Exploring the Benefits of Massage After a Heart Attack

Woman massaging an old man

A heart attack is a traumatic and life-altering event, no matter when, where, or what age it occurs. And while many patients do recover from heart attacks thanks to advances in medicine and preventative action, the process from hospitalization to recovery isn’t a linear one. In fact, recovering from such a significant medical episode often involves various rehabilitative strategies, each designed to improve not just your physical health but your emotional wellbeing too. 

But what about massage therapy after a heart attack? In the following blog, we’re going to take a look at how massage therapy can potentially be beneficial to heart patients, while going over some key concerns and considerations to take beforehand. Let’s dive in.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack- known in the medical world as a myocardial infarction - occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or completely stopped. This can often occur due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which leads to a blockage; the lack of blood flow then results in damage to the heart muscle, which can have both immediate and long-term implications on the person's health.

Generally speaking, heart attacks manifest via various symptoms, and not all cases are the same. Some common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and extreme fatigue, as well as pain radiating from the chest to the arm or shoulder. Some symptoms can even differ between the sexes, with women often reporting pain radiating to the jaw, neck and back, as well as nausea and cold sweats. Immediate medical intervention is critical when it comes to minimizing heart damage and preserving heart function, so if you do suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing a heart attack, calling 911 - or for your local emergency services - is imperative. 

Is Massage Safe for Heart Patients?

So, back to massage - is it actually safe for those who’ve recently recovered from a heart attack? As you likely suspect, the answer is complex, and when considering massage therapy as part of post-heart attack recovery, safety is always going to be the biggest and foremost concern for both the patient as well as the massage therapist. This is because anyone recovering from a heart attack is often in a delicate state, where any form of physical stress or exertion needs to be approached with caution. In general, the safety of massage therapy in heart patients largely depends on several factors:

  • The Severity of the Heart Attack: The extent of the heart attack plays a key role in determining whether massage is advisable or not; patients who have experienced a major heart attack may need to wait longer before considering massage therapy.

  • Current Health Status: Ongoing health issues, such as heart rhythm problems or unstable blood pressure, may impact the safety of massage therapy.

  • Type of Massage: Not all massage techniques are suitable for heart attack patients: gentle, non-stimulating types of massage - such as Swedish massage - are generally preferred over more intense reiterations, in order to avoid any undue stress on the heart.

  • Medical Approval: As with any holistic treatment, the only way for massage to be considered fully safe for a heart patient is if it’s been medically approved and signed off - either by the patient’s primary care physician or their heart specialist.

Benefits of Massage After a Heart Attack

Old man getting a massage

So, if massage therapy has been signed off and approved for you or a loved one, how can it help? While research is ongoing, here are just a few of the potential benefits:

Stress Reduction 

One of the primary benefits of massage therapy is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety; psychological stress is a known risk factor for heart disease and heart attacks, so anything that can help a heart patient manage their stress levels should be explored. The emotional and psychological benefits of massage are well-documented; from inducing states of relaxation and improving sleep quality, to lowering stress hormones like cortisol, regular massage can be beneficial for heart health. 

In some cases, patients might feel too tired or anxious to visit a spa or massage therapist themselves; this is where at-home massage services - like those we offer at Spa Theory - come in useful. With mobile couples massage services, heart patients can enjoy massage therapy in the comfort of their own home, alongside a loved one or friend who can keep them company during the session.

Enhanced Circulation and Muscle Relaxation

Similar to the benefits of a massage for high blood pressure, massage therapy for heart attack patients is known to improve blood flow and circulation, and this enhanced circulation in the body can speed up the healing process by delivering more oxygen and nutrients to damaged heart tissues faster. Plus, many patients become inactive after a heart attack, so massage can help relax tense muscles induced by a sedentary lifestyle during the recovery process. 

Pain Management

Finally, pain and discomfort are incredibly common after a heart attack, in part due to the strain on the body and in part due to the emotional toll of the experience. This is where massage can come in useful:, as a non-pharmaceutical approach to pain relief, massage can help improve everything from pain perception to mobility, all of which can contribute to reducing pain and discomfort. 

Safety Considerations

While the benefits of massage therapy are potentially lucrative, ensuring safety for heart attack patients should always be key. Here are some important considerations:

Timing and Intensity of Massage

The timing of when to start massage therapy post heart attack is critical: in almost all cases, it’s recommended to wait until the patient's condition has stabilized before embarking upon any form of physical therapy. The intensity and type of massage should also be gentle, especially in the initial stages, to avoid any undue pressure on the heart and the cardiovascular system.

Professional Expertise

It’s always a good idea to seek massage therapy from qualified professionals experienced in dealing with heart patients; they’ll be able to assess the patient's condition and tailor the massage techniques accordingly.

Coordination with Healthcare Providers

Finally, regular communication with your doctor or specialist is vital to ensure the massage therapy aligns with your prescribed recovery plan. It's also important to monitor the heart's response to massage and adjust the therapy as needed based on medical advice.


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