Unusual Image: A Massage Therapist’s Fingernails

June 10, 2020  |  Comments are off

My massage therapist’s hands with visible fingernails.

My nails haven’t been this long in more than 25 years, not since I entered massage school in 1994. Now I haven’t given a massage since March 12. My nails can be long, but I’d rather be working.

When will I do bodywork again? In terms of time, I don’t know. What’s necessary for Chris and me to resume offering bodywork is reliable assurance we can keep you, us, and everyone in our contact circles safe. For now, we cannot.

The conditions issued by the state of Vermont for close-contact work are vague and don’t address concerns particular to bodywork: being up close and touching someone in a small, enclosed space for up to ninety minutes.

A Washington State massage therapist wrote to that state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). The MT described massage therapy in detail so DOSH could respond with the most relevant advice possible. The reply:

I am a technical lead an several topics for DOSH.  My role includes answering questions from DOSH staff and outside stakeholders and providing guidance on application of our rules.  My primary topic areas are toxic metals, noise, and healthcare issues.  This last assignment has led to me working on much of our COVID-19 response.

Your reading of the materials is correct and massage therapy is actually best placed in the extremely high risk category.  The correct mask choice for this category is an N95 respirator or surgical mask to address droplet transmission of the virus.  (Medical procedures with a potential for generating aerosols are placed into high risk and require a respirator.  These tasks often involve less total exposure, but due to the aerosol exposure, require a more protective mask.)  It is important that the patient also be masked.

That means the best-case scenario for protecting you and us involves medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE), having robust (preferably HEPA) air filtration, and strict adherence to sanitization practices. Everything has to go just right. Yet even medical personnel, who are trained and practiced in these areas, sometimes contract COVID-19.

No massage benefits outweigh the risks of spreading and contracting COVID-19. We won’t risk our healing work—the comfort care we are dedicated to providing—becoming a source of spreading this devastating and potentially fatal illness.

Please, take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Please seek methods besides massage for managing pain, reducing stress, and soothing your nervous system. Contact us if you’d like suggestions that don’t put you or your practitioners at risk.

Now I must cut my nails. I accidentally keep scratching Chris and myself!