Alternatives to the traditional, allopathic approach to treating illnesses are gaining recognition and appreciation in the world of medicine. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of medical practices incorporating massage therapy, herbs and acupuncture into their courses of treatment. In light of that, there are many growth opportunities for alternative therapies in the medical field.

When an alternative treatment such as massage, acupuncture or herbs is used in conjunction with a conventional treatment, the result is what is commonly referred to as “complementary medicine.” An example of this is the addition of massage therapy into treatment programs for fibromyalgia, which may already include prescription drugs, dietary changes and fitness programs.

Massage is helping bring alternative treatments to the forefront of medicine because it significantly reduces stress and alters lifestyles for the better. Also, massage has many techniques that clients have begun to expect from their therapists, and the quality of services continues to grow. This trend, along with the acceptance of massage as a healing modality, has encouraged patient interest and appreciation for massage beyond the physical therapists office. Also, as medical spas grow from strictly cosmetic facilities, the addition of massage plays an important role. Massage thus serves as an important bridge between spa and medicine.

Increased appreciation of massage as an effective, integrative, and complementary modality by patients has caused increased interest from physicians in traditional health and wellness industries. This opens new markets to massage therapists. By networking and reaching out to physicians that are already offering or considering offering complementary services within their practice, massage therapists can find professionals that understand the benefits of massage. However, this may still require educating physicians by explaining any contradictions, and possibly offering a payment structure for patients who may be unwilling to try massage because it is not covered by their insurance.

When networking with physicians, massage therapists should convey that they do not want to take allopathic medicine out of the picture. Explain that you are still advocates for consistent medical checkups, and discourage self-diagnosis. Massage therapists should reinforce that in an ideal integrative environment, massage, herbs and acupuncture are additional options that can be offered to patients and do not replace any aspects of traditional medicine.

When physicians add alternative medicine such as massage and acupuncture to their traditional medical services, they can offer patients the best of both worlds. Those who are part of the integrative medical movement have seen that complementary medicine can result in optimal health and preventive care. Together, physicians and alternative medicine practitioners can offer services that, in combination, are the ultimate solution to chronic long-term stress and variety of different ailments. This is the future of health care.

Dr. Grace Keenan is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Physician and founder of Nova Medical & Urgent Care Center, Inc., an integrative practice with four sites in northern Virginia. The main office in Ashburn, Virginia, is also the home of The Medical Spa at Nova. For more information about Nova Medical, please visit