sanitation tips

While we cannot yet go back to the way things were pre-COVID, follow these sanitation tips to look after the health and safety of clients.

In early 2020, hundreds of thousands of businesses, including massage therapy providers, closed their doors at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While most, if not all, massage therapy providers have reopened their doors, concern remains over the health and safety of clients, therapists and employees.

While we cannot yet go back to the way things were pre-COVID, we are learning new ways to operate and look after the health and safety of clients, so make sure you follow these sanitation tips.

1. Wear the Proper PPE

Wearing a mask is part of the new normal, but when coming in close contact with someone, it is a crucial safety measure. Massage therapists should always wear a mask while in facilities and offices, and especially during appointments. Likewise, clients should be required to wear masks to minimize exposure, but if they are unable to, we recommend the massage therapist wears a face shield. Everyone should consult the current CDC guidelines for proper donning and doffing to minimize exposure.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

While some massage therapists may go directly for gloves, handwashing has the same effect and is better for keeping therapists and clients safe. Although this is not a new protocol, washing hands for 20 seconds with warm, soapy water before and after a visit is an effective way to eliminate spreading germs. You should also review effective cleaning products. Now is the time to examine cleaning products for efficacy killing germs and bacteria. Check the EPA List N for approved products that can kill the coronavirus on surfaces. Pay close attention to the contact time, as that will impact treatment room turnover.

3. Limit Talking

People are social, but in this case, it is best to limit conversations to contain the number of droplets spread. Some easy ways to minimize discussion are to encourage clients to relax and enjoy a quiet massage, and to conduct intake screenings and questions over the phone to limit conversation in the lobby and in the treatment room.

4. Take an Environmental Scan

Prioritizing the health and safety of clients is key, and that means making some environmental changes. Take an environmental scan of the building. Remove lobby seating or limit the number of chairs to accommodate for proper social distancing. Remove anything from the waiting space that clients would touch, including magazines. Everything they touch entails additional sanitization between each client arrival. Many practices are also evaluating airflow. HEPA filters keep the air flowing and give peace of mind to clients and therapists as well.

5. Spread Out Appointment Times

We are in the business of helping people, but consider scaling back the number of clients in the office at once. Instead of having a busy lobby, spread out appointments to lessen congestion in the building. Many health care service providers are keeping the doors locked or minimizing check-in to one client at a time—asking clients to text the front desk or their therapist upon arrival and wait outside until notified it is safe to enter. This sanitation tip also allows practices to know exactly who is in the building and at what times.

6. Properly Prepare the Room

It’s best practice to have a prepared room for the client, but now more than ever, focus on fully cleaning it in between every visit. That means wiping down every surface, creating a face cradle hammock and making lubricant readily available. Decreasing the number of touches to a bottle of lubricant is an easy way to contain the spread of germs. By having it prepared in tiny plastic cups, therapists only touch clean surfaces.

7. Have a Plan of Action

This sanitation tip isn’t new, but we are living in very uncertain times. In case a client calls after an appointment because they have symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. Plans should include asking the client if they wore a mask and making sure the therapist wore a mask and practiced proper hygiene. Be sure to provide next-step recommendations to staff.

About the Authors:

Michele Renee, DC, MAc, is director of integrative care and Katie Burns Ryan, DC, is director of clinical services at Northwestern Health Sciences University.