Massage therapy UK – when will be able to re-open our clinics in the COVID-19 crisis

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

– Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’.

The word on every massage therapist’s lips worldwide since the COVID-19 pandemic is “when can we re-open?”. Social media buzzes with conflicting information for the UK massage industry and endless questions that never quite seem to be answered. When can we open? Why is the osteopath down the road open and I’m not? Don’t the government trust us? When we re-open will have to wear gloves? And masks?

Public health messaging has not always been clear, government documents are long and don’t seem to address us by name. Massage therapists are bewildered at what seem to be conflicting messages on social media, from colleagues and professional associations. Half truths, fake news and frustrations spread like wildfire. “My friend says….” “I have a client who’s an MP/Public health official/physio (delete as appropriate) and THEY say” “I read this post…”

Understandably there is a lot of anger and confusion around about when and under what circumstances massage therapists may be able to re-open their clinics.
As you will appreciate as dedicated professionals, teachers and practising massage therapists ourselves, as directors of Jing, Meg and I also totally understand and appreciate these emotions and I will lay out the facts as we know them to be at the moment in this post.

Firstly, please can I urge you to be respectful and compassionate to others when discussing these issues on social media and to be mindful of the values we hold dear as a profession and at Jing — that of non-judgement and kindness. The COVID-19 crisis has been a devastating blow to our community and livelihood. And when I talk about community I mean ALL manual therapists – massage therapists, osteopaths, chiropractors, and beauticians who practise massage. All of us who practise with our hands head and hearts are facing similar difficulties and challenges at the moment whether or not we are currently able to practice.
Please understand when posting, that our community includes and embraces dedicated and fabulous clinical massage therapists, brilliant and dedicated spa workers, osteopaths who may be able to open for emergency appointments but are unhappy or scared about this and physios who have to prove to their regulatory bodies if seeing someone with COVID-19 is a true emergency appointment otherwise face the risk of losing their insurance.
Please know we are ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. So lets hold hands, breathe and support each other through these times with the kindness and care that is at the heart of all that we do.

So the facts:

  • The government has laid out a “roadmap” of when different industries might be able to return to work. Salons and ‘massage parlours’ (I appreciate these are not accurate terms of our profession but this is the nearest fit in the document) are included in phase 3 which will re-open NO EARLIER than July 4th. The government will announce in due course when that might be but July 4th would be the earliest. You can find that document here
  • Until the government makes any more announcements, anyone who says anything other than this (including your Mum , professional association, bloke down the virtual pub) is JUST CONJECTURE i.e.: we don’t know. We can make guesses but we really don’t know. We just have to wait
    The reason we are in phase 3 is because there is a higher risk of transmission of COVID-19 due to the nature of what we do.
  • Yes osteopaths are legally able to open for face to face appointments but under very controlled and limited circumstances. I quote from the general council of osteopathy website
    “UK legislation currently permits osteopaths to see patients. However, in many cases, only essential, urgent or emergency services should be delivered, and many routine NHS services are now suspended for public protection. We are advising osteopaths to use professional judgement in determining whether it is appropriate to see patients and to carefully consider the guidance about staying home and saving lives. We are also advising osteopaths to consider seeing patients by video call or talking over the phone instead.”
    Osteopaths who open for face to face appointments are expected to comply with strict hygiene and PPE requirements. There is no “back to normal” here.
  • Physios are also under similar restrictions – I quote from a physiotherapist member of the Jing Hub “I had a zoom meeting with a bunch of pelvic physios last night from across the NHS and private. None of them are working yet. Some are aiming for July/august to see people face to face. Others are talking september/October.
    And the amount of faff around PPE/cleaning/ventilating rooms/waiting areas etc is massive.
    “Our physio guidelines clearly state that we are only to see people face to face if a) they have a serious pathology or b) not seeing them is likely to lead to hospitalisation. They also say that we would have to clinically justify in the notes why we are seeing them face to face (and the message is that if that justification isn’t good enough we wouldn’t be insured.) the patient would also need a telephone screening of COVID-19 symptoms 24 hours before the appointment. We would also both the physio and patient have to sign a disclaimer about risk of catching COVID-19. So I don’t know how any physios are getting round this. I won’t be working face to face for months yet”

Rather than feeling helpless and angry, if you feel that massage therapists should be allowed to re-open for limited cases similar to osteopaths and physios then you can TAKE ACTION. Ask your professional association what they are doing about this and what lobbying they are doing to government on your behalf. Write to your MP and point out how we are different and we are as professional as other manual therapists who are seeing emergency clients. Do something. Anything. It will help. I promise.

In the meantime prepare yourself for re-opening whenever that will be. At Jing we are offering many free and low cost ways to ensure the longevity of your practice in the “new normal”.

Get support from massage therapists everywhere by:

  • Joining the Jing community zoominars happening weekly to discuss and share ways forward for the massage community. You need to be signed up to our mailing list to get notified but it’s all free free free.
  • Check out our back catalogue of lockdown Zoominars which outline how to move your practice to a diversified model including online self care.
  • Sign up for our subscription course “The Jing method: Online self care therapist” where you get access to a step by step model for taking your practice online plus the support of a brilliant facebook community and live Zooms with myself and Meg

In other words take control. Today.
And remember – this too shall pass.

As ever, we’ve got your back.
With respect and affection

Rache and Meg

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