Written by Helen Cooke, Helen Seers and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated September 28, 2016

Massage (Classical/Swedish)

Is it safe?

Adverse effects

A 2016 Cochrane review 20 found no trials reporting adverse events of massage with aromatherapy or massage without aromatherapy. Ernst (2003) [29] summarized the existing documentation on adverse effects of massage therapy. The majority of adverse effects arose from the use of exotic (non-Swedish) massage techniques and is therefore not applicable to this review. Whilst massage is not risk free, serious adverse effects are rare.

A concern that has been raised is the theory that massage of a tumour site may induce the spreading of cancer cells and development of metastasis. There is no evidence to date that therapeutic massage interventions may have such effects 10, but direct pressure on a tumour site is usually discouraged in massage practice.


Strong massage may cause complications in people with haemorrhagic disorders, low platelet counts or those taking blood thinning medication (e.g. heparin or warfarin) 1. Other contraindications include phlebitis, deep vein thrombosis, burns, skin infections, open wounds, bone fractures and advanced osteoporosis.


If essential oils and massage lubricants are used interactions are possible may cause allergic reactions 1.

Citation Helen Cooke, Helen Seers, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Massage (Classical/Swedish) [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Manipulative-body-based/Massage-Classical-Swedish. September 28, 2016.


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