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Why you get stuffed up during body massages

We’ve all been there — laying face-down on a massage chair, the mucous from your nose slowly dripping.

It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable and makes a massage a little less relaxing.

Monica Durante, a registered massage therapist and owner of Atinama Massage Therapy in Toronto, tells Global News feeling “stuffed up” during massages is completely normal.

“The sinuses are air-filled cavities located on either side of the nose,” she said.

The sinuses are covered with a super-fine mucous membrane that drains constantly into the nose, she explained. Their main function is to keep our nasal cavity moist throughout the day.

“When we lay face-down on a massage table, the simple fact of gravity makes the mucous from the sinuses drain into the nose,” Durante explained.

Cecilia Fung, senior massage therapist at Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic in Toronto, adds people react to massages differently.

“Every person is different,” she said.

“Because the nose is at the far end of the body … if the blood circulation is not that good or if they have a blocked nose, it can cause fluid to go down.”

Is there any way to prevent this?

Well, you can’t really do anything about gravity, but you can do something about how you position yourself during a massage.

If you commonly experience runny noses, dizziness or generally feel stuffed up during massages, ask the therapist to change the positioning of your massage, Fung said.


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For example, she would recommend switching to the side for a fully body massages vs. laying down flat on your front.

She also recommends using a pillow to elevate your head or even adding a pillow in between your legs for circulation. Often, dizziness or feeling light-headed happens when your body is one position for an extended period of time.

READ MORE: B.C. doctor hopes ‘snot’ transplants will help patients with chronic sinus problems

Durante says you can also prevent excess mucous production through lifestyle changes.  Avoid cold drinks, dairy products, and smoking — especially before a massage.


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And Fung says if you’re already experiencing a runny nose or bad sinus infection, avoid going for a massage at this time.

When it gets uncomfortable

And we get it — feeling stuffed up during what’s supposed to be a relaxing hour can throw everything off. Some people ask the therapist to stop (to blow their nose), while others deal with their symptoms until the massage is over.

Durante says as soon as you feel stuffed up, you should tell the therapist.

“We love when clients ask us for modifications to make them feel comfortable,” she said.

“We want you to have the best massage possible, and your being comfortable is our top priority. ”

READ MORE: Regular massage visits could help with headaches

You can even ask to have a tissue box close by or blow your nose during the treatment.

“You can also ask your therapist to massage your face and sinuses once you turn on to your back, as this can often provide immediate relief,” Durante said.

Remember, feeling stuffed up is normal, but if it gets worse or if you have a headache, speak up right away.

“In the rare event you start to feel a headache from too much sinus pressure, simply ask your therapist to massage your back while you lay on your side, or turn onto your back and focus the massage on another area of your body,” she said.

Tips for after the massage

Fung says feeling stuffed up can be alleviated by being more aware of how you feel after the massage. This also comes along with not getting up too quickly.

“Try to get up very slowly instead of going very fast,” she said.

“Also, you can do stretches on the table before you get up … stretching your head, neck, arms or legs.”

She says stretching will pump blood back up towards the head — this way, you will avoid feeling dizzy when you get up.

Durante says you can treat your stuffed nose at home with eucalyptus essential oil.

“If your therapist doesn’t already use essential oils, be proactive: buy pure eucalyptus essential oil and bring it with you to your massage appointment, ask your therapist to use it in the oil, or simply keep it handy and inhale it from the bottle whenever you need to unblock your nose.”

She also recommends a medicated steam to clear up the sinuses.

“Try this effective and simple method:  On the stove, heat up two cups of water, and add three to five drops of pure eucalyptus essential oil,” she said.

“After it boils, turn off the stove, cover your head with a towel, lean over the pot, and inhale the steam through both your nose and your mouth.”


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