To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Expert Advice,” by Ann Brooks, R.M.T., and Kent Lemburg, N.C.T.M.B., in the July 2013 issue. Article summary: The authors respond to the question, “How can I expand my massage practice to include cosmetic-surgery clientele?”

by Ann Brooks, R.M.T., and Kent Lemburg, N.C.T.M.B

Cosmetic surgery is an industry in need of skilled therapists to help people cope with their surgical recovery. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 14.6 million cosmetic-surgery procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2012. In addition, 5.6 million reconstructive cosmetic-surgery procedures were performed that year. These surgeries are typically divided into three main categories: face, breast and body.

It is crucial for a massage therapist wanting to align herself with the cosmetic-surgery industry to have extensive understanding of anatomy, physiology, surgical terminology, possible complications, incision sites, types of procedures and the ever-changing industry trends.

Avoiding Surgery Sites

In general, massage therapists are discouraged during their basic massage therapy training to go near a surgery site for fear of causing harm; yet, clients are encouraged by their physicians to massage their surgical sites to increase circulation, range of motion and mobility, and reduce swelling and bruising.

In most cases, clients are not willing or comfortable working on their own surgical sites. With proper training, knowledge, experience and confidence, it is appropriate for massage therapists to help people recover from surgical procedures.

Perioperative Therapy

As massage therapy is increasingly recognized in the medical community, a new rehabilitation application has been created for this ancient venerable art. Our Denver, Colorado-based massage therapy business, Soulstice Ltd., has developed an advanced course to provide the foundation for a new practice specialty: perioperative therapy.

Choosing to provide perioperative therapy means more than simply adding another massage technique to your technique tool belt. It is a stand-alone specialty, raising the bar of the massage industry by integrating with the medical community as an ancillary provider in surgical rehabilitation.

Although the concepts of perioperative therapy are beneficial for all clients who experience any physical trauma, this specialty course specifically focuses within the cosmetic and reconstructive surgery industry. Soulstice recommends participating therapists have the basic knowledge of lymph drainage, and significant experience in medical and treatment-based massage therapy.

Skills Learned

Participants obtain skills necessary to understand varying cosmetic and reconstructive surgical procedures and related techniques, monitor for surgical complications, educate and support clients throughout their recovery process, and interface with surgical clients to develop the skills needed to interface with the medical-surgical community.

The most amazing and critical learning experience for the massage therapist is to actually scrub in and observe surgical procedures firsthand. There is nothing better than to walk through the entire process with the client, from wheeling them into the surgical suite, witnessing the effect of anesthesia, feeling the synergy of the surgical staff, watching the precision and diligence of the surgeon, and sensing everyone’s attention on the patient’s needs.

We’ve observed dozens of surgical procedures from the hospital operating room to physician surgical suites. Since the beginning, we have found all we had to do was simply ask, in order to be admitted into an operating room, with patient consent. The surgeons appreciate our interest, curiosity and desire to learn.

The Experience

Every time we observe a surgery, we bring the experience back to the office for discussion to learn how we may bring additional value to each of our patients.

Our experience is that most cosmetic surgeons and their staff are passionate about the outcome of the surgical procedure and invested in the level of their client’s satisfaction. They usually welcome ideas that help clients heal faster with less pain or discomfort.

We tell them, “Our services begin after the surgeon has done her magic,” meaning we take clients by the hand down the road of recovery through their phases of healing. We are literally an extension of the surgical process.

Ann Brooks, R.M.T., and Kent Lemburg, N.C.T.M.B., co-own Soulstice Ltd., a perioperative and massage therapy company in Englewood, Colorado. Soulstice is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, (NCBTMB) as a continuing education (CE) provider. The Fundamentals of Peri-Operative Massage Therapy course will provide the participating student with 20 CEs. The upcoming schedule of classes is available on their website at www.soulsticewellness.com.