The 2020 pandemic has completely turned our world upside down. Now that massage therapy businesses have reopened, should you get that massage you’ve been missing? As an educator and massage therapist, I’ve been dedicated to staying up to date with the most recent scientific research and how this virus has impacted the massage therapy industry. Here are 10 things you should know before booking your next session.
1. There are no industry standards for COVID-prevention.
Leading professional organizations, such as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP) have both released guides for their members to get back to work as safely as possible, but most professionals are having to turn to their state and local guidelines to know how to proceed.
States that license massage therapists, such as Missouri, have rules and regulations that therapists must follow for cleanliness, and if they’re doing so, should help prevent the spread of any disease. The AMTA has a list of these practice requirements by state at www.amtamassage.org/state-regulations.
2. Massage chains may not be following corporate protocol.
I asked this question in some national massage therapist forums and found that not all franchises with mask and cleaning policies given to them by their corporate offices are following them.
3. Scientific research changes as scientists learn more about it.
Have you been confused about all the information floating around? Materials and research quickly become obsolete as new information about the virus becomes available, but obsolete materials continue to circulate. When you’re reading information, look for a date of publication. If it’s not recent, don’t trust it. Therapists and clinics should be staying current with this ever changing knowledge, but it’s up to you to stay informed if you’re going to protect your health.
4. Social distancing isn’t possible.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, unless your therapist is mimicking Ross from Friends and using wooden spoons, but even those don’t keep you at a socially acceptable distance. Our culture is shifting comfortable proxemics from a 3-foot bubble to a 6-foot space, and the lack of touch and proximity is taking its toll on many Americans.
Massage therapy can improve your mood, boost your immune system, reduce stress levels, and improve your sleep, but you will be in someone’s personal space to reap those benefits. Massage organizations are encouraging therapists to use personal protective equipment, such as masks and face shields in order to reduce the risk of transmitting airborne viruses, and many clinics are asking clients to wear masks during the session.
5. The virus can be asymptomatic. Here’s what that means to your massage.
Asymptomatic means you have a condition, but you don’t feel bad and there are no outward signs of being ill. Viruses have incubation periods that begin the moment you’re exposed to the time you begin to have symptoms. During this time, the virus is replicating and your body is beginning to fight it off.
Whether you’re contagious or not depends on the type of virus you may have. COVID-19 has an average incubation period of 5 days, with patients becoming contagious 2–3 days before symptoms appear, but this varies from person to person. It also means that you could become contagious within a day of being exposed even if you’re unaware that you’ve come into contact with it.
Massage therapists will work in close contact with between 2 and 10 or more people per day, and those who don’t follow suggested protocols for disease prevention leave themselves and their clients open to risks.
6. There are dangerous symptoms that your massage therapist can identify, and so can you.
Before you go to your massage, and in addition to the typical symptoms you’ve likely read about, consider the following signs: Do you have any new, unexplainable rashes, or purple or red dots (petechiae)? Do you have a history of or signs of a blood clot, including swelling or redness in one leg, but not the other. If you have any of these signs, reschedule your massage and seek immediate medical attention.
Note: massage therapists are not qualified to make a diagnosis!
7. Be honest with your medical screenings and background information.
Massage can have effects on many of your body systems, and if your therapist doesn’t have a full view of what this looks like, massage can actually become harmful to your health. For instance, if your therapist does deep work on your legs not knowing that you have varicose veins, they will be pushing blood through already strained veins that could cause them to rupture. If you have a cold coming on, massage may seem like a good idea because it boosts the immune system. However, while massage manually moving metabolic waste is usually a good thing, if your body is already fighting off viruses then adding to the load of things it needs to process will overwhelm it and leave you feeling worse.
If you’ve ever been to see a doctor then you’re probably familiar with health information privacy covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but what you may not know is that spas are not considered covered entities under the HIPAA Rule. Most therapists, however, follow these guidelines out of professional courtesy. Learn more about what entities are covered at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/covered-entities/index.html
9. If the idea of massage during the COVID pandemic stresses you, skip it.
Laying on a massage table and thinking about the possibility of becoming infected is not going to be relaxing. This is a great time to adopt some self-care routines until you can get back to your regular massage schedule.
10. Visit a private practice if you feel that massage is essential to your health.
Sole practitioners have a greater control over their environment than those who work in large spas or clinics, and the number of clients coming in and out each day is significantly less. If you’re concerned about coming into contact the virus but still need massage for chronic pain relief, consider finding an independent massage therapist.
Massage therapy is relatively safe to receive if both clients and therapists are doing their parts to reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus, and you’re in a low-risk area.
How do you feel about receiving massage during the pandemic?