• Amanda Michelle Reyes

Massage and the Heart

Updated: Aug 1, 2020

According to the CDC, high blood pressurehigh blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.

Massage therapy ,combine with doctor-prescribed interventions, offers clients with a history of cardiovascular issues some benefits that may help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.

How Stress Affects the Heart

“When stress is excessive, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure, also called hypertension, to asthma to ulcers to irritable bowel syndrome ,” said Ernesto L. Schiffrin, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief at Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital, and professor and vice chair of research for the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.

A stressful situation sets off a chain of events. Your body releases adrenaline, a hormone that temporarily causes your breathing and heart rate to speed up and your blood pressure to rise. Constant stress can contribute to long-term problems for heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and of blood pressure, can take a toll on the cardiovascular system. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke.

How Massage Helps

Massage therapy used in conjunction with doctor-prescribed protocols may help in client's overall cardiovascular health.

Massage therapy has been reported to help decrease blood pressure,reduces heart rate and cause variations in heart rate which may promote cardiovascular health. In fact, a pilot study conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles showed that in-patient massage treatments performed after heart bypass surgery reduced pain and muscle spasms.

Massage also helps alleviate chronic pain, which helps interrupt the brain’s “fight or flight” response and reduce anxiety before or after surgical procedures.


While massage is generally safe and effective it may be contraindicated for some people.

  • Those on blood thinning medications should avoid vigorous or deep tissue techniques, as these can cause bruising, inflammation, or tissue damage.

  • Massage is not recommended for those with uncontrolled blood pressure (not medicated).

  • Patients with a history of blood clots should avoid rigorous techniques, especially around the neck where the carotid artery is found.

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