Now that the COVID vaccines have begun to be distributed, we have a new question to ponder: When is it appropriate to offer massage therapy to clients who are going through this process?
My answer: My recommendation is to wait at least two days after each injection (it’s a series of two, about a month apart), just in case the person has a negative reaction. Most people will have some local arm pain and swelling, but some people will have more severe, flu-like symptoms. For the latter, delay massage until they are back to full speed.
My rationale: The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines currently being administered in the United States are m-RNA vaccines. This is a new technology that induces an immune system response to SARS-CoV-2 without exposure to the virus. In other words, this vaccine cannot possibly cause even a low-grade form of COVID-19, but it equips the immune system to launch a powerful response to fight off an infection.
A terrific explanation of how the m-RNA strategy works can be found here—it will be the best 3 minutes you can spend to understand this process.
The m-RNA vaccine strategy appears to be safe and effective—that’s the good news. It also appears to initiate robust T-cell activity, which leads to longer-lasting protection than B-cells alone—also good news. However, these vaccines have a higher rate of side effects than we see with some other vaccines: they are reactogenic (likely to create reactions). This is good; it shows the body is creating a healthy and aggressive stance. But it is also uncomfortable. Specifically, side effects include pain and swelling at the injection site (this happens for most patients), along with systemic symptoms like fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea, vomiting, and fever.