Are massages and acupuncture treatments safe during Covid-19?


HEALTH officials advise people to remain 6 feet apart during the Covid-19 pandemic, but for services such as massages and acupuncture, that’s difficult to do.
So, should you cancel your appointment?
Experts say the answer is complicated.
“Social or physical distancing is not really possible with massage and acupuncture. If the prevalence of Covid-19 in the local community is low and appropriate precautions are maintained, these services can be delivered relatively safely. That said, if the prevalence of Covid-19 infections is high locally, you might want to wait until the number of cases decreases,” Dr. Michelle L. Dossett, MPH, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at UC Davis Health, told Healthline.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is mainly spreadTrusted Source from person-to-person contact. This can be among people who are in close contact and through droplets produced when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or speaks.
As SARS-CoV-2 is a new virus, data on its spread on surfaces is limited. But Dossett says it is feasible the virus could be spread via a massage table that hasn’t been cleaned.
“If someone who was infected with Covid-19 left respiratory droplets on the massage table an hour or two before your massage, you could theoretically catch it if the table was not cleaned in between clients,” she explained. “That said, professional societies and public health guidelines are recommending that massage therapists and acupuncturists do clean table surfaces between clients.”
Dr. Sue Kim is a medical acupuncturist at Stanford Health Care in California.
She says risks associated with receiving services such as acupuncture and massage during the pandemic could be dependent on the environment in which they are delivered.
“It just depends on what the setup is,” Kim told Healthline. “For example, if it’s a very tiny room with very poor circulation and there’s not really good airflow… and people are not wearing masks… then the risk may be higher. Especially if the patient is spending a lot of time in the room and there’s not enough time to air out the room in between.” She says practitioners should consider offering services outside and, if this is not possible, implementing extra precautions indoors.
“If you need to do it indoors, ideally it would be a room that has windows and I would advocate in this case for keeping the windows open and perhaps having a HEPA filter.

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