Is It Normal To Bruise After A Massage? Here's What To Know

When it comes to a holistic approach to physical and mental wellness, there are few things that work as quickly and effectively as a good massage. Beyond a treat, a massage is a therapeutic treatment in which a person's muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia are pressed, kneaded, and manipulated to facilitate blood circulation and improve overall health. Massage is a great therapy for overall relaxation and alleviation of muscle tension and pain, massage therapist Victoria Bodner tells Cleveland Clinic.

The level of post-massage soreness and tightness can vary depending on the type of massage you get. After a massage, you'll usually feel revitalized and a bit weak in your muscles due to constant stimulation in different areas of your body — but it's just a part of the healing process. It's also common to experience mild soreness and dizzy spells after massage therapy. Sometimes, you might experience a bit of bruising. Many people have reported leaving the massage tables feeling relieved but finding sore black and blue marks on their skin the next day. Although these bruises are not detrimental to your health, they can make you feel and look like you were beaten up. So, is it normal to bruise after a massage? Here are some insights.

Why you experience bruising after a massage

Post-massage bruising can be a sign of poor massaging technique. "Your skin might get a little red after a massage, but typically people don't get bruises," Dr. Victoria Harrison, an assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, tells Allure. A good masseuse does not inflict trauma on your skin. When it happens, you can take it as a sign that the massage is too aggressive on your skin and tell your masseuse to ease off.  

According to Achieve Health, this post-massage bruising could be a case of contusion, which occurs when capillaries burst and red blood cells leak from trauma to the skin's surface and deeper tissues. Your tissues may be harboring stagnant blood as knots, and the massaging movement might alleviate these knots. When that happens, a bruise can form. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Your body benefits from what is going on beneath the surface.

Meanwhile, Tuggeranong Square Medical Practice notes that bruising can sometimes happen with deep tissue massage, a form of massage that targets connective tissues and less active muscles in a specific area. The bruising or dark spots that occur after a deep tissue massage are a result of tiny blood vessels being ruptured by the massaging pressure. Those with thin skin, delicate blood vessels, or bleeding disorders are more likely to experience bruises after a massage.

How to deal with post-massage bruising

If you are prone to bruising, Dr. Victoria Harrison recommends skipping aspirin, a blood thinner, before going for the massage. Medications and dietary supplements with blood-thinning effects such as ibuprofen, clopidogrel, warfarin, dabigatran as well as ginkgo, ginseng, and garlic will make your skin more vulnerable to bruising. Because blood thinners and anticoagulants slow down blood coagulation, it can cause your skin to bruise more easily, according to Heart Matters. If you've been prescribed blood thinners or anticoagulants to prevent blood clotting, consult your physician for gentler massage therapies that are less likely to leave bruises on your skin, such as Swedish massage, aromatherapy massage, or lymphatic drainage massage.

Within the first 48 hours after receiving a massage, if you get bruising, using a cold compress on the area will help lessen blood flow through ruptured blood vessels and control the bleeding. Ice packs also aid in reducing swelling and inflammation, hastening the healing process. It's advisable to alternate between cold and hot treatments. 48 hours after the bruise appears, apply a hot compress, advises WebMD. You can apply a heating pad or a towel dampened with warm water to the bruise or soak it in a hot bath. Heat stimulates blood flow to the affected area, enlarges blood vessels, and relaxes muscles, restoring flexibility to the muscle and treating the bruise.