Why Does my Nose Block During Massage Appointments?

We know I love receiving a massage. It can be the best part of my week sometimes, climbing onto the table, putting my face in the face cradle and closing my eyes. But sometimes it just doesn't feel quite the same. There's the sudden realisation that once again I can feel my nose block during a massage. Struggling to breathe is not conducive to relaxing ...

It doesn't always happen though, so I started to keep half an eye on the frequency. I found that when my asthma's worse, I am more likely to get a blocked nose. Odd? Perhaps, perhaps not. But stuffed sinuses only ever come on when I'm lying face down (in the prone position) with my face in the face cradle. As soon as I roll onto my side or back, everything gets better and by the time the massage is over I can breathe clearly and easily through my nose again.

It’s not just me. Depending on the season, I will typically have one or two clients per week experiencing the same ‘phenomenon’. So, with a weekend away I decided to do some research … and found your typical internet madness.

  • The massage releases toxins which collect in your sinuses
  • Perform sinus irrigation 1-2 hours before your massage (yep, pour saline water up your nose … if you are really interested I can find the instructions for you!)
  • Take a hot shower post massage
  • Provide a hot compress to the affected area

Now as much as I enjoy my clients’ company, I’m not about to move to premises with a shower, and I’m not about to provide hot towels similar those to an Indian restaurant. However, I also found some USEFUL information.

So what’s the stuff behind the stuffy nose?


This is just the kind of thing I find fascinating, but actually took quite a lot of digging to piece together. Our sinuses are a system of hollow cavities in our skull (I envisage a system of caves) lined with soft pink tissue called mucosa. Except for a thin layer of mucus, they are normally empty. The inside of our noses have ridges called turbinates which help to humidify and filter the air we breath. Most of the sinuses drain into the nose through a small channel called the middle meatus.

Mucosal membranes covering these turbinates (or conchae) contain a large supply of blood vessels and can easily shrink or swell in response to various factors. In fact, enlargement of the turbinates, known as turbinate hypertrophy, results in difficulty breathing through the nose. Some of the factors which can cause this phenomenon include pressure build up. So lying with your face in a face cradle, which is pressing on your cheek bones and forehead, could well encourage blood to pool in these blood vessels.

Interesting deduction

But then I got to pondering why I typically get more stuffed up when my asthma is more active. I don’t suffer with hay fever normally (or allergic rhinitis as it is technically called) but this symptom is actually the inflammation of the inside lining of the nose and sinuses. Which of course then makes sense why I am more susceptible to a stuffed nose during a massage when my asthma is kicking around … there is a low level of inflammation in my nasal cavities and then I go encouraging blood pooling in the same area!

I’m no ENT (Ear Nose & Throat) expert, as I hope the phrasing of my writing highlights. I believe that my understanding of the nasal anatomy is correct. As for the physiology of how it all fits together, I reckon my understanding makes sense. However, I’m not 100% sure that the answers I have found are medically accurate or precise.

Having said that, I do know that getting bunged up can happen when lying face down on a massage table, and when it does it can be mildly irritating or down right uncomfortable. So rather than waiting until the practitioner asks you to turn over …

Speak up

If you find that your nose is starting to get blocked, your face tender in the face cradle or you are in any other way uncomfortable during your massage, do speak up. Sometimes it is as simple as slightly altering the angle of the head rest, or swapping it for a pillow, at other times it might be more prudent to continue the massage in a side lying position. You might ask that the massage finishes with some work on your face and sinuses to relieve some of the pressure that has built up.

Remember, your massage appointment is about you getting what you want and need from your time with the practitioner. If you are uncomfortable or can’t breathe, your focus will be on this rather than on your body, the work of the practitioner and the effects that it is having on your entire being.


If you persistently have sinus congestion issues, you might find the diagrams on the Sinus Pressure Points website useful.