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What Causes Itching After a Massage?

author image Lilly Taylor
Lilly Taylor began writing professionally in 1983, specializing in health, science, history and education. Her work has appeared in "Over the Back Fence," "Cobblestone" and "Undercurrents Dive Magazine." Taylor holds a B.A. in public relations and received training in marine mammology and alternative health care.
What Causes Itching After a Massage?
Patients occasionally experience itching after receiving a massage. Photo Credit Lower body massage as part of a full body Thai massage. image by Deborah Benbrook from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Although not a common reaction, some patients experience itching after receiving a massage. It can be caused by several factors, most of which are not serious health threats, and is usually fairly easy to remedy. Always report itching or any other unusual symptoms you notice after receiving a massage to your therapist so that you can avoid any severe or worsening conditions. It might be helpful to note when, where and the level of intensity of the itching to help your massage therapist pinpoint the cause of the problem.

Allergic Reaction Itching

Many massage lotions and oils contain tree or ground nut products. This may provoke an allergic reaction in patients who are sensitive to these substances. Other allergens that commonly occur in massage-related products include chemicals or coloring in the lotion, laundering agents in the linens, chemicals or fragrances in sanitizing agents used to clean tables and equipment or herbal preparations that are used during the course of the massage. Patients may also experience an allergic reaction to scented candles or incense used in the massage area, but this usually causes a respiratory reaction, rather than itching skin.

Referred Nerve Sensation Itching

According to Judith Walker DeLany, neuromuscular therapy instructor and author, trigger points of heightened irritability, nerve entrapment or impingement can create several different sensations in the body. Among them are pain, tingling, numbness, burning or itching. It is possible that during your massage muscles have relaxed and contracted in a way that causes these types of sensations. It is not unusual to experience these sensations at some distance from the actual muscles and nerves that are causing them, and they are often called referred sensations for this reason.

Circulation Related Itching

Many athletes have reported experiencing severe itching during and after their workouts. MSNBC news health correspondent Melissa Dahl explains that this can be the result of additional stimulation of nerve receptors by the increased circulation. As blood vessels and capillaries swell with more oxygenated blood to meet the demand, pressure is exerted on the receptors and the brain mistakenly interprets these signals as itching. This may be limited to one area of the body, such as the thighs, or may involve the entire body. Massage is noted for being able to similarly increase circulation and has been known to provoke a similar effect in some patients.

How to Stop the Itching

If your itching is caused by an allergic reaction, it is critical to determine what is triggering the problem and to remove it from the massage environment. Speak with your massage therapist and ask that a note be made on your records so that the restriction will be remembered.

Itching that is the result of referred sensation from nervous and muscular causes will decrease and disappear as the tight muscles relax and stop triggering the nerve impulses translated as itching. The use of cold therapy may provide temporary relief until the patient has received enough massage treatment to maintain the loosened muscles.

Circulatory-related itching decreases over time as the muscles become more accustomed to stimulation and no longer react by triggering extreme increases in blood flow and the resulting pressure on nerve receptors.

Special Considerations

It is important to be aware that allergic reactions tend to increase in severity with each subsequent exposure and that anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal reaction, can occur. Massage therapists should be familiar with cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and patients should always inform their massage therapists if they have any known allergies or begin to experience significant itching or additional symptoms. If an allergic itching reaction does occur, remove the source of the allergen from the patient as quickly as possible. If the itching occurs in the throat or other allergy symptoms appear, contact emergency medical personnel immediately.

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