So, you just received your annual flu vaccination or your COVID-19 booster shot. Now what? When is it safe to get your next full body therapeutic massage? I have some thoughts about it that I’d like to share with you. First of all, plan on getting a massage BEFORE your vaccine, rather than right afterwards. A day or two beforehand is great. This will stimulate your immune system and set you up well for your body’s response to the vaccine. Next, please avoid massage for about two days after a flu vaccine and nine days after receiving a shingles or COVID-19 vaccination. I made up that number. You won’t find it online. I looked. But here’s where I got it. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that side effects for the COVID-19 vaccine show up within seven days. I added two days to make sure your massage is well out of the side effect time period. Read an overview of COVID-19 Vaccinations here.
Don’t Get a Massage Right After Your Vaccine
Over the years, I’ve had numerous clients show up for their massage appointments and announce that they just stopped by the pharmacy to get a vaccination right before coming in to see me. For each of them, I apologize and ask them to reschedule their massage. This issue is becoming more and more prevalent as we’re stepping into both flu season AND the beginning of the next COVID-19 surge. When you receive a vaccine, your body perceives the contents of the vaccine as an invader and mounts an immune response. The more robust the response, the more your body is producing antibodies against the illness. It can take a few weeks for your body to make all of the T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes needed to fight off an illness. Right after a vaccine, treat your body as if you have the illness you’ve been vaccinated against. Keep in mind that an hour Swedish massage has the same effect on your circulatory system as going on a five-mile hike. Massage moves a lot of blood and lymph around the body! If you had the flu, would you go out and get a massage? I hope not! Here’s an article from the Center for Disease Control on how vaccines work in the body.
Don’t Get a Massage While You’re Having Negative Symptoms from a Vaccine
Ruth Werner is a highly respected massage professional who wrote “A Massage Therapist’s Guide to Pathology.” In an article she wrote for the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) on January 1, 2021, she recommends waiting at least two days after each COVID-19 vaccine injection to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction to the vaccine before receiving massage. If you have a negative reaction to the vaccine, wait until your symptoms are gone before you get the massage. Read the entire article here. I prefer to err on the conservative side, which is why I added an extra week to her recommendation.
Wait Until Your Risk of Blood Clots Has Decreased
The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have a window of time for four to twenty-eight days after the vaccination where a very small percentage of people develop blood clots (vaccine-inducted thrombotic thrombocytopenia). Read the article here. Although this risk is very small, massage increases your risk of throwing a blood clot within than twenty-eight day time window. I definitely don’t want to be the massage therapist that sends you to the emergency room. So, if you’re using the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, please delay your next therapeutic massage for twenty-eight days.
Massage Can Slow Down Your Immune Response to Vaccines
It’s really hard to find research studies on vaccinations and massage! But here’s one I found on PubMed. A 2012 research study looked at massage therapy and antibody responses to a Hepatitis B vaccination. In the study, the group receiving the massages after the vaccine had a lower antibody response to the vaccine than the control group. Since we really want the vaccinations to kick up our antibody responses to the illness, it appears from this study that massage interferes with antibody production. Since we want a robust immune response to vaccines, this study seems to indicate that delaying massage after vaccines is beneficial. Read the PubMed article here.
If you choose to get vaccinated, go get your vaccine! Schedule your regular massage for a day or two before your vaccine and then avoid massage for two days (after a flu shot) to nine days (after a COVID-19 vaccine) afterwards. While you’re waiting for your body to mount an immune response to the vaccine, take great care of yourself. Drink plenty of water. Ice your arm, massage the injection site lightly and make sure you’re moving that arm around. Get plenty of rest. Avoid hard core, strenuous exercise for a few days. And then schedule your next therapeutic massage.