Massage as a Complementary Treatment: Surgeons

There’s no denying that receiving a massage feels great. Working kinks out of achy muscles is probably one of the best feelings in the world. Massage therapy is typically regarded as a luxury spa service, often accompanied by a body wrap and categorized as a spa or beauty service. Of course, the nature of a massage session – a dimly lit room with lovely music in the background – certainly plays in to this theory. And, of course, in a society where we associate taking care of bodies with torturous diets, rigorous workouts, and anxiety inducing doctor visits, it’s hard to imagine that something that feels as good as receiving massage does could actually be beneficial.

But it totally is! The benefits of receiving regular massage reach well beyond feeling good and working out kinks. Last year, through a series of blogs I call the “Body Systems Series,” I explored the benefits massage has for each system of your body. The more research that is done on the benefits of massage therapy, the more health care professionals begin to realize that massage therapy is an amazing form of complementary medicine (never to be confused with alternative medicine). So this year, through a series of blogs, I would like you to join me in the exploration of how massage therapists can work with other medical professionals. This month: surgeons!




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The Oxford Dictionary defines surgery as “The treatment of injuries or disorders of the body by incision or manipulation, especially with instruments.” From this definition, we gather that surgeons treat their patients by cutting into and manipulating tissues. 

Surgeons typically have a specialty, meaning the usually perform a specific type of surgery. These include:

  • General (all areas)
  • Thoracic (chest)
  • Colon & rectal
  • Obstetrics & gynecology
  • Neurological surgery
  • Ophthalmic (eyes)
  • Orthopedic (musculoskeletal )
  • Otolaryngology (ears, upper respiratory & related structures)
  • Pediatric
  • Plastic
  • Urology
  • Vascular

Surgeons treat a variety of pathologies, including but not limited to broken bones, tumors, and deformities.



Image by Ea Spa Consulting Massage Institute


Whenever the body sustains any sort of trauma, the soft tissues in the area become tense to restrict mobility and prevent further injury. Surgery can be considered a trauma because it involves cutting through the tissues of the body, and typically requires a healing process.

Massage therapy can help patients heal from surgery in a number of ways. Firstly, it can help loosen up the muscles that have become tight due to trauma, thereby improving range of motion. Massage has also been proven to increase circulation of blood, which can increase the transport of nutrients to the incision site and speed recovery.

Besides contributing to the healing process, receiving massage pre-surgery also has its benefits. First of all, it helps the patient relax, calming their nerves before going under anesthesia. It also softens the muscles, which can make the incision process easier.

There are times when massage before surgery is not appropriate, such as broken bones, open wounds, or inflammation. Post-surgery, massage may be locally or systemically contraindicated until the incision heals and inflammation has subsided. For this reason, it is best to consult with your primary care physician or surgeon to discuss whether or not massage therapy is appropriate. This is not something that your massage therapist can decide, as your massage therapist is not a medical doctor.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Physicians and Surgeons,
on the Internet at (visited April 02, 2017).


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit

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