Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications Part 5 Herniated Disc – By Vanessa Ragains

For our topic last week, we covered Parkinson’s Disease. My goal was to share what the disease does and how it affects the body. While treatments may vary, Massage therapy is the one used most frequent for not having negative side effects like certain medications in order to increase their quality of sleep, decrease anxiety, depression, and muscle rigidity. This week we will be discussing Disc disease and how massage can support the client suffering from this pathology.

Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications Part 5 Disc Disease

Disc Disease Defined: When the intervertebral disc is damaged in a way that it applies pressure on nerves or the spinal cord. Only if the bulge or crack is not interfering with nerves or the spinal cord is when symptoms may not be present.

Disc Disease Symptoms:

  • local and radicular pain (Shooting, burning, or electrical)
  • specific muscle weakness
  • paresthesia (pins and needle sensation)
  • numbness (Can be disc problem and ligament injuries)

Massage Risks: 

NOTE: Before bodywork can be done safely, the therapist must have a clear picture of the clients diagnoses. This will ensure that the client will benefit from the session and the therapist will know the areas that can be addressed and areas that should be avoided.

  • Acutely inflamed discs may do best with gentle bodywork that does not irritate the surrounding or other tissues
  • Muscle splinting around a weakened area must be treated with great care. Reducing muscle tone prematurely may aggravate symptoms
  • Any type of position that worsen the symptoms should be avoided

Massage Benefits:

  • A client with damaged disc disease may benefit from careful bodywork with a focus on decompressing the spine, reducing muscle splinting, and postural patterns that often are a result of nerve pain

My Opinion: 

In the Massage career, you may work with clients who have had disc issues. It is best to make sure you understand this disease very well before any bodywork is done. I will sometimes request a Doctors note to release the client to have massage therapy as a way for treating them. This also provides me with direct communication with their doctor should I have any future questions or concerns that I feel need to be addressed with a professional before moving forward. The overall goal of each session should be to remove pressure from the nerve roots. Using traction techniques and Cranial Sacral therapy can be helpful to support the client without too much twisting or bodywork that will cause irritation instead of relief.

Communicating with your client is essential when working with Disc Disease clients. This communication can guide you to a better understanding of what the individual is dealing with and you are able to assess and see if the techniques you are using are benefitting the client or if a different approach should be made. You will also build a trusting relationship with your client when you ask their opinion about how they feel after each session and allow them to provide feedback so that they feel involved in the recovery process.

Is there a Pathology you would be interested in reading about? I would love your suggestions on certain pathologies that you may need to see in the breakdown. Check back next week for our next discussion on Pathologies, Massage, and Contraindications!

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog. I am looking forward to reviewing common and uncommon Pathologies that we may encounter on our journey of being a Massage therapist. For all you awesome clients out there, I hope you learn why massage can actually be contraindicated with certain pathologies and precautions you and your therapist need to take.

I LOVE YOUR QUESTIONS!! Please feel free to ask me a question or comment about what you read today. Looking forward to hearing from radical Folks like yourself!


All this information come from one of my must-have books for the massage career: A Massage Therapist Guide to Pathology. 5th Edition Author: Ruth Werner



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