Massage therapists are increasingly choosing to suspend practice — yet some practitioners and spas are staying open.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought so much upheaval to society in general, worldwide, that it can be difficult to know just how to react. Mirroring this, actions — and nonactions — in the massage field are all over the place.
During this time, MASSAGE Magazine is choosing to serve as an information hub, both in articles and on our social media pages. We recognize that information about coronavirus’s transmission, containment and public health directives is available through official local, state and national channels — and so we are focusing on providing massage-practice-specific resources to our audience.
In this article, we provide an overview of the massage field’s current reaction to coronavirus news.
Going forward, we will point you toward the massage business, small-business and industry resources you need most during this challenging time.
Open Vs. Closed: An Overview of the Massage Field’s Reactions to Coronavirus News
Many massage therapists, spas and nonprofits have shuttered their businesses, choosing to practice social distancing to avoid coronavirus — in case they themselves are infected and asymptomatic, or their clients are. (Medical experts say social distancing is the way to mitigate, or flatten the curve of, the outbreak.)
An informal poll by MASSAGE Magazine showed, as of the morning of March 18, that of the poll’s respondents, 281 had chosen to suspend business to practice social distancing; and 115 said there had been no changes to their massage business. Some respondents said they were continuing to work because their employer was keeping the business — a spa, franchise or clinic — open.
Many massage therapists commenting on MASSAGE Magazine’s Facebook page and Facebook group say they will continue to practice — with enhanced sanitation practices — until the government shuts them down, and claim that stressed clients need massage now more than ever.
Other therapists who thought it was OK to practice a week ago, or a day ago, have now closed up shop.
For example, this publication published an article on sanitization procedures and client communication related to practicing during this coronavirus outbreak, which the author now says, about a week later, is outdated. Read her updated message here.
MASSAGE Magazine is not advising massage therapists to continue to practice hands-on care, acknowledging that in areas where regulations are not in place that have closed businesses, each therapist will make that choice for themselves. We do encourage our audience to utilize the CDC, World Health Organization and other official or governmental sites to educate themselves about coronavirus. (Learn more with the CDC’s Guide to Coronavirus (COVID-19.)
Additionally, two national massage organizations had, as of May 17, told their members it would be best to suspend their massage practices.
The Massage Industry Responds
Companies that supply products to the massage field are having their employees work from home. Lots of massage schools are scrambling to move to virtual teaching. CE providers are rescheduling in-person education.
In an email to the Healwell community, the organization, which provides massage therapy to patients in hospital and clinical settings, said it will cease direct patient interaction until at least April 1: “[T]ouching vulnerable and compromised people during this pandemic is a time when our work truly could have a life or death impact. This decision is, without a doubt, the most responsible and appropriate way to participate in flattening the curve of outbreak.”
In an email in which he announced the rescheduling of in-person classes, Anatomy Trains developer and educator Thomas Myers wrote, “This event brings us all closer together with a realization of the frailty of both our bodies and our social structures. The intimacy and connection of bodywork and moving together will be needed more than ever once the need for social distancing is lifted.”
When contacted by this publication, Myers added this message for massage therapists:
“Do not waste this crisis/opportunity by fretting about the outside chaos and loss. The outward call is to work from home, and don’t touch; the inward spiritual call is to go inside. Really dig down and martial your own resources, affirm yourself and bolster your immunity.”
Massage business educators are saying this is a time to take online CE classes, get one’s taxes done, and focus on building a practice even in the absence of hands-on work.
Some national franchises have posted notices on their websites about their increased sanitation — and other — measures implemented in response to coronavirus.
Hand & Stone’s Vice President of Brand Experience, Cindy Meiskin, told MASSAGE Magazine the franchise had also created a prescreening form for both employees and guests to complete and sign. The form asks clients about travel, exposure and symptoms.
“We also reserve the right to take clients’ temperature before any service,” Meiskin said. “A staff member has the discretion to decline service and reschedule any client exhibiting any symptoms.”
A common refrain from numerous self-employed massage therapists is that as small-business owners who don’t make a lot of money to begin with, they simply can’t afford to stop working.
But, increasingly, many massage therapists, just like other business owners, may soon have no choice.
Across the U.S. (and world), it is definitely not business as usual.
More than 6.7 million residents in the San Francisco Bay Area have been told to shelter in place for three weeks, beginning March 17, and all non-essential businesses, including spas, massage franchises and independent massage practitioners’ practices, have been ordered closed.
Many hospitals across the nation are allowing limited visitation; skilled nursing facilities are allowing visitors only when patients have reached the end of life.
The number and types of businesses closing down nationwide are too numerous to list, but include retail, restaurants, bars, gyms, sporting facilities, public schools and casinos. Some municipalities, including Washington DC, are mandating that spas and massage businesses close.
In the coming days, MASSAGE Magazine will publish articles on how to keep communication with clients open and practice-related income flowing in; resources for small-business assistance; information on building your own immune system, and curated links to current information on keeping your stress level in check.
Once the coronavirus crisis is over, we’ll share a research-based article on how massage therapy contributes to a healthy immune system, along with new business, technique and self-care articles — so that you and your clients can rebound, rebuild and go forward.
Do you have a coronavirus-related story, challenge, news or advice to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links to Coronavirus Information for Massage Therapists
• Small Business Administration’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources.
• MASSAGE Magazine’s section on coronavirus information for massage therapists (go to our home page and scroll down). You can also search for coronavirus in the search bar at the top right of the page. The information we publish on this topic will be updated as news is available.
• MASSAGE Magazine’s guide to state boards of massage. Check your state board’s site for updates on coronavirus news in your area.
About the Author
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Her recent articles include “MTs Ask: What’s Really in My CBD Topical?” and “Aging Baby Boomers are Changing the Way Senior Massage is Delivered.”