A chiropractor’s office offers many opportunities for massage therapists.
Starting a new job in the field of massage is exciting because of the opportunities to learn from colleagues and clients—in any setting you land.
A chiropractic clinic might be a good fit for you if you have the motivation to deepen your knowledge of anatomy and chronic pain conditions; you want to work in a team environment; or you want to practice medically oriented massage.
Whether you are already interested in working for a chiropractor or you are not sure if this would be right for you, getting some inside information can help you move forward.
We spoke with three chiropractors who employ massage therapists—Steven Brown, A.J. Hunziker and Michael Koplen—to explore working conditions, expectations and pay for massage therapists in the chiropractic setting.
Knowing what chiropractors expect from massage therapists is the best first step—so before you send your resume off to chiropractic clinics, consider the following information and advice.
Be Prepared to Answer These Questions
In a job interview, chiropractors are looking for specific characteristics in a massage therapist applicant, including:
• Your experience. Are you applying right out of school or have you been working awhile? If you have been working, what type of massage have you been doing? If you’re right out of school, are you willing to undergo training by a chiropractor?
• What kind of career are you looking to develop? Do you want to ground yourself on the chiropractic team or are you looking to leave soon to start an independent practice?
• Are you a strong communicator who demonstrates ease in working within a team environment?
• Do you carry yourself in a professional manner, including being willing to learn more about your craft?
• If you have previous professional experience, can you show a history of loyalty? For instance, chiropractors are not interested in hiring a massage therapist who is there only to acquire clients they can then take with them to another business or into private practice.
Being prepared to answer these types of questions can determine if you will land the job or not.
You Have to Be a Team Player
An important characteristic chiropractors look for is a massage therapist’s ability to work well in a team environment. Demonstrating an understanding that everyone on the care team is working together on the patient’s treatment plan is vital, said A.J. Hunziker, DC, of American Chiropractic and Laser Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.
Massage therapists working in Hunziker’s office have access to imaging, exams, orthopedic and neurological exams, range-of-motion tests and other diagnostic information, he added—and a contributing massage therapist is going to look at that information and understand that they are part of the overall treatment plan.
As a team member in a chiropractic office, massage therapists are expected to work collaboratively with doctors, chiropractic assistants, acupuncturists and other health care providers in the practice. A massage therapist’s success in a chiropractor’s office and the success of the patient care depend on each provider fulfilling their roles.
“They have to be willing to work in a system where they are working under a doctor who on occasion will ask them to do certain things,” said Steven Brown, DC, of Brown Chiropractic & Acupuncture in Gilbert, Arizona. Chiropractors may prescribe an area of focus for the massage or a treatment protocol for a patient that a massage therapist is expected to execute, for example.
Additional aspects of being a team player include being on time and maintaining a professional image. If a massage runs five minutes late, it will make the patient late for their adjustment and can then have a domino effect, making patients the rest of the day late, said Hunziker.
Professionalism has many components, but for Hunziker the way a massage therapist communicates with a patient is important. He has had experiences working with unprofessional massage therapists and looks closely to avoid them when considering applicants.
The Experienced Versus Inexperienced MT
Note that even if you have little or no experience, that does not mean you have no chance of being hired. In fact, some chiropractors prefer massage therapists right out of school.
“Talent and good work ethic make up for the lack of experience,” said Brown. “We actually prefer to hire [massage therapists] right out of school; we found that if we hire someone right out of school who has talent and a good work ethic, we can train them on the very specific things we need.”
Additionally, Brown has found that some massage therapists who have been in private practice for years tend to have more difficulty adapting to working in a clinical setting and being part of a team. “They don’t listen and are no longer trainable,” Brown said.
Hunziker said there are pluses and minuses to hiring either experienced or new massage therapists. With applicants right out of school, the issue is the amount of time needed to train them to work in a professional clinical setting, he said, and some students coming directly out of school lack the confidence to implement the techniques they’ve learned.
