Massage thereapists worry about the effects of COVID-19. How does one handle being in the business of touch, when we’re in a time of no-touching? My interview with Allison Steinberg of Allure Magazine discusses the dilemma facing our therapeutic community: 

While the pandemic has been difficult for many, for those who are in the business of touch, the pain of social distancing has cut a level deeper. Relying entirely on in-person, hands-on services, massage therapists saw their business wiped out entirely in the blink of an eye when social distancing became a nearly ubiquitous mandate.

While their business has been on ice, some massage therapists have already pivoted to new ventures, while others are holding the line until they can return to what they know best. Areefa Mohamed, a New York City-based massage therapist who has been practicing for 10 years now, relates all too well. She’s found herself completely out of work since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 has affected me as a therapist because we are not physically able to help clients or to physically work. It’s a scary time and not being able to alleviate stress and anxiety in the best way I know, through massage,” she tells Allure.

Many massage therapists like Tim Grae, a New York City-based licensed massage therapist who runs a massage therapy and recovery company, are considering the added stress of figuring out how to pay for office spaces with unclear guidance around rent allowances and small business support. It’s been a “huge struggle,” Grae says.

The need for touch will never go away

The irony that the benefits massage provides would be extra helpful now as people find themselves more anxious, depressed, and isolated than ever is not lost on most massage therapists.

“Today, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, both givers and receivers of consistent consensual touch are facing a different risk,” explains Jacobs. Research has shown that being deprived of human contact, or being “touch starved,” can affect blood pressure, heart rates, depression, and anxiety.

“Human contact is very grounding. We need connection for our wellbeing. It reduces stress. It grounds us and connects us, not only to the other, but to ourselves,” explains relationship expert and author Susan Winter. “In our busy world, we can tend to live in our heads, multi-tasking; touch in the form of massage brings us back into our body. If you deny touch, you deny a sense of belonging.”


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