Hiring a Massage Therapist for Your Clinic

By Deborah Solomon
When hiring a massage therapist for your clinic, there are several factors to consider:
  1. Most massage schools teach relaxation massage, so any therapist you hire must be teachable and open to learning therapeutic massage. In our office, the massage room walls have trigger-point charts on them, and Dr. Janet Travell's books: Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, volumes 1 and 2, are well-used resources. In addition, the doctor spends regular time discussing specific muscles, muscle groups, corresponding trigger points, and how to treat them. The most common muscles we treat are the levator scapula, upper trapezius, rhomboideus, quadratus lumborum, piriformis, gluteus medius, anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, supraspinatus, and subscapularis.
  2. Your massage therapist must have confident hands and the ability to palpate trigger points, muscles, taut tissue, etc. This palpation skill is necessary when documenting chart notes or a narrative in a personal-injury case.
  3. The massage therapist you hire should have "marketability": the sales ability to market him/herself to the public in a way that encourages new patients. When I am in a massage session with a new patient, I try to find a "hook" - a reason that necessitates a return visit. The entire session is entirely focused on the patient: their needs, their concerns, and what I find in their bodies. I try to tie in their history with their condition to bring continuity and validity to the treatment. After treatment, but before leaving the room on a first visit, I give a brief report of findings: what I found, such as what muscles are involved, as well as the probable cause, how many visits are expected to see improvement (usually three or four to begin with), and my experience in treating that and similar conditions.
  4. Versatility is a great asset to look for in a massage therapist: What can he or she do for the practice when not doing massage? Since I've worked for chiropractors for over 13 years, I have significant experience in practice management. As such, when not doing massage, I call insurance companies on denied claims, train new personnel and oversee the overall office procedures. Our other massage therapist assists the front-desk CA and acts as a therapy CA in her spare time. Crosstraining is valuable in a small office.
  5. Understanding chiropractic is vital to everyone working in your office, including the massage therapist. The symbiotic relationship of massage therapy (soft tissue) with chiropractic (joint manipulation) is a winning combination!
  6. The subject of paying the massage therapist can be a sensitive one, and differing opinions abound. From asking massage therapists in my area, I have found various approaches and pay scales. In our office, the massage therapists get a set hourly fee for massage (one-third of the cost of the massage to the patient), and another fee for office work. With "self-pay" patients, or those who are not chiropractic patients, but pay the massage therapist directly, there is a "rental" fee the therapist gives to the doctor - usually a percentage. The therapist is encourage to convert "self-pay" patients to become chiropractic patients by a referral fee paid for each one referred.
  7. Twenty patients per week is considered a full-time schedule for a massage therapist. Due to the physical demands on massage therapists, seeing 20 patients for 45 minutes each is plenty! In addition to patient care, other responsibilities include the cleaning of towels and sheets, as well as any CA duties.
  8. Lastly, your massage therapist/CA should understand, or be taught, the whole concept of being a team player. Although he or she can develop a successful business of their own patients under the chiropractor's roof, the chiropractic atmosphere is one of nurturing: realizing this is more than "just a job," but a life's calling of helping hurting people.

Deborah Solomon
Tulsa, Oklahoma

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