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Should a massage therapist accept sick clients?

January 08, 2016 3 min read

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Should a massage therapist accept sick clients?

January is not usually the most esteemed month of the year for various reasons. The usual associations are empty bank accounts, weight loss and detox, and unfortunately for many: sickness. The sickness is often down to overconsumption of toxins and foods with a low nutritional value; immune systems buckle under the heavy workload.

When feeling at a low ebb, whatever the reason, it’s a natural desire to want to pamper oneself; to lay down and rest while our woes are eased by an external party. What better way to do that than massage?  Actually, massage may not be as restful as you think. You will certainly feel inactive, but the changes in the body triggered by the massage mean your body has to work to maintain its stability. As a massage therapist you may already be well aware that massage while sick can divert the body’s attention from fighting an infection, but your massage client may not be. Even if they are, there is a good chance they will overlook their concerns in that regard in favour of a pampering session!

The experience is likely to disappoint

Another aspect your client may not have considered when booking a massage with you was that they are not likely to be anywhere near as comfortable as they normally would be. In theory it probably sounds wonderful, but the reality is that laying face down on a massage table with the lymphatic system working harder than normal can result in temporary sinus congestion. When coupled with a cold, this could lead to a very unpleasant experience, leaving your client feeling headachy, and generally more ill than they did when they arrived. A sinus-draining facial massage could be one solution to this, but the chances are still high that your client is still not going to feel as bright and breezy as they’d anticipated.

Then of course, there is the obvious – you as a massage therapist are in a vulnerable position working with the general public at such close proximity. If you are booking in fluey clients then there is a realistic chance that their germs are going to find their way into your body one way or another; in which case you may find that the profits you made from that initial massage will be swallowed up by the losses of the week of treatments you need to cancel while you yourself recover.

If your client feels only marginally ill with a bit of a cough or runny nose, they may not think to cancel and you may not notice it until the client is ready for their massage. This is a tricky situation to avoid, but you would still be within your rights to cancel the massage for the sake of your own health. It is the client’s responsibility not to put others at risk when they are sick, so booking in for an appointment with you while under the weather is a relatively uncompassionate endeavour! It might be worth putting a notice up on your website or in your reception to remind customers that it isn’t appropriate to book while sick. That way they can’t say they weren’t warned.

When to refuse to massage 

If a client turns up with any symptoms of, or complaining that they have recently been suffering from nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, it is the right thing to do to insist they rebook their massage for a later date. Likewise, if they have any fever, chills or fatigue potentially relating to cold or flu, it isn’t appropriate to massage them for either of your sakes. Even allergies may make the experience so uncomfortable for the client that it is not worth either of your time.

Ultimately it is often down to the therapist to enforce the rules when it comes to this kind of thing, and nobody likes to turn down work – especially if they need the money after Christmas excess! Regardless, it is the most responsible – and the least risky – thing to do for everyone involved. Your client will respect you for it once they get over their initial disappointment, especially when it occurs to them that if you didn’t have those policies you may not even be around to book them in in the first place!


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