Very clean and overly careful
Massage therapists go beyond pandemic guidelines to ensure a relaxing and safe experience
BY ELLEN GILLETTE
Massage therapy, a $16 billion industry, is recognized by the medical community as potentially beneficial, far beyond easing sore muscles. For some, massage boosts sleep and immunity, reducing stress and anxiety. But in the midst of a pandemic, is getting a massage safe? Is it a luxury — a special pampering gift for a birthday or anniversary — or is it a medical necessity whose benefits outweigh possible risks?
Even in the best of times, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before scheduling a first massage. Some conditions, such as a recent accident or a skin rash, preclude the treatment. With COVID-19 numbers still relatively high, those with compromised immune systems or respiratory problems are encouraged to be around others as little as possible.
If you’re in good health, it’s a different matter. It is once again possible in Port St. Lucie to enjoy the stress relief from a relaxing Swedish or an invigorating deep tissue massage to get out all those kinks from sitting through yet another Zoom meeting.
However, googling massage therapy in Port St. Lucie may increase stress, with close to 100 choices. Listen to friends. Ask your doctor. Many chiropractors have massage therapists in-house. Read online reviews. Being able to communicate clearly with a provider is important. You’ll want assurances that everything is being done properly to ensure safety and professionalism.
COVID-19 is commonly believed to be spread between people within 6 feet of each other through respiratory droplets. Those droplets are created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings or even talks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Keeping socially distant helps. Masks help. Washing hands often helps. Sanitizing helps.
If you’ve been wanting or needing a massage, there’s good news. Local massage therapists say that while they’ve always taken the recommended and required steps for licensed massage therapy, they have stepped it up a notch to counter the pandemic.
Extra protocols are in place to ensure client confidence and safety. One thing you probably won’t find, however, are gloves.
“Massage has to be skin to skin,” says Karla Nattis of Karla’s Massage Therapy.
Nattis’ business shut down for three weeks, but was able to reopen because of the relatively small traffic flow.
“We didn’t lose clients,” she says. “In fact, we’re stronger than ever. The feedback I’ve gotten is that people didn’t want to go to a place that was super busy.”
Nattis accepts clients by appointment so that she can control numbers, as well as spend extra time cleaning.
During a pandemic, the need for safety may supersede the need for de-stressing, but it doesn’t have to. Local massage providers say they’ve always put a premium on cleanliness, but have stepped it up even more.
Ross Hoffman of Hands on Health and Healing says he and the other providers with whom he shares a building were shut down in March by government order as nonessential.
“Lots of people called and disagreed,” he says. “ ‘We’re in pain,’ they said. ‘You’re essential!’ ”
“I was used to doing massage for five-to-eight hours a day,” Ross continues. “Sometimes it’s now two. I do personal training also, but part of staying alive is staying active. I’m open five days a week again, but not up to capacity.”
One problem, he says, are news reports. “People hear the virus is on the rise and they get nervous.” While he wears personal protection equipment, Hoffman leaves the matter of wearing a mask during a session to the client.
Hoffman says people need an outlet; he uses an emotional release technique that can help. Specializing in Structural Energetic Therapy, which addresses body imbalances causing discomfort in soft tissues, he stresses that he and his fellow therapists have never “not been clean, we’re just more in depth now.”
Sheets are kept in a separate, closed cabinet. He scrubs to the elbows “like a doctor” and sanitizes all surfaces with a germicidal cloth. Items that might encourage multiple people touching them, such as magazines, have been removed. He also uses a plug-in ozone air purifier.
As one recent reviewer posted on the Healthy Habits website, “I feel so much better! … I also appreciate the COVID safety guidelines you have in place. I will see you again soon!”
Also housed with Hoffman at Healthy Habits Massage on Port St. Lucie Boulevard is Molly Fowler, who combines relaxation and deep tissue techniques. Her microcurrent therapy combines Western science with ancient Chinese medicine to stimulate pressure points with discounts given to public service workers, teachers and military.
Southern Salt Therapies was able to stay partially open due to the salt [halotherapy] it offers for people with respiratory issues, but it temporarily stopped offering massages and facials. Owner Laura Barnes says they opened up in October.
“There’s a longer turnaround between clients for the sanitation practices that have to be followed,” Barnes says. “We might schedule 15 or 30 minutes between appointments now.”
Southern Salt also checks temperatures. And science backs up the claim that higher salt content in the facility’s air can be beneficial. “Our clients also enjoy the elderberry shots we offer them,” Barnes says, extracts that are believed to boost the immune system.
Fusion Aveda Salon & Spa asks clients to check in for their appointments by phone upon arrival, to be invited in only after thorough cleaning. This also helps to limit the number of clients in the building at any one time. Some services have been curtailed for the time being, among them couples’ massages and both hot stone and prenatal massages.
Fusion’s relaxation lounge for clients is also temporarily closed. Client questionnaires, filled out every two weeks, help screen for symptoms and travel. If a client’s temperature exceeds 99 degrees the appointment is rescheduled. And while rooms were always cleaned thoroughly pre-pandemic, now every surface is disinfected — including pens, door handles, clipboards and the on-site ATM.
Victoria Bell of Step by Step Therapeutic Neuromuscular Therapy says that while massage typically “feels good,” her company takes it a step further. Broward-based, the Port St. Lucie office closed its doors during the shutdown, no longer able to provide specialized massage to treat chronic jaw/neck/head pain, including migraines and TMJ. People still needed post-surgery care, however.
Bell offered free video sessions, instructing clients how to perform techniques at home.
“We’ve always been by appointment only, one-on-one, so that aspect hasn’t changed,”she says. “We don’t have a waiting room and we keep sessions short. We had to let go of some people, but we’re slowly coming back. People have been afraid — we need to let everyone know it’s OK.”
Massage therapists in training were also affected by COVID-19. Port St. Lucie Beauty Academy had to close its doors but plans to reopen in June thanks to a CARE grant from the federal Department of Education that provides emergency financial aid for academy students. Trainees complete three months of instruction before accepting outside clients; when this resumes, social distancing and masks will be in place.
Before the pandemic, Brittney Smalls-Davis operated a mobile massage service called Hands of Synergy, catering primarily to middle-aged-and-above clients who appreciated house calls for any number of reasons. Halfway through an already rough 2020, however, she was in a bad accident and had to give up private practice to work with a franchise, at least temporarily.
“Massage therapy still has a positive effect on the public, despite COVID-19,” Smalls-Davis says. “As therapists, we are being safe, of course. I just hope and pray that we’ll eventually return to some sort of normalcy. Massage therapy has done what it is best known for even in these trying times — giving everyone a sense of calmness and relief. This is why I love what I do.”
Port St. Lucie massage therapists are open for business. It’s good to know that they take safety as seriously as they take the importance of their therapeutic and relaxing techniques.
For more information
Fusion Aveda Salon & Spa
266 NW Peacock Blvd. #105.
Healthy Habits Massage
139 SW Port St. Lucie Blvd, Ste B
Hands on Health & Healing
Fowler Massage Therapy
Karla’s Massage Therapy
1626 SW Bayshore Blvd.
Port St. Lucie Beauty Academy
10036 S. US 1.
Sanctuary Spa at Tradition
10799 SW Tradition Square
Southern Salt Therapies
540 NW University Blvd, # 107
Step by Step Therapeutic Neuromuscular Therapy
7410 S. US 1 #303