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  • Massage and High Blood Pressure / Hypertension

    Massage and High Blood Pressure / Hypertension
    25 Jun
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    Posted by Evolve College News

    High blood pressure (or Hypertension) refers to a condition where a person’s blood pressure (i.e. the force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls) is higher than it should be. Typically, high blood pressure has no signs or symptoms, but if left untreated can result in serious conditions such as a stroke. 

    Normal blood pressure measures in around 120/80. High blood pressure is classified as any measurement that consistently clocks in over 140/90. High blood pressure places strain on blood vessels including arteries that lead up to the brain. This is problematic as it means that the heart has to work hard to keep circulation moving through the body. The cause of high blood pressure is difficult to pinpoint exactly, but it may be caused by factors such as family history, age, weight, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and lack of exercise and other conditions such as Diabetes. 

    As a massage therapist, you should have a thorough client health history before commencing treatment, which should indicate if your client is aware of having high blood pressure. So, if your client does have hight blood pressure, is it still okay to commence treatment? The answer to this depends on two factors. 

    1. How high exactly?

    Blood pressure that rises above 120/80 but is still below 140/90 is classified as pre-high blood pressure. In these cases, massage therapy may support to lower these numbers for the client by providing relaxation. Studies have shown that high blood pressure is typically associated with elevated levels of anxiety, stress hostility and depression. In numerous studies, massage therapy has been shown to effectively reduce these factors in individuals thus dropping their blood pressure over a certain period of time.

    Readings that are higher than 140 require more caution from you as a therapist - In these cases it is wise to seek approval from your client's GP before commencing treatment. Readings 160 or over should be avoided or if treating only doing so under the watch of the client's healthcare provider. The reason for this is that someone with these readings will have excessive pressure being exerted against their blood vessel walls, and as massage therapy is known to increase blood circulation, this could potentially add to this pressure putting more strain on blood vessels. 

    2. What kind of massage therapy are you using?

    The above-mentioned studies were relevant to the kind of massage therapy being practiced. In these cases, Swedish massage had the most lowering effects on clients where as painful techniques such as trigger point therapy had the potential to have the opposite effect. In a client with pre-high blood pressure or high blood pressure, it is recommended to use only techniques that are relaxation based.

    Overall, there is room for more studies to be done on the effects of massage therapy on high blood pressure, however the studies that have been done are leaning more towards it being beneficial and effective than being harmful. As a therapist however, it is important that you always treat on the side of caution. If you find yourself unsure about your client’s condition, or if your client has uncontrolled high blood pressure (undiagnosed or unmanaged), then always seek permission from their GP or health care provider before treatment.