Getting a massage to relieve muscle tension and pain may put you at risk for nerve injury, warn two researchers from the Mayo Clinic Scottsdale in Arizona.
At the annual meeting of the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) held this month in Phoenix, Arizona, they described the case of a healthy 38-year-old woman with a local compression nerve injury in the shoulder caused, they firmly believe, by massage.
The woman reported that she started to have pain in her left shoulder while getting a massage. Following the massage, the pain persisted to the point where she had weakness in her left arm.
An MRI showed swelling in her upper back on her left side. Further tests also turned up abnormal findings in the left upper back area, which led doctors to diagnose a nerve compression injury.
The woman had physical therapy and gradually improved over 6 weeks; however, two years later, she still has persistent mild left shoulder pain and weakness.
In an email to Reuters Health, Dr Mark Ross, senior author of the case report, said there are no data or studies on how often massage might cause nerve injury. "Our report is the first to call attention to this relationship and we are making additional reviews to learn more about how often it may occur."
Ross added that "at the recent AANEM meeting, a number of physicians commented to us that they have observed this relationship between massage and spinal accessory nerve injury."
It's possible, Ross said, that "some people with unexplained nerve pain or injury may have a complication of massage that is not recognised."
Massage therapists should "be cautious about applying very hard focal pressure in the upper shoulder area and avoid such pressure if the subject complains of pain in the area," Ross said.
Dr Sara Schrader, co-author of the case report added in a written statement: "Individuals experiencing pain or shoulder weakness after a massage may benefit from a visit to the doctor to find out if nerve damage is the cause of their symptoms. Their doctor can determine if electrodiagnostic testing is necessary and what would be the most appropriate treatment for the individual." – (Reuters Health)
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