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Massage therapists say pandemic has increased ache for services

With more people working from home, Elissa Neveu says clients at her west Ottawa clinic have found more time to implement massage therapy in their self-care routines.  (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)
With more people working from home, Elissa Neveu says clients at her west Ottawa clinic have found more time to implement massage therapy in their self-care routines. (Jean Delisle/CBC - image credit)

Owners of massage therapy clinics in Ottawa say their appointment books have filled up this year with clients looking for relief after two years of high stress and poor work-from-home setups.

Elissa Neveu, owner and registered massage therapist (RMT) at Kanata Massage Therapy Limited, says this is her busiest year since the clinic opened in 2008, adding that her clientele has really "blown up" since COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

"We can keep up for now, but we do have a wait list for sure and we're booking into January," said Neveu.

While the end of the year is typically busy for RMTs as many people use up the remaining coverage from their insurance plans, Neveu said her clinic has been busy since the calendar turned to 2022.

Clients have more flexibility because they can work from home, she said, but more people, especially younger people, are seeking massage therapy for stress relief and posture issues.

"I'm seeing a lot more kids, teenagers with stress, that kind of stuff. I think there's a lot of stress, obviously with COVID," Neveu said.

"Maybe you don't have a proper work setup at home, so you're sitting on a couch and you're all hunched over."

Jean Delisle/CBC
Jean Delisle/CBC

Interest in massage therapy growing

The treatment itself and the way it's been perceived is also changing, she added. What was once deemed more of a luxury experience, is now part of many people's self-care routines.

"I'd say a lot of people lately are just taking better care of themselves, giving themselves the time. The self care. Maybe COVID had something to do with that."

Michael Feraday, CEO of the Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario, also said the pandemic placed a major toll on mental and physical health, which leads many people to seek ways to de-stress.

"Not only does massage therapy have value in terms of just the massage itself, but in terms of treating people for mild to moderate stress and depression," Feraday said.

He says in the last two decades there's been a trend toward wellness and a recognition that massage therapy is not just "a spa kind of thing," but something that is true health care.

More RMTs needed

Like other health-care sectors, the massage industry faced a setback in terms of finding new hires after the pandemic disrupted the 2020 RMT college programs.

"It's created this unique situation that people are having a hard time hiring massage therapists and people are waiting on a wait list longer than they traditionally would be," said Feraday.

Brynn White, RMT and owner of Emendo Massage Therapy in Kanata, said it's very hard to find RMTs right now. Although her clinic has only been open for about two years, this past year has really picked up and the clinic is on the market for more help.

"We are slim pickings for December appointments now," said White, who has been hearing the same from other RMTs and clinics in the area.

"Everybody's fully booked. I have my clients from the past saying, 'Can you get me in?'' or 'We're booked, can you fit someone in?' Everyone's in the same boat."