My Turn: Massage therapists left out of health care reopening

For the Monitor
Published: 5/22/2020 8:12:00 AM
Modified: 5/22/2020 8:11:48 AM

Why have chiropractors and physical therapists been allowed to practice without any interruption during the COVID-19 crisis, when massage therapists and structural integrators have been shut down?

I have been a licensed massage therapist since 1993 in New Hampshire; in 2014, I received my structural integration license. There are roughly 20 structural integrators in New Hampshire.

Our profession, which provides a critical health care service to thousands of individuals in New Hampshire, was classified as non-essential and shut down on March 27, and has not yet been allowed to reopen.

There are 23 states that have allowed massage therapists to reopen as of the end of April or mid-May, or never required them to close.

New Hampshire closed all non-essential businesses on March 27, including massage and structural integration. New Hampshire is one of the few states that has a separate license for structural integration (also known as Rolfing). In most states structural integrators must have a massage license.

I work with people for injury recovery, surgery recovery, pain management and education in coordination and movement. Rolfing structural integration is method of body work focusing on release of the soft tissue in order ease tightness that causes pain, allow the realignment of the skeleton, and improve balance, posture and movement. Rolfing provides a complement to both chiropractic and physical therapy work.

We are health care providers in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, this fact has been forgotten during this epidemic. When I asked a staff member at N.H. Economy on March 27 why chiropractors and physical therapists weren’t closed down, the answer was, “Doctors refer patients to them.”

I pointed out that my colleagues and I have many patients who are referred to us by their physicians. In fact, just as we were ordered to close, one of my patients was told by her physician to see me so that I could evaluate her and give the physician my opinion of what was going on for this patient.

Due to the closure of non-essential businesses, I was not allowed to help this patient.

I was then told that the determination of an essential business was based on the NAICS Codes (North American Industry Classification System). These are six-digit numbers that classify business establishments and “it groups them according to similarity in the processes used to produce goods or services.” The first two numbers are the group, the other four numbers are the specific business type within that group. Massage therapy is 621399. Physicians are 62111. Chiropractors are 621310. Physical, occupational and speech therapy are 621340. We are all under the 62 group, health practitioners.

The question is now clear. We perform similar one-on-one health services with patients. Patients are referred to us by their primary or specialty physicians (often after all other avenues of treatment have failed). We have the same NAICS category code, health practitioners.

Why were we shut down when the other services were not?

I have been fighting a one-woman battle since March 27 with the state of New Hampshire. I have written letters to the governor and the reopening task force. I created a petition and collected over 200 signatures from practitioners and patients who feel our services are essential to their health and well being. My patients have submitted testimonials to the task force, testifying to the essential nature of our services. I have given a public comment at every opportunity. Still, we remain closed.

On Tuesday, May 12, the task force approved recommended reopening guidelines for massage therapy, Rolfing structural integration and other bodywork modalities. Nevertheless, as of last week Gov. Sununu had yet to announce a date for reopening. He announced that massage, tattooing, nail salons, acupuncture and tanning would be considered as a group at a later date.

How did we, as health care providers, end up in an announcement grouped together with these services, which, except for acupuncture, are clearly not health care services?

Why the delay? Many other clearly non-essential services and businesses were allowed to reopen. Yet we as health care providers remain shut down. Our patients are experiencing the effects of the lack of treatment.

(Sarah P. McClennen of North Woodstock is a licensed structural integrator and massage therapist.)

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy