current events self care Dec 02, 2020

Before the pandemic, cold and flu season was a time many massage therapists took extra precautions around the office to stay healthy.  Today it's imperative massage therapists put strict sanitizing practices in place to keep clients and themselves healthy and safe.  Let's cover some ways to make your massage room the healthiest environment possible during COVID-19 and cold and flu season.  

Before the session

Take a look at your waiting area and massage room with new eyes.  Every piece of furniture, décor, and tools should have a purpose and be able to be sanitized frequently.  Remove any piece that collects dust or is hard to clean.  This may mean removing decorations which make the room feel more inviting but now is the time to get rid of them and only have bare essentials. 

Put signs reminding people to sanitize their hands around the massage room and waiting area.  Place hand sanitizer nearby. 

Due to COVID-19 some new paperwork for the client to fill out is pretty standard and they will be expecting to do that.  It's basic questions relating to knowledge of recent exposure and feeling certain symptoms, plus a liability release for the therapist and business the client is visiting.  Exact verbiage is up to the individual business and many samples can be found online.  

Take the client's temperature before admitting them to the massage room.  Anyone with  100.4°F (38°C) or above should be asked to reschedule. 

Ask the client to sanitize their hands before entering the massage room.

During the session

Before we get to the part where the client is on the table let's talk about what you have on the table.  The massage table itself is easy to sanitize between clients but if you're like many massage therapists you normally work with extra layers on the table.  There are fleece padding layers as well as electric table warmers which are fitted over the table.  It's best practice to remove anything that can't go through the wash at high temperatures to sanitize.  If the table warmer can't be sanitized, don't use it.  Blankets over the top of the sheets for clients should only be used if you are changing after each client.  This adds so much additional laundry many therapists are opting out of this choice.  If you use tools like bolsters, pads or blocks during your session they must be covered with a removable fabric or be sanitized between each client. 

In addition to removing some layers from the massage table, a protective layer can be added.  This is made of plastic or some combination of cleanable materials which can be placed over the extra padding that may be on the table.  This protective layer is made specifically for easy and frequent sanitizing. 

During the massage session both the therapist and client should wear masks and some therapists are choosing to avoid face work during COVID-19. 

As a massage therapist working with multiple people in close proximity over extended periods of time, being aware of what your hands touch is going to go a long way to keeping you healthy.  You may choose to wear gloves during the session and even with gloves, avoid touching your face as well as any unnecessary surfaces while the massage is session.  Hand sanitize frequently during the session but particularly when touching something after touching the client or before going back to the client. 

Massage therapists have tools that must be used during treatments.  Tools like towel caddies, lotion bottles, massage tools, bolsters, the handle on the adjustable face cradle, are all places where germs and bacteria are found.  The less you touch the less you spread germs.  Decide if a certain service such as hot stone massage is going to be suspended until you are comfortable resuming this service.  Taking into consideration the time it takes to sanitize certain accessories, you may decide to simplify services offered until the height of COVID or cold and flu season is gone. 

Air filtration

The quality of the air in the massage room may not be something you've considered before.  Many therapists work in very small spaces which may not have windows.  If there is a window it should be opened between clients while you are sanitizing the room. 

In addition to opening windows or a good option if there isn't a window, is an air purifier.  There are portable air purifier units available at varying costs depending on features and whether they contain ultraviolet lamps or not.  You may decide to run an air filtration unit during your massage sessions and throughout the day while at work.

One other idea is adding plants to your massage room.  Plants naturally purify the air and may be an option for your space.  

After the session 

At the conclusion of the massage you can ask the client to  sanitize their hands before leaving the room.  The doorknob is a frequently touched surface that you will clean after each client.  Leaving more time in between clients may be necessary to give the room proper time to disinfect.  A hospital grade cleaner is best to spray over all surfaces that had contact during the massage.  Read the instructions on the cleaner as some need time to sit saturated before wiping off. 

You should use gloves to remove massage sheets and place them in a covered receptacle until being washed.  Cleaning the massage room with gloves might also be a practice your office wants to adopt.  

There are some recommendations to change clothing in between clients or directly after your shift.  If an increase of work shirts in your wardrobe isn't desirable wearing an apron or smock that can be changed between clients might be an option.   

For therapists who are worried about exposure, reducing the number of clients they see might be an option.  Obviously this only works if your employer and finances allow it.  The idea here is that allowing more time to fully sanitize the massage room, waiting area and restrooms, may mean seeing fewer actual clients in a day.       

Taking payment after the session may become contactless with online payment or a no cash policy.  Some businesses are having clients pay before the session electronically, some are using contactless systems such as apple pay and others are taking credit card numbers over the phone. 

However this season looks for you and your business there are many options you have to remain healthy and keep doing what you love.  Helping people and focusing on the client should be possible even during the pandemic and cold/flu season.  Be smart, decide what works for you and stay cold, flu and virus free!  

Until next time

Be fit, be strong, stay healthy during this holiday season,

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