Safe, healthy human touch is a hallmark of a healthy society.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, it is clear that the reason massage therapy and massage therapists are essential is both simple and biologically complicated. We know touch is a critical human encounter that has an energy effect and both mechanical and structural effects on the recipient and giver.

Prison and jail methods of solitary confinement, isolation from human interaction and the inability to connect with nonverbal cues of facial expressions create distress for many human beings.

A friendly and welcoming smile, eyes wide open and the friendly handshake, a supportive hand on a shoulder accompanied with words of support—all these moments require social interaction and physical touch.

When these interactions are forbidden by public health officials, humans begin to suffer. Feelings of depression and hopelessness appear to be magnified when the very social interaction and touch that can help another human being experience their humanness is not allowed.

We are seeing this nationwide as news reports of divorces and separations are on the rise. We have seen examples with elementary school children who are navigating formative years of their young lives.

Massage therapy is essential more than ever in this pandemic. Now, more than ever, I believe creating a safe and supportive environment of touch is needed. The success of my massage practice at my facility in Texas is a testament to this essential need.

My massage practice is fully booked during this pandemic, and in this article I will tell you what I do to ensure a full practice.

[Read “The Massage Magazine Interview: Benny Vaughn”]

Safety First

We practice multiple, thorough safeguards of disinfecting all contact surfaces before each client, hand-washing, and HEPA air filtering with UVC light for killing viruses. All clients and therapists wear face masks for the entire session and while inside our building—no exceptions.

I wear two facemasks. The first layer mask is a three-ply surgical mask. Next over this mask, I wear a KN95 mask. I wear safety goggles and a face shield. All my clients are required to check in via text message from their parked car in the parking lot. Once I send them a text invitation to enter the building, I greet them at the already open door—thus, no touching of door handles.

I greet them and escort them to the sink where the warm water has now been turned on by me—so they never touch anything. Once they wet their hands, I pump gel soap into their hands and start a countdown timer with large, easy-to-read numbers for 35 seconds. The client is instructed to wash their hands for 35 seconds until the timer finishes with an audible beeping sound.

I then present my client with a paper towel to dry their hands. Next, touchless temperature is taken at either the wrist or forehead. I use the thermometer gun on the wrist and a walk-up thermometer on the forehead. Once all these protocols are completed, I escort my client to what I call the VIP Therapy Suite.

We let clients know that we disinfect all touch surfaces in our office and therapy suites constantly and thoroughly before each client enters. This includes the plastic chairs we installed, clothes hangers, and shelves where people place personal items such as jewelry and watches before the massage session begins.

Nothing is by Chance

The massage therapy session is an experiential event; thus, nothing you do should be by chance. Every moment of my clients’ visit has been carefully and thoughtfully planned out.

There is not a single thing I do that has not been thought out in advance.

My clients feel safe because I inform them of all the precautions I have taken for their safety. The client is much more comfortable when they know what you have done for their safety, behind the scenes, that they cannot see.

I let clients know that even the ink pen they are using to fill out my intake information form has been disinfected and placed inside a paper towel which is then placed on the countertop for them to retrieve and use. Let the client know that you thought enough to disinfect the ink pen or the stylus for signing your tablet transaction.

Use a stylus and do not ask people to sign with their fingertip. I ask many clients if they would like me to sign their names for them. Once permission is granted, I sign their name on my tablet in their presence.

We completely control the sanitation and disinfecting of towels and linens after massage sessions are completed. This is a fact that we share with our clients, so they know exactly how the linens and towels are disinfected and laundered.

It’s important to share your safety and sanitation protocols to show that you embrace and support their concerns for safety and credibility.

Human Touch is Necessary

Why massage is essential more than ever in this pandemic is because human touch is necessary for humans’ healthy survival. The tactile experience for human beings is significant for a healthy and well life. I believe that massage therapy is a natural and organized delivery system for this important experience of being human and staying connected in this pandemic.

Benny Vaughn, LMT, BCTMB, ATC, LAT, CSCS, MTI, LMC, has practiced massage therapy for 45 years; he owns Benny Vaughn Athletic Therapy Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where he and his team of therapists provide massage to a varied clientele, including professional athletes.