Massages and Acupuncture Treatments: Are They Safe During COVID-19

Knowing what’s safe during the pandemic can be challenging to say the least. While staying a safe distance apart has been established as necessary, many are wondering why. If COVID-19 is spread by droplets from the mouth, does wearing a mask mean it’s okay to stand close to someone? These are just some of the questions that arise when deciding how to interact with the public.

What To Do During the Pandemic

Since many states have different laws on what is considered “safe”, knowing what is off limits during the pandemic can be tricky. In some countries, going to bars and the theater is perfectly fine. In the U.S. however, the activities we take part in can have consequences.

Getting a massage or going to an acupuncturist may not simply be a “fun outing”. Many people visit massage therapists to help heal physical stress or pain. Acupuncturists can also provide medicinal-like benefits for physical ailments such as migraines. Although these treatments can be helpful, they may cause more harm than good during this particular time period.

Are Massages Off The Table?

Professional massage clinics can vary greatly depending on the practice. Even massage therapists as individuals can follow different protocols. Depending on how massages are done, the reasons for getting them and where they are given, this type of treatment may or may not be beneficial during the pandemic.

For those who use massage therapists for medical reasons, calling a physician is recommended. A local physician will have a better idea of what the area is like concerning COVID-19. Since most massage clinics must comply with specific guidelines, finding out the details is important.

Things to think about:

  • Does the massage therapist have adequate space?
  • Will the massage therapist wear a mask?
  • Is there air circulation?
  • Are patients required to have their temperature taken?

If you do not need a massage for medical purposes, physical contact is not recommended. Even touch that does not involve mouth droplets can potentially pose a threat when contracting viruses.

What About Acupuncture?

Many acupuncture clinics are reopening their doors despite the pandemic. Because many people use acupuncturists as a form of medical care, this can seem beneficial especially in times of stress.

Acupuncture is a type of therapy that some say works through neurohormonal pathways. By piercing specific points in the body, nerve cells can be stimulated to send signals to the brain. This has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat various types of pain.

Discomfort that can be eased by acupuncture includes dental pain, headaches, lower back pain and menstrual cramps. For severe pain, many people opt for medication rather than acupuncture. Although needles are used, they tend to feel like small pin pricks and do not exacerbate other forms of pain.

Depending on the type of pain a current patient is managing, acupuncture may be recommended by a physician, but it is not likely. Acupuncturists generally will not see a patient who does not have an urgent need for treatment during the pandemic because of the risk associated with this treatment. Being in close contact with anyone can pose a risk regardless if they have a temperature.

If you do decide to see an acupuncturist, there are basic guidelines that he or she should follow. These can include:

  • Disinfecting surfaces before and after patients
  • Prescreening patients for symptoms
  • Wearing a mask
  • Only touching the shaft of a prepacked, sterilized needle
  • Wiping down a patient’s skin with isopropyl alcohol

Weighing The Risks and Rewards

During the pandemic, outings are often thoroughly assessed. Going to the grocery store may be a necessity whereas shopping for a new article of clothing, might not be. Acupuncture and massages are a little more tricky to assess considering they usually fall somewhere in between.

Human contact with people outside immediate living quarters can be dangerous. While we may not be able to completely avoid this, picking and choosing the right outing is important. Massage therapy is a hands-on type of treatment that involves physical contact between two people. If this is done in a practice or clinic, the indoor space could already be contaminated depending on other patients.

Many people use massages as a way to unwind or relax instead of treating intense, physical pain. If you enjoy a massage to relieve stress, the risk may not be worth it. If you do not know whether your physical pain is intense enough to warrant a massage, asking a physician can help.

Since acupuncture is also a hands-on therapy, the warnings are similar. Acupuncture, in addition to the physical conduct necessary, also involves needles. This can add a level of risk to the treatment. If you are uncertain about the sterilization or cleanliness of needles, asking a specialist about preparation is never a bad idea.


For simple pain relief, there are many remedies that can be done from home. This is also true for stress and anxiety. From herbal teas to massage chairs or electronic shoulder pressure, the more that can be done at home, the safer you are. To maximize health and relieve stress, minimizing physical contact is advised.