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Many new therapists fail to utilize one of the most proven strategies for gathering reliable clientele: networking with medical professionals outside of massage therapy.

Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner with years of experience under your belt or a brand-new therapist looking to break into the industry, building a strong and fruitful practice can be one of the more difficult things you do.

If you’re willing to push past your comfort zone, you’ll find a largely untapped well of potential for your developing massage practice.

Build New Clientele

While success means something different to each of us, possessing clientele is undoubtedly an important part it. Getting this clientele, however, is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face in your career. The strategy most therapists use usually depends upon intelligent marketing, word-of-mouth advertising and a fair bit of luck with the public at large.

It’s not that those strategies don’t work; in fact, they are vital to the success of any massage practice and should be fully taken advantage of. However, by adjusting your approach and directing these strategies away from the public and instead focusing them on medical professionals, you’ll find a diverse community of potential clients in desperate need of a massage prescription.

Take a moment and think about how many patients your typical chiropractor, dentist, orthopedist and family practitioner see in an average week. The needs can vary widely among patients, but it’s important to recognize that these aren’t just people in pain — they’re people who are already in the mindset of doing what’s necessary to fix their issues, which means they may be ideal clients for a massage therapist.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: How do I network with these health care professionals and become part of their patients’ treatment plan? The answer is as straightforward as it is challenging — you must establish credibility with those you aim to network with.

Be Knowledgeable to Be Credible

It wasn’t too long ago that massage therapy was considered nothing more than a luxury to the health care industry at large. The reasons for this were many, but essentially it boiled down to a misperception of massage therapy and its therapeutic value. Through decades of hard work and professionalism, massage therapists were able to change this perception and establish credibility within the medical mainstream.

The simple fact is that credibility means everything.

No one is going to risk losing their hard-earned patients by referring them to a massage therapist who lacks knowledge and skill. For medical professionals to take a chance and network with you, they need to see that you have more than just fantastic hands-on skill — you need to come across as someone knowledgeable enough to have productive conversations with their patients and staff, including nurses and front desk personnel.

While it’s necessary to stay within your scope of practice as a massage therapist, you also need to understand enough about the medical fields you’re working with to come across as credible. This includes speaking their professional language, knowing the basics of their treatments, and keeping up on the latest medical advancements in their field.

If medical professionals can communicate effectively with you, they’re far more likely to add your talents to their treatment plan by giving massage prescriptions to their patients.

Speak to Understand One Another

Although massage therapy is part of the larger medical community, we have an entire language unto ourselves that can easily confuse those who don’t understand what it means. For example, terms like effleurage, petrissage or trigger points can be confusing to those outside our field.

It’s important to understand that other professions have this same issue. Taking the time to learn some of their lingo can make a big difference when attempting to illustrate your worth.

You’ll be glad to hear that you are already quite knowledgeable — the medical terminology you learned in massage school, such as superior, inferior, intra– and inter-are used just as frequently in the various medical professions.

Considering that most of your communication will be through nurses and front desk staff, your goal is to learn some of the more nuanced terms they’ll be using. The less they need to explain to you, the better.

Learning medical terms is extremely easy in today’s digital age. Simply open your favorite internet search engine and type in “Common __________ Terminology,” replacing the blank space with the desired profession. Don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of terms you see — scan through them and find which terms our professions share, and then find those that aren’t too difficult to learn.

Remember, your goal is effective communication, not learning anything and everything about the profession. By familiarizing yourself with physicians’ vernacular, you show you’re willing to do what’s necessary to become an integral part of the treatment plan.

Recognize Differences in Treatments

When attempting to prove your value to other medical professionals, it’s critical that you understand the various treatments they provide for their patients. Besides being the only way to provide your clients with the most beneficial massage sessions possible, it further demonstrates your commitment to being part of a realistic treatment plan.

For example, if you were making your pitch to an orthopedic surgeon, instead of saying you can help their patients heal from knee surgeries, describe to them how your approach would change depending upon the specific knee surgery performed. Was it a meniscus repair through arthroscopy, or was it a full-on anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) replacement? Going even further with this line of thinking, what type of ACL replacement was it? Was it an autograft using the patient’s own tissue, or was it from a deceased donor?

Often, it doesn’t much matter which treatment they went with — your bodywork approach will be more or less unaffected. Still, having knowledge of these differences can show the orthopedist that you take your job seriously, and aim to provide the patient with the best care possible. It’s better to have this knowledge and not need it than need it and not have it.

Finding the most common treatments performed is once again an easy task using the internet. Type “Common ________ Treatments” into a search engine, replacing the blank space with the desired joint, tissue or body part. Once again, your goal isn’t to become an expert on the procedure itself — it’s simply to recognize the biggest differences in treatments and formulate a detailed plan for how a massage prescription can assist in the healing process.

Specifics matter when you are trying to network with medical professionals. The more specific you are, the easier it is for them to see the benefit you provide.

Keep Up with Advancements in Medicine

Science and medicine are constantly changing.

 What was true yesterday may not be true today, and it’s your job to understand that. If you’re describing how you’ll benefit a patient based on outdated information, it becomes extremely easy for a medical professional to write you off as uneducated and unnecessary.

Keeping up-to-date with every single advancement made in the health care industry is an impossible task and shouldn’t be your goal. Instead, focus your efforts on advancements that are immediately relevant to massage therapy and the field of practice of the professionals you’re looking to network with.

If chiropractic care is experiencing an internal revolution based upon a new treatment method, this is something you should know about. Conversely, if a popular method of treatment was recently shown to be harmful or useless, you should know about that, too.

Once again, seeking this knowledge shows that you aim to be part of the medical community, not just a self-serving outsider looking to piggyback off their success. To be a team player, you need to understand what the team is going through.

The easiest way to keep up-to-date with these advancements is to subscribe to a journal or publication within the specific field you’re interested in. Think of it as an investment, no different than quality table linens or fleece pads.

These publications are designed to highlight industry-specific treatments, advancements and philosophical issues. Chances are good that the professional you aim to network with is subscribed to many publications themselves, and they’ll respect the fact that your interest is more than just superficial.

Another way to stay up-to-date is to read through the many internet blogs and articles written for the medical industry. A simple online search of “Top _________ Blogs” will provide you with a large quantity of articles to choose from. Remember: Many of these blogs and articles will be the authors’ interpretation of a medical advancement and may leave out many details. However, this could be perfect for you as an outsider, since it won’t be too bogged down with industry-specific details.

Again, the goal isn’t to become an expert, but to become familiar enough to present yourself as a credible health care professional.

Prepare to Fill Massage Prescriptions

There’s no denying that educating yourself this way can be a tough, meticulous process. It requires discipline, persistence and a willingness to take risks. However, if you’re successful the rewards for your massage practice can be significant.

In the end, what medical professionals are looking for is someone who demands excellence of themselves. As a newly licensed therapist, holding yourself to a higher standard will both set you apart from your friends and colleagues, and help you be recognized for your talents.

If you stay focused and smart with your approach, you will find plenty of medical professionals looking to add you into their network.

About the Author:

Justin Cottle, LMT, instructs future EMTs, medical assistants, dental assistants, estheticians, massage therapists, structural integrators and yoga instructors at the Institute of Human Anatomy. He wrote “How Massage Fits into Modern Pain-Management Plans” and “None of Us Have Any Idea What Trigger Points Really Are” for