• Sharon Feigal

Obstacles to reopening during a pandemic

There are, obviously, so many reasons motivating me to want to reopen my practice. I could wax lyrical for days on just how much I want to! I've gotten myself quite worked up with glorious plans for various types of soft starts.

With that in mind, I devote one workday each week to researching the latest information about the pandemic and how the latest studies impact my profession.

I have several sources for that:

WHO - including European and NL-specific information

RIVM - including links to safe practice in various situations

Nature - an online resource of scientific information, including new studies

Numerous resources for massage therapists specifically.

As I write this, the concerns still most strongly holding me back are: the asymptomatic spread of the virus; the blood-clotting in the body of infected persons; and the lack of cohesive information about transmission via objects. Experts are still learning about this virus! The health authorities have to make educated guesses to a certain extent and the governmental authorities have to then decide how it makes sense to regulate them based on a variety of other considerations.

Here in the Netherlands, we are currently only testing people who show symptoms, and then only if they are sick enough to seek medical help or are unable to home isolate while their symptoms persist. However, the WHO is still uncertain what percentage of people are asymptomatic but able to transmit it. While we don't know that, it seems we should all consider ourselves infected and act to protect others around us, in case they aren't.

Lately more is being understood about the effect the virus has on blood and circulation. Among even otherwise asymptomatic (younger) people, the increased blood clotting has resulted in strokes. This has been confirmed to be directly caused by the virus. Massage, especially deep massage, has been known to cause embolism and stroke in people with blood clots. There is not enough information yet about this either.

Finally, there still seems to be inadequate information about how transferable the virus is on objects. This is evident in the variation of hygiene guidelines for businesses. Guidelines specific to massage practices are all over the place regarding proper cleaning of the space between clients, and my space is also my home.

The key factors to infection as they are understood at this time are duration, proximity, and ventilation. Close contact is defined as within 2 meters for more than 15 minutes. Most of my treatments are 90 minutes, and we are within 2 meters the entire time. My space can be pretty well ventilated if the windows on both sides are open, but it's less ventilated than I previously thought, and the issues of my stairwell and location of my WC make all of this quite tricky.

The good news is that they're learning more all the time. There are new drugs showing promise, and more and more people are apparently developing antibodies. I'm really hoping that evidence will change my mind sooner rather than later. I'm hoping very much that I turn out to be wrong for being so cautious.

The person who wrote this open letter has put some of my sentiments (and those of many colleagues) into a far lovelier prose than I can do. Please read it if you like.

Finally, I can tell you I'm trying to use my time well. I've been very active on several educational forums and taking online classes. A massage training I was scheduled to go to in July has been partially moved online and partially postponed. I've joined my teacher and soon her teacher on some ongoing Thai medicine study groups. There are things I can improve about my practice during this time, and hopefully I will eventually reopen and be even better able to meet your needs!

Be safe out there, friends, while you go about your lives. I want to see all of you on the other side of this!

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