Being a Massage Therapist, I give a lot of massages to all sorts of people. Many of my clients ask me questions or make statements regarding the massage environment. With regards to increased congestion and resulting discomfort during a massage, most comment and appreciate efforts to assist with their condition. One client recently asked me, “Why do I get congested when I am getting a massage?” I paused, then said that I’d need to research that question as there seem to be several opinions.There are several documented causes for the sinus congestion
. The most common are unusual pressure on the sinus area of the face during the massage, the face-down positioning, and seasonal allergies. The unusual pressure of the face cradle depends highly on the type of face cradle used. Some are designed to alleviate the pressure issue, some are designed for comfort. Then again, each person’s face is shaped differently so who’s to say what is comfortable? All face cradles tend to place pressure on the acupressure points on the face for relieving congestion. Not exactly what we are looking for in a massage. Face down positioning allows gravity to work its magic and bring existing sinus congestion forward into the nasal cavities and cause additional breathing issues. Without changing the gravitational pull of the earth, this is not something I can modify! Seasonal allergies are the most common cause. Clients with active allergy issues come into the massage with excess mucous ready to give in to pressure points and gravity.What to do?
There are many things that Massage Therapists like me do to assist clients with sinus congestion during the massage therapy session: adjustments to the face cradle are helpful to minimize acupressure points that relieve sinus pressure; positioning of the massage table so that the head end is a bit higher than the foot end can help with the gravity issue; using essential oils like pine, eucalyptus, or peppermint to open up sinus passages; and lastly, using breathing aids such as cold gel-filled face masks or nasal strips. The problem with all of these measures is that they are a guessing game, as each client reacts differently. The most reasonable suggestions include:
1) trying all of the above in a constant effort to provide the most comfortable experience for the client, and 2) prevent pre-existing issues in the first place. The most reliable method of preventing or alleviating sinus congestion is sinus irrigation. Sinus irrigation is actually a very old way of coping with congestion, allergies, and post-nasal drip. Putting it simply, sinus irrigation is exactly what it sounds like: using a saline solution to gently wash out mucous, dust, pollen, and other irritants. A popular method of sinus irrigation is to use a Neti-Pot
Performing sinus irrigation an hour or two prior to your massage can effectively reduce or eliminate sinus congestion so you can more fully enjoy your massage. In addition to removing mucous and irritants that cause congestion from your sinuses, the salt in the saline solution is also effective in relieving swelling of sinus membranes. Sinus irrigation is a simple and safe method of reducing sinus congestion and post-nasal drip, but there are some conditions which might make it contraindicated for you. Please check with your doctor prior to performing any sinus irrigation.