and can be minimized or avoided with smart massage gun use and care.
To get the best results with your massage gun while minimizing side effects, check out our guides on how to use a massage gun safely and how to use a high-amplitude Theragun. As the experts on all things massage gun, we want you to get the most out of your massage gun device and stay safe while doing it!
Post-Massage Care: Mitigating Feelings of Sickness After a Massage
Okay, so maybe you’re feeling a little unwell after your massage session and wondering: how do you stop feeling sick after a massage?
While the answer will vary for everyone, here are a few simple strategies likely to help you feel better.
We’ve established that dehydration is a big player in feeling unwell after a massage, and the best way to fix that is by drinking water!
This doesn’t have to be anything excessive, but should involve a few glasses of water throughout the day after your massage.
If you’ve taken care of hydration and you’re still feeling unwell, it might be a good idea to lie down for a few minutes and let some of your body’s natural “rest and digest” functions do their job.
This can also give your body a little time to process some of the stress release that many people benefit from during a massage.
On the other hand, if hydration and resting aren’t giving you the results you want, it might be a good idea to try some light movement. This can look like a low-intensity walk, gentle stretching for the muscle groups that were massaged, or both.
However, it’s especially important to avoid high-intensity exercise or heavy muscle training after a massage, so remember to keep things light!
Of course, the need for these strategies can often be avoided by openly communicating your needs to your massage therapist early, which can prevent many of the side effects that come with a massage that’s too intense.
Feeling Sick After A Massage – Wrapping Up
While feeling sick after a massage doesn’t happen to everyone, it’s still very possible after certain types of massage such as deep tissue massage.
Luckily for those who tend to feel unwell after a massage, many of these unwanted massage side effects can be minimized by practicing good self-care and communicating with your massage therapist regularly.
Whether you’re seeing a trained massage therapist or using a massage gun at home, always make sure to listen to your body and focus on the strategies that get you the best results with the fewest side effects – what matters most is feeling your best every time!
Thanks for reading.
- 1.Brown Menard, PhD, LMT M. Myths, Massage and Research How massage therapists can help separate fact from “massage lore.” American Massage Therapy Association. Published February 1, 2022. https://www.amtamassage.org/publications/massage-therapy-journal/myths-in-massage-research
- 2.Thompson B, Gaitatzis K, Janse de Jonge X, Blackwell R, Koelmeyer LA. Manual lymphatic drainage treatment for lymphedema: a systematic review of the literature. J Cancer Surviv. Published online August 15, 2020:244-258. doi:10.1007/s11764-020-00928-1
- 3.Konrad A, Glashüttner C, Reiner M, Bernsteiner D, Tilp M. The Acute Effects of a Percussive Massage Treatment with a Hypervolt Device on Plantar Flexor Muscles’ Range of Motion and Performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(4):690-694. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33239942
- 4.Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef M. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):133-136. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971
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Here's a quick rundown of all the tweaks and edits we've made to this article to keep it accurate and up-to-date!
Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS
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