A common question we usually start hearing this time of year is “Should I come in if I am have a cold (or flu)?” Most of the time people think getting a massage will help them feel better when, in fact, the opposite is more likely.
Both a cold and the flu are viruses and that means they both have similar M.O.s. They sneak in to a living cell and then, in a bold coupe, overthrow the reigning government, take over the inner workings of the cell and then fulfill their little viral destinies: they start replicating. For a more detailed explanation, see what the National Library of Medicine has to say about viruses.
Once the virus has started creating other viral soldiers, the troops need transportation and, in the human body, transportation means movement through bodily fluids. We usually think of spreading a cold or the flu in terms of spreading it to others by sneezing, coughing or kissing (get more information from the Center for Disease Control) but before that happens, the virus has to make its way through our own body and that means moving through the blood.
One of the benefits of massage is that it helps move fluids, particularly blood and fluid that exists within the body’s tissues. When viral troops are waiting to be moved, massage can actually help them travel farther and faster than they might normally be able to before the immune cells catch up with them; it is one of those times that something normally beneficial can become a hindrance.
A massage can not only prolong a cold or the flu, it can also cause the symptoms to feel much more intense. As tempting as it may be to go ahead with a session, it is far better in the long run to follow the CDC recommendations and stay home, get rest and drink fluids. Their website has some fantastic suggestions for symptom relief.
Once a cold or the flu is on its way out the door, massage is again appropriate and beneficial. At that point, the movement of fluids can actually help get the immune cells to the remaining viral soldiers instead of helping the virus outreach and overrun the immune cells as it did in the earlier stages of the infection.
In short, what we tell clients is if you feel like you have the beginnings of a cold or the flu, please make yourself a priority…stay home, rest and drink fluids. If it becomes necessary, contact your doctor. We want you to take care of yourself. When you are feeling better, we’ll be here with our table warmers and warm packs ready. It will be a perfect time to let us make you a priority!