Demand for massage therapists skyrockets during COVID-19 pandemic

·2 min read

If daily pandemic living has rubbed you the wrong way, you're not alone — the owner of a Halifax massage therapy school says demand for the service has skyrocketed in the last few months.

Natasha Joyce, co-owner and director of education at the Canadian College of Massage and Hydrotherapy, said there is also a shortage of practising therapists to keep up with the need.

"I'm not sure if it's that people are just maybe a little apprehensive about starting a career in a hands-on field with the pandemic happening, or if people are just doing the program and are staying more in our urban areas," Joyce told CBC's Information Morning.

"In our more rural areas, sometimes wait times can be four weeks or more to see a massage therapist. So there really is quite a shortage, not only in this province, but in really all of the Atlantic provinces."

Joyce said she has been getting calls from clinics across the country, looking for new grads to take on the surplus of clients.

"Based on these current trends, we actually expect to see significant shortages in the months and years ahead, as more Canadians are focusing on their mental and physical wellness," she said.

More affordable options available

The pandemic has been a source of great stress for many, and it has brought changes to work habits, with more people working from home — often in spaces not ergonomically friendly.

"Our sense of stability and community were pretty much taken away from us and we've had to learn how to cope with this in a very short amount of time," Joyce said.

"Massage therapy is just kind of one of these ways that they're trying to satisfy this need, especially in this age of distancing and limited physical contact with others. We as humans are historically very physical beings that need this human touch."

Joyce said many massage therapists are also taking on more patients than they normally would to try and meet the demand, which does pose a risk of burnout.

She said while most private health-care plans include a designated amount for massage or other manual therapies, she understands that not everyone is covered by insurance.

But she said there are more affordable options available for people, such as massages given by students at the Canadian College for Massage and Hydrotherapy, which offers discounted rates to the general public as well as hands-on experience for the students.

"Money is really tight during this pandemic. But it is extremely important that people still have access to massage therapy," she said.

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