As restrictions start to lift and massage therapists are allowed to go back to work in Saskatchewan and British Colombia, massage clinics in Ontario are unsure of what the future holds for them.
"There are so many unknowns for us right now, we don’t have a clear picture of what our practices will look like and how the clinic will operate when we return," said Sue Sheedy, owner of Toronto Bodyworks.
When the government mandated that all non-essential businesses close, the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO) told registered massage therapists (RMTs) that they should stop working immediately.
"CMTO's position is that until the Government of Ontario lifts its order, RMTs should not practice. CMTO does not view the practice of Massage Therapy as emergency/urgent care," the organization wrote in a statement.
As such, some clinics have been trying to pivot and expand other parts of their services.
Richard Lobbenberg, owner of Yellow Gazebo Clinic told blogTO that he's been making videos about home self-care and having some of his practitioners offer virtual physiotherapy and chiropractic sessions.
"We're not as busy as we were in person but it's something that over the next year or two will make up for losses we incurred this year," he said.
However, for many clinics, who only offer massage therapy, there has been little to do but wait.
"Because of the mandatory closure we have not been able to practice [and] there hasn’t been much in the way of generating income for RMTs during the shut-down," explained Sheedy.
And due to the close contact therapists have with patients it's been a struggle to figure out how to ensure the safety of everyone.
Lobbenberg said he's considering things like masks and face shields.
"We've installed a sneeze guard for the reception desk and are going to limit number of people in the clinic," he said, adding that they will stagger times so there's no overlap and will use hospital-grade disinfectant to clean equipment.
Sheedy is thinking about similar things, even going so far as looking into nano-tech coverings for high-touch surfaces.
But without clear guidelines from CMTO or the government, what's necessary is still unclear.
Further, even when all the safety measures are put in place there's still the concern that people will be too scared to come to work or to get a massage.
"Some people are going to be very stressed no matter what precautions we take," said Lobbenberg, expecting to see about a 20 per cent drop in clients.
However, both Sheedy and Lobbenberg assure blogTO that they're not going to reopen until they have clear guidance from the government and the best and most achievable measures in place to keep the public and staff safe.
"We don’t want to return until we can do so well prepared and in a safe manner," said Sheedy.
So until then Lobbenberg suggests doing some exercise to keep the body moving and pain-free.
I however am trying to figure out if I can afford one of those massage chairs.
by Misha Gajewski via blogTO