Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Can a massage cause a stroke?

Ask the doctor

Can a massage cause a stroke?

Q. I have a deep muscle massage every month or so. After my sister had a stroke, I started worrying that my massages could loosen any plaque in my carotid arteries, which could make me have a stroke. Could this happen?

A. As you might have guessed, there aren't any solid scientific data on this question. But there are a few things we do know that should put your mind at ease. Most atherosclerotic plaques are firmly bonded to the artery wall. It is rare for plaque to suddenly break free, travel through the circulation, and block an artery in the brain. It is far more common for small breaks in the surface of a plaque to cause fragile blood clots that can easily break free.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »