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I Implement Appropriate Policy and Hygiene Protocols for Safety
THE MOST IMPORTANT PROTOCOL IS RISK! If you are ill, at risk of contracting an illness or passing one along, or feel that extraordinary measures must be in place for you to feel safe, please stay home and DO NOT book a session. I will do the same. If the people around you are ill or at risk, consider that if you get an infection, you may also infect them.
My sessions otherwise have less risk than if you go shopping, due to the remaining Policy and Hygiene Protocols in place.
All Registered Massage Therapists (and their clinics, spas, etc.) should always be implementing certain minimum standards of protocols and hygiene, which should then be enhanced during times of known severe circumstances, such as the Covid-19 Virus activity. Unfortunately, many RMTs and other health professionals become complacent about these activities during normal times - if unsure, you should ask what is being done to help protect you, your therapist, and others. We know how most communicable diseases are propagated, and these protocols are meant to reduce the risk of exposure and propagation. Everything I describe here is being done appropriately, and you can ask for enhancements. However, everything you do has an element of risk, which cannot be eliminated, and you accept such risk even when steps are taken to mitigate it. If YOU think the risk is too high, then please stay at home and DO NOT book a session.
We know how most contagions spread - usually by contact, inhalation, or ingestion. Standard protocols are intended to reduce this risk under normal circumstances.
Policies - These generally refer to contraindications. That is, NOT treating someone when they have certain conditions, or NOT treating local areas, depending on the condition. It is always best to talk to your doctor about any disease you have that may be passed on to others, and to disclose these to your therapist, or you may be held liable for consequences. It also means that if you are ill, you should not be treated. These policies also apply to the therapist!
Hygiene - This generally refers to specific things that are done to maintain cleanliness. It includes the therapist washing hands before/after treatment, changing linens between treatments, cleaning commonly touched surfaces between treatments, and regular cleaning of facilities.
In my case, it also includes Much More. I use a room rated HEPA air purifier in the treatment room, plus a large area HyperHEPA air purifier (pores are SMALLER THAN A VIRUS), and a high capacity workshop air purifier, in the premises. An ultraviolet light is used to disinfect, between patients. All commonly touched surfaces are cleaned between patients, including door handles, washroom facilities, etc. Feel free to ask about these measures.
While traditional massage normally entails skin to skin contact, MAT(E)™ treatments reduce the risk because such contact is minimized when the patient keeps their clothes on.
The Much More described above are enhanced, but are part of My Standard Protocols. At times of increased risk of exposure to contagions, I put in place Enhanced Protocols. You are also free to ask for them under normal circumstances. One risk factor to consider is the number of people you encounter at one time, or in total, throughout the day. The more people, the greater the risk. As my studio treatments are one on one - never in a crowd, and at most, few a day, the risk is extremely low to begin with.
Policies - These simply extend what is already in place to adapt to the enhanced risk of certain situations. Generally, this means that "at risk" people should avoid as much contact with others as possible. In this case, any type of manual therapy is considered non-essential, and treatment should be postponed until the risk is over. For normal, healthy people, the risk remains extremely low. You are responsible for assessing your own risk, just as I am for assessing mine.
Hygiene - Gloves may be worn by the therapist where specifically called for, and are always changed between patients, if not more often. Feel free to bring and use your own PPE, but do keep it reasonable.
The Use of Gloves and Masks (and...)
Gloves are commonly used in massage for such things as Intra-Oral TMJ - treating jaw issues from inside the mouth, for example. They are also used for cases of diseases spread by touch - where a patient has a plantar wart, for example. Practically speaking, the use of gloves makes little difference to the risk of spreading disease - unless they are changed often (between sessions, for the therapist; after touching anything, for the patient). This is because gloves spread disease just as much as not wearing them. It is their use as a temporary barrier that makes the difference.
Masks can be useful, but they should be fully understood. If you are looking to protect yourself from viruses, the only thing that will do that is a positive flow respirator. There are other masks which MAY help - these have "labels" of N (non-oil), R (resistant to oil), and P (Oil Proof). The accompanying number (usually 95, 99 or 100) refers to the percentage of particles of a certain size that will be removed - ASSUMING A PERFECT FIT TO SEAL TO THE FACE. Rubber masks fitted to a clean shaven face will usually work best.
Most masks you encounter are actually designed to keep YOU from spreading disease to others. They do not seal well to the face, and the material has holes many times larger than viruses, so they won't do much to protect you. But viruses in the moisture of your breath may be trapped in the material (because of the moisture adhering to the cloth or paper). However, just as with gloves, these masks need to be changed often - for example, between sessions, for the therapist. Note that "mandate masks" are not manufactured to any useful standards, and are next to useless.
Using extra layers of clothing, or even completely prophylactic clothing, may be the ultimate, but if that is what you are considering, it is probably best to stay home.