Graduates of massage therapy college have been well-trained in the principles of hygiene as they relate to the clinical environment and patient care. However, conscientious professionals periodically review hygienic best practices in order to protect their own health, and encourage a long-lived practice.
Above all else, massage therapy training promotes patient-centered care. MTs dedicate their expertise to helping patients improve their health and overall wellbeing. Keeping abreast of and maintaining the highest standards of personal and environmental hygiene is integral to their mission as committed healthcare professionals.
Established medical protocols for limiting the spread of infectious agents were codified in the late 1980s. However, in 1996, these Universal Precautions were expanded to include protective measures against potentially harmful bodily fluids. The result of this expansion is known as Standard Precautions, which according to the World Health Organization, are meant to help healthcare professionals “avoid transmission of bloodborne and other pathogens from recognized and unrecognized sources.”
MTs are not typically exposed to many of the potentially high-risk bodily fluids identified in Standard Precautions, such as amniotic, cerebrospinal and pericardial fluid. However, their day-to-day practice could very well place them in contact with others, including blood-tinged saliva, blood, breast milk from lactating mothers, and even vomit. Standard Precautions outline hygienic best practices for preventing pathogens in bodily fluids from travelling between hosts - guidelines MTs can use to protect themselves and their patients from infectious agents.
Pathogens can move directly from person to person, or by way of an inanimate object, such as a massage table, light switch or linens. Maintaining a hygienic clinic environment goes beyond wiping down surfaces with whatever cleaning products are closest at hand - antimicrobial products are typically not potent enough to eliminate potentially harmful pathogens from session room surfaces. The Centres for Disease Control recommends using a 10 per cent bleach solution for cleansing massage tables, face cradles, door handles and other high-traffic surfaces between patients. Although convenient, alcohol-soaked wipes are not considered best practice because the alcohol evaporates too quickly to kill microbes. Even certain bleach-infused wipes can take up to ten minutes to be effective, rendering them impractical for MTs who only have a few minutes for cleaning in between patients. And while massage therapists are certainly aware of the importance of regularly laundering linens, they may not realize that storing them in an air-tight area helps prevent the spread of pathogens in the clinical environment. Best practices include wrapping cleaned linens in plastic or stowing them in a sealed container.
Massage therapy courses teach students the principles of personal hygiene as they pertain to MT, which place an understandable emphasis on procedures for effective hand hygiene. Standard Precautions recommend cleansing hands with alcohol rub or by washing them in warm, soapy water for a minimum of ten seconds. Since alcohol works best when it comes into prolonged contact with targeted microbes, it must be massaged into the hands until they are completely dry.
When it comes to nails, MTs know that keeping them trimmed short is best for patient comfort. However, a careful manicure is also imperative for preventing the transmission of microbes to (or from) patients. Potentially harmful pathogens can easily enter an MTs body via cracked, dry skin or a split cuticle. The best defense is to take good care of the hands by moisturizing regularly, and washing immediately after administering each massage.
Taking the time to follow these internationally recognized standards and procedures is well worth it. By embedding rigorous hygiene protocols into their daily practice, MTs promote the highest standard of care, instil confidence in their patients, and safeguard their own wellbeing.
In what other others ways do you think MTs can promote the highest standards of hygiene?