Massage Therapy During the Pandemic: Is It Safe?

Massage Therapist doing massage to a client

Living through a pandemic is stressful. The stress relief benefits of a massage are anecdotally well known—and gaining traction in scientific study—but is it still safe to pursue treatment during a pandemic? Massage therapy enthusiasts are understandably worried about the potential for infection. The good news? With proper precautions, it’s still possible to enjoy a safe massage and all the health benefits that accompany it.

Yes, even in a pandemic, a therapeutic massage is worth pursuing. And it is possible to keep associated risks to a minimum.

What Is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy involves the research-backed manipulation of the body’s soft tissues, typically through hands-on techniques such as kneading or stroking. Through the power of touch, massage therapists address and relieve a variety of health concerns.

What Is Massage Therapy Good For?

Massage therapy provides a range of benefits for people in excellent health, as well as those suffering acute or chronic conditions. The mental and emotional advantages of this practice are numerous with proponents pointing to its role in addressing the symptoms of depression, anxiety and a variety of other concerns.

While many people seek massages in hopes of finding stress relief or easing general aches and pains, this therapeutic practice offers a number of additional benefits, including:

  • Improving the immune system’s response
  • Lowering blood pressure and heart rate
  • Addressing sleep issues such as insomnia
  • Facilitating healthy circulation
  • Easing congestion of the lungs

Can Massage Therapy Help With COVID-19?

While massage therapy alone will not prevent or cure COVID-19, it can address many of the problems associated with the virus. For example, a growing body of research suggests that massage can play a powerful role in boosting the immune system. This is noteworthy as immunocompromised individuals are more likely to experience severe COVID symptoms.

After suffering COVID, massage may assist with the body aches that some patients (known as long-haulers) experience several weeks or even months later. More importantly, massage is helpful for relieving respiratory and pulmonary issues, common ailments among people who have otherwise recovered from the disease. Following a strategic massage regimen, these individuals may find the shortness of breath that accompanies COVID finally begins to subside.

Risks of Getting a Massage During COVID

It would be irresponsible—and dangerous—to assume that massage therapy is risk-free in an age of COVID. Like any indoor activity, it carries an elevated potential for transmission. What’s more, physical contact is built into this activity, making it all but impossible to social distance.

Despite this, massage is safer than many people realize. While it’s possible to spread the virus while visiting a massage clinic, evidence suggesting such facilities act as sites of transmission—to even a minor extent—is limited.

What Are Clinics Doing to Keep You Safe?

When determining whether to get a massage, it’s important to take a close look at protocol in place within specific clinics. This can vary significantly from one facility to the next. Helpful measures for reducing the risk of contracting COVID while getting a massage include:

  • Wearing a face mask at all times. Everybody within the clinic—from massage therapists to recipients and even front desk staff—must be masked to reduce the potential of spreading the virus via droplets. Masks are especially important while receiving massages, given the close contact that is required.
  • Sanitizing tables and other equipment between appointments. Every visitor should feel confident that rooms have been thoroughly cleaned prior to their arrival. While surface spread is rare, transmission remains a possibility.
  • Using plexiglass shields at the front desk or during consultations. Plexiglass provides yet another layer of protection when meeting face-to-face.
  • Providing open-air or in-home massage opportunities. For those who are unwilling to visit traditional clinics, some providers are able to offer alternatives that take place outside or within the client’s home. These should still involve the use of masks and other protective equipment.
  • Making appointments online and using touch-free options for check-in and payment. Hand sanitizer should also be available within waiting rooms or at clinics’ front desks.
  • Abiding by state and federal regulations—especially those regarding capacity limits and safety protocol.

What Are Other Things You Can Do to Mitigate Risk?

How you behave before and after your massage is just as important as your conduct within the clinic. If you’re willing to accept a bit of risk for the sake of the numerous health benefits you’ll gain during your massage, you can always trade off by limiting your presence in other public spaces. For example, while the advantages of massage may make the slightly elevated risk worthwhile, you may decide that you’re not ready to visit bars or restaurants just yet.

Prior to your massage, select the highest-quality mask possible. Ideally, this will be an N-95 model but, given the limited access, other options may be necessary. If you need to use a cloth mask, choose one with multiple layers. Otherwise, the CDC recommends layering a disposable mask under a cloth mask for added protection.

Of course, the best step you can take to reduce risk without sacrificing your massage involves the COVID vaccine. As soon as you’re eligible, be sure to register. Whether you receive the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson option, your risk of contracting the virus will plummet—as will the potential for severe symptoms.

Keep in mind that you’ll still need to wear your mask after receiving the vaccine; while your personal risk will decrease, there is still some possibility for you to inadvertently spread the virus to others.

Conclusion: Is It Safe to Get a Massage During the Pandemic?

The short answer? Yes—but with some caveats. As we’ve discussed, massage is no different from other indoor activities where the virus is more likely to spread when in close contact with other people. That being said, there is very little evidence of transmission within massage clinics.

As long as massage therapists and their clients follow all safety protocol, it’s possible to limit the potential for transmission. Meanwhile, vaccines will continue to be a game-changer, making even those who were previously reluctant to receive massages eager to return to the clinic. With the right precautions, massage can be a wonderful way to ease the physical and mental suffering brought on by the COVID era.

If you are interested in learning more about the San Diego massage therapy program, New York massage therapy program, or Chicago massage therapy program offered at Pacific College of Health and Science, visit admissions or contact us today.

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