Mask Wearing as a Massage Therapist
When the pandemic hit New York City last year, I started wearing a mask when practicing massage in the last days before we closed. In my reasoning, even though the government said masks were not necessary, from a health care perspective it made sense to me. As a medical massage therapist, I specialize in a number of things many other massage therapists do not. One of the treatments I specialize in is intra-oral massage for TMD. These treatments require me to put my gloved hand inside a client’s mouth to massage the muscles there. It means I spend a large part of my day focused around people’s heads, neck, and faces. I remember saying to one of my last clients, “I am going to wear this mask today, it’s just going to help my air stays in my space”. It is not exactly a scientific explanation of germ transmission but I was trying to keep things simple and not scary.
As a New York Massage Therapist, I very rarely wore a mask. Wearing a mask in New York signified illness and was a scary addition to the massage. The thinking being, ‘If you are sick enough to wear a mask, you should stay home’. That is totally true by the way, you SHOULD stay home while sick. Unfortunately, there is a lot of time between beginning to feel off, and being sick. When I worked in Ontario, Canada, where massage therapy is a full health care position, I saw a much broader patient population. The public perception of the job is different, so I frequently wore a mask. I wore them if my client had a sniffle, or if I felt off, or if the client was compromised. No one really batted an eye at my mask-wearing as they reasoned it was for a good medical reason.
When Massage Therapists are Sick
I hate being sick. I mean, hate it. I always feel as if I am sick more than the average person. I get sick at least 4 times a year. The CDC notes that “Each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. Adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year, and children have even more“. I am sick slightly more than the average person, but given my close contact with people that is not unusual. For me, as a Massage Therapist, being sick is very stressful. My income is tied to my ability to not be sick. I cannot work from home and sniff my way through the day. Patients are often very upset when I cancel as well. We have had demands for free service, threats, and general poor behavior over having to cancel due to illness as well. Since my income is directly tied to my ability to massage, you can be assured I NEVER want to cancel unless I have to.
My Mask Has Kept Me Healthy
It has been about a year since I started wearing a mask full time. I have yet to be sick this year (knock on wood) I know there is still time…but it has nearly been a year and I am out and about riding trains, treating people up close, and generally going about my life…with a mask. I cannot say for sure it is the close contact with patients that is the number one reason I got sick so frequently in the past…but it probably is:). I always washed my hands far more than the average person but it is hard to say if, previous to Covid, my clients were. The fact that everyone is now washing their hands when they come into the office means I am not coming into contact with the usual yukies.
Masks Are Keeping a Lot of You Healthy
It is not just me either. Earlier this year conspiracy theorists pointed to a massive drop-off in flu reporting in an effort to classify Covid as a hoax. Almost no one got the flu this year….even with increased testing. The flu dropped off though, because people are doing what we know works for infection control. Washing hands frequently, staying home when sick, and wearing masks. Check out this article in the Science section of the Atlantic on ‘The Pandemic Broke the Flu’. Mask wearing and appropriate infection control works to keep a population healthy.
When we reopened I also expected we would have large problems with people canceling due to being ill, since we ask anyone who is sick to stay home….but it did not happen. Normally, people come in sick all the time. We do not want them to. This year, we have no one coming in sick, and no one calling out sick. NO one is sick! In 8 months we have had 2 cancellations due to being ill. That is far below average.
Massaging in a Mask Forever
I will probably be massaging in a mask forever. Even once the mandate is lifted for massage in New York City. I see no reason to endanger you with my common cold or a flu that has yet to be identified. I see no reason for me to ever be sick again if I can help it. I lose thousands of dollars a year in missed income being sick. That is money I can sock away for better things. My stress is increased exponentially by being sick, and quite frankly, being sick SUCKS. Thank you, but now that it has been accepted, I will be wearing a mask in my massages forever. I really do not mind it, and it is good for both of us.