One big factor is a massage therapist’s understanding of how different types of patients need different types of hands-on care.
“There is a difference between a Swedish and a post-auto accident musculoskeletal massage,” Hunziker said. “If you have never worked in any of these arenas, it takes more on the front end of the doctor to help familiarize [you] with it.”
Benefits of Working in a Chiropractic Clinic
Working with a medical team has its perks, such as access to a patient’s thorough medical history as well as imaging —both of which present information that a massage therapist can use in creating a session protocol.
Bulging discs, herniations, deviations in the spine, back and neck injuries—these are the types of conditions included in a medical history that massage therapists don’t always have access to, and is a plus for those who are conscientious about being part of patients’ pain relief.
A health history also provides a level of security and cushion for massage therapists who may have a patient with a medical condition that is contraindicated for massage. An additional safeguard is the chiropractor has evaluated the patient and given the go-ahead for massage or indicated what areas need to be avoided.
Massage therapists working in a chiropractic clinic are also in a situation where they can follow the progress of a patient from injury to recovery. This is often not the case in a spa setting.
“Patients are coming in with a concussion, multiple herniated discs and their life is majorly affected,” Hunziker explained. “Massage therapists are part of them getting back to being able to perform their daily activities again, like taking care of their kids and going to work.”
There are additional benefits: Massage therapists can gain knowledge of chiropractic, front and back office, SOAP notes, and how to read and understand a patient’s medical history and imaging; and get hands-on clinical experience with patients with a variety of injuries.
Massage therapists who work in a chiropractic clinic always have to assess patients or determine contraindications, because patients are pre-evaluated by the chiropractor. However, the massage therapist can consult with the chiropractor about case studies and share other knowledge, which enhances a therapist’s educational awareness and professional confidence, said Michael Koplen, LMT, DC, founder of Masters in Massage Institute and a practice in Capitola, California.
Along with gleaning knowledge and experience; the satisfaction of teamwork; and other advantages of working with a chiropractor, the one that feels the best is the complimentary adjustments. Many chiropractors understand they are promoting health and wellness, and that includes offering complimentary chiropractic adjustments to their team.
What You Can Expect to be Paid by a Chiropractor
Pay will vary depending on location and the type of employment agreement a massage therapist has with a chiropractor. For massage therapists who are employees earning an hourly wage, pay can range between $20 and $30 an hour. In researching this article, we found some chiropractors paying on the low end, at $12 an hour, and others paying up to $30 an hour. Some offices allow massage therapists to accept gratuities.
Some massage therapists who work for chiropractors do so as employees while others are independent contractors. Employment and space-rental agreements can vary in terms and commission.
A Health Care Collaboration
There are pros and cons to working with a chiropractor, but if the benefits appeal to you and it is the direction you want to take your career, make sure they know you’re up for the task.
To sum it up, chiropractors are looking for massage therapists who have good communication, are team players, carry themselves in a professional manner, have a genuine interest in clinical massage, and are timely and loyal to the practice. They want to work with massage therapists who are interested in their profession and who want to grow and learn as a member of the health care team.
If you possess all of these qualities and are fresh out of school, apply anyway. Experience is not the sole determining factor.
Chiropractors know that massage therapists have extensive training in the muscular system and manual therapy, and a confident chiropractor will welcome a massage therapist’s expertise onto their team.
“When working with a DC it’s not a competition between whose methods are better,” Koplen said. “Instead, it’s a collaboration between the two of you.”
About the Author:
Aiyana Fraley, LMT, is a freelance writer and health care professional with more than 18 years of experience in the massage field. She teaches yoga and offers sessions in massage, Reiki, sound healing and essential oils. Her articles for massagemag.com include “Advanced Massage Training Will Take Your Career to the Next Level—Just Ask These Massage Therapists” and “The Massage Therapist’s Guide to Assisted Stretching Techniques.”