17 December 2021
Throughout the past year and a half during the COVID-19 pandemic, I practised massage therapy in Toronto, Canada. Ontario had strict rules and regulations for managing the pandemic in order to keep everyone safe, including massage therapy clients and practitioners.
It is clear we need to learn to live and prosper with the virus and continue to live our best lives while staying safe. As intimate as massage therapy can be, it continues to be safe by implementing extra precautionary measures. These measures are put in place to protect the client, practitioner and the community. I witnessed first-hand how wearing face masks, more frequent hand washing and sanitising, disinfecting surfaces and proper screening are effective ways to prevent the virus from entering an environment.
Access to lateral flow testing adds an additional barrier of defense and prevention, and a fully transparent mutual relationship is another great way to protect one another. Honesty and mindfulness with how you are feeling on a day-to-day basis, understanding your risk exposure and close contact exposure, and determining if you are putting the client or therapist at risk are tasks everyone in the community needs to adhere to. Having this open communication within the therapeutic relationship will create peace and assurance throughout your treatments. During these turbulent times, stress and anxiety are at their height. Elevated levels of cortisol cause muscle tension and can lead to pain, fatigue and depression.
Massage therapy is the forefront of defense to combat issues related to increased levels of cortisol. Nurturing touch alone has been proven to increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, or “the feel-good hormones." Receiving a full body massage addresses muscle tension and pain systemically by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” component of the autonomic nervous system that allows the body to manage the internal stressors from within.
When a person is in deep relaxation while receiving a massage, internal bodily systems function at their best, allowing for an overall feeling of wellness, mind, body and spirit, which in turn allows the body to better cope with increased external stressors in our environment — like a pandemic.
At a time when we are being told to keep our distance from others, limit physical contact, wear a mask and other precautions, connecting safely with another human being through nurturing touch will deliver a magnitude of benefits. It is in times like this that people need people and connecting with each other is a component of health and wellness.
This article first appeared in the December 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.