50 Businesses, 50 Solutions: Healing massage, no touch required

  • “Being able to translate massage into a virtual experience has been great,” said owner Gayle Washington about a 60-minute session. Courtesy

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 6/20/2020 3:09:25 PM

When it comes to services that can be delivered with social distance, most people assume massage is last on the list. The whole premise of massage – healing, intimate touch – seems at direct odds with staying 6 feet away from others.

However, when the pandemic shut down in-person massage in New Hampshire through June 1, Ohm Lifestyle Center in Wolfeboro turned to guided massage on Zoom. Owner Gayle Washington said that the experience was overwhelmingly positive.

“Being able to translate massage into a virtual experience has been great,” Washington said. 

During a 60-minute massage session, Washington evaluates a client’s range of movement and talks to them about any pain they’re  experiencing. That intake helps her identify a tension line in the body – the areas in which pain or stress is affecting the muscles. Then, over the course of an hour, Washington guides the client through a self-applied head, neck and shoulder massage to address their pain points. 

Because there is constant, on-going communication throughout the session, Washington said that many people emerge with a deeper understanding of their body and their pain. They also learn the tools to address that pain if it arises in the future. 

“You’ll leave that session knowing more about your body, and you’ll have a really positive and deep relaxation,” Washington said. 

Since June 1, Ohm has been able to open for traditional in-person massages. While there has been great demand for that, Washington has continued to book Zoom massage sessions. She anticipates that virtual massage sessions will play a role in her business going forward. 

“Traditional massage will always have a large market,” Washington said. “But the Zoom massage will slowly start creeping in as a substantive part of this industry.”

While a traditional one-hour massage at Ohm costs $80-90, a virtual session costs $60. 

“It’s a little less expensive. That’s because they are doing some of the work,” Washington said.

The trend toward virtual services in the wellness industry was starting even before coronavirus, but the pandemic has accelerated the switch, Washington said. Virtual massage combines aspects of physical therapy, massage and mindfulness, and they can be delivered as needed. If someone wakes up with an aching back or kink in their neck, they can phone in for immediate assistance from a practitioner that they trust. 

“It almost has a concierge feel to it,” Washington said. “People like being able to have someone available almost immediately.”

The biggest challenge is getting clients to give virtual massage a try, Washington said. Those who try it have a positive experience, but many people are skeptical beforehand. Although the transition may be slower, Washington expects virtual massage to catch on as more people try it, particularly if there is a second wave of COVID-19 and social distancing during the fall or winter months. 

“I know it’s new, but it’s a great experience,” Washington said. “I wish everyone would try it.”

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