Massage and Influenza: Help Your Body Fight The Flu

by Dec 14, 2017

‘Tis the season and we’re not talking about the holidays.  We’re talking about flu season.  This week, December 4-11 is National Influenza Vaccination week, highlighting the importance of influenza vaccination.  Seasonal flu disorder is most active during this time of year and taking the necessary precautions to fight it can save your immune system in the long run.

Have you had your flu shot this year?

Influenza Brief Facts


Seasonal flu is the most common form of flu.  It is a viral infection of the respiratory tract.  Seasonal flu is not usually severe or extreme.  Left untreated, however, seasonal flu can become life threatening especially in vulnerable patients.  Those most vulnerable to serious flu illness include babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.  The flu and its complications hospitalize 200,000 people a year and kill an average of 23,000 to 36,000 Americans each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

How does it work?

A flu virus gains access to your body either by inhalation or from touching a contaminated surface, then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. The flu virus invades healthy, mucus-producing cells that line the respiratory tract.  Once the flu has been established the immune system responds with the symptoms of the flu.

  • White blood cells or helper cells attack the infected cells causing sore throat and coughing
  • Chemicals are released to stimulate fever
  • The immune system sheds the virus through runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Types of Flu

There are three classes of virus that have been identified: Type A, Type B, and Type C.

Type A viruses are the most severe and are known to mutate quickly.  This mean the virus can cause repeated infection in the same person.  Type A are also very adaptable and can be passed between species.  This type of virus can develop resistance to attack.  Type B viruses can spread as well but not as widely, or aggressively.  Type C is much less severe than the rest.

Most Common Types of Influenza

Types of Flu

Signs and Symptoms

Flu symptoms can range from subtle to extreme within hours or days.  Most common symptoms are coughing, sore throat, headache, runny nose, and chills.  Some patients experience long-lasting high fever.  Additionally, aching muscles and joints, as well as fatigue are other common symptoms.  These are often recognized as symptoms of the common cold as well, but there are differences.

Is it a cold? Is it the flu?

Massage Risks, Benefits, and Options

Receiving massage in the acute phase, or early stages of infection can worsen the symptoms; as well as the virus can be transferred from client to massage therapist, or to other clients.  Some research indicates receiving a massage after the acute phase of influenza, can shorten the duration and decrease symptoms.  In some cases, clients have experienced a short exacerbation of their symptoms directly after a massage.  Make sure you’ve consulted your physician before receiving a massage.

Gentle, Swedish, relaxation massage can be soothing and promote good sleep.  The stimulation of lymph drainage from massage strokes and pulls can help eliminate toxins created by the flu.

Gentle, non-demanding massage after the acute phase of infection can promote healthy sleep patterns, and rebound energy.

Flu Vaccination

An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu viruses.  Vaccinations can help reduce illnesses, doctor visits, and missed work and school due to flu.  If you do get sick, a flu vaccination can shorten the duration or lessen your symptoms.

A person’s immunity from vaccine declines over time so annual flu vaccination can help protection against the flu.  Additionally, flu viruses are constantly changing, and vaccines are updated to combat each strain.  It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection.

Flu activity is usually highest between December and February.  With flu activity increasing and family and friends planning gatherings for the holidays, now is a great time to get a flu vaccine, and schedule a massage!

To find a flu vaccination center near you visit or

Written by: Holly Cook

Photo Credit:Coffee @


  • Ruth Werner, LMP, NCTMB


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