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Getting Massage When You Have Chemical Sensitivities

I heard someone say that living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities was like “Killing Me Softly” … exposure to household products sets off an overreaction of body defences and sudden decline in health.

SA Parliamentary Enquiry into Multiple Chemical Sensitivities identified that 1% (could be as high as 6%) of the population have MCS and that 16% had some sensitivity to chemicals.

If you are someone living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, then getting massage when you have sensitivities might not be high on your agenda.

The very image of a massage clinic conjures up images of diffusers and scented candles at one end, or the pungent smell of menthol in muscle rubs.  Scent seems synonymous with massage.  Not only those smells, but any clinical environment is also kept clean – room sprays, toilet fresheners, anti-bacterial hand wash, and surface sanitisers … you name it, the use of chemicals can be everywhere.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities is a hidden disability.  Exposure to regular household items can result in toxic overload and a critical reaction of the bodies systems.  The health outcome is usually poor.

As someone who has some sensitivities, particularly to petroleum products, chemical load of my household and my work place is something I take seriously.  I once worked in a place where the perfume of my colleague was so strong that my airways burned and my nose would sometimes bleed.  Even short exposure to enamel based paints and thinners leads to flu like symptoms, fever and up to a week of ill health.  Don’t even try to use a product that “neutralises odour” around me.

Here at Myomasters it is our commitment that we provide a clean and safe environment to treat in.  However, we are careful in the products that we use for treatment and in sanitation.  Hot water and elbow grease, mild surface cleaners, and fragrance free (where possible) products.  We wash our towels in ultra-hot water to minimise the use of detergents.  We’re even careful about our own personal hygiene products – that means that at the end of a long day we might smell a little bit natural!

We do stock and use some products with essential oils as active ingredients.  However, we use an unscented massage balm for the majority of our massage treatments.  There are times where a muscle rub, or scented oil adds tremendous value to a treatment.  This is something we discuss with you as part of your treatment plan.

Of course, there are times when we cannot control the chemicals and smells that enter our treatment spaces.  For examples, sometimes visitors do wear strong perfumes.

If you are living with chemical sensitivities and the thought of a fragrant massage environment fills you with dread, then I invite you to give me a call.  We all deserve great massage, and we all expect our health to be better, not worse, at the end of it.

David Clayton is the Principal Remedial Therapist at Myomasters Massage located in Hope Valley in the north east of Adelaide.  He has a passion for supporting humans to live the lives they were to born to live using massage and soft tissue therapies.  He has a particular interest in assisting people to recover from stress, anxiety and trauma using compassionate and nurturing touch.