Add to your overall mental and physical wellness services with physical therapy massage
Once considered an extravagant luxury, the Eastern practice of physical therapy massage is now an integral component of Western holistic medicine. Many chiropractors and other health care practices now offer a variety of medical massage therapy services to their patients.
Over the years, massage therapy has proven itself in the medical community as a highly effective alternative treatment for relieving stress, joint pain, muscle tension and pain caused by muscle-related injuries. By offering massage therapy as part of your services, you can help retain your patients and help prevent chiropractors from injuring themselves by lessening the burden of hand work and muscle maneuvering.
Physical therapy massage as part of your medical treatment plans
According to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), the majority of people are no longer getting a massage as a means of “pampering,” but instead are seeking out massage as part of a medical or therapeutic treatment plan.
Last year, 63% of consumers who got a massage for health and wellness reasons stated it was part of a treatment plan from a doctor or medical provider, according to the 2021 AMTA Consumer Survey. Two factors that come into play in determining massage therapy candidacy are income and gender. According to the survey, males with a higher household income are more likely to inquire about getting a medical massage than females and those of a lower income bracket. Meaning, it could become a profitable, additional service option for your practice to provide.
Combining massage therapy and chiropractic care
While physical therapy massage is not a replacement for regular medical care, it can help relieve pain from injuries, reduce depression, relieve anxiety and even help manage patients’ cancer symptoms.
When massage therapy and chiropractic care are used in tandem, the results can create a synergy that far exceeds their individual benefits. While massage therapy can relax muscles, loosen tendons and improve circulation, chiropractic care improves range of motion and flexibility, and reduces pain. Both services offer immediate long-lasting benefits that improve physical and emotional well-being, including improved sleep at night.
What type of massage therapy should you offer?
Most chiropractors offer a type of musculoskeletal massage — also referred to as medical massage — which includes deep tissue and trigger-point massage.
Medical massage therapy requires advanced certification to perform as it focuses on healing injuries, improving function or increasing circulation. A medical massage therapist typically works inside of a hospital or clinic, works under the directives of a physician, and holds an advanced National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) certification in addition to a general massage therapist license.
A general massage therapist may use a mix of similar techniques along with a variety of massage types including hot stones or aromatherapy. While a massage from a general massage therapist may also help relieve pain, the main goal of the massage is typically to promote relaxation and reduce stress, not to provide medical treatment for a particular condition.
To get a better understanding of the range of massage types available, here’s a list of the most common massages on the market:
- Swedish massage. This gentle, full-body massage is great for helping release tension and muscle knots. The technique uses long, flowing strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help you feel relaxed, energized and invigorated.
- Deep massage. This type of massage uses more pressure than Swedish massage. The strokes are slower and more forceful than Swedish massage, designed to reach the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue. A deep tissue massage is an excellent option for relief for those with muscle problems or soreness from injuries.
- Sports massage. Similar to Swedish massage, sports massage can be full-body or focused on the part of the body that needs attention. It’s particularly beneficial in helping prevent and treat injuries for those who participate in sports. It’s also used for relieving pain and muscle tension.
- Trigger-point massage. This type of massage focuses on areas of muscle tissues that develop areas of tightness — also known as trigger points — causing pain in other parts of the body. A trigger-point massage is directed to these specific areas to relieve pain often caused by injury or overuse.
- Hot stone massage. This type of therapeutic massage uses heated stones instead of hands to ease muscle tension, improve blood flow, relieve pain and stress, and promote relaxation. Swedish massage techniques are also sometimes used with gently applied pressure. Cold stones can also be used, depending on the practice.
- Reflexology. This type of massage is delivered with gentle to firm pressure on different pressure points of the feet, hands and ears — a great option for those who are not completely comfortable being touched in a full-body massage. Reflexology can improve relaxation and restore natural energy levels.
- Shiatsu massage. This type of Japanese massage (meaning “finger pressure”) is administered using pulsing, strong rhythmic pressure of the fingers, thumbs, feet and palms. Pressure is directly applied onto the “qi” to promote energy flow throughout the body. Shiatsu massage is known to improve relaxation and overall emotional and physical well-being.
Significant health benefits
Overwhelming research supports massage therapy’s numerous health benefits. Along with standard medical treatment, massage therapy has been proven to:
- relieve muscle pain
- reduce soreness
- improve circulation
- increase energy
- improve the immune system
- lower heart rate and blood pressure
Further studies have shown massage to be helpful with digestive disorders, lower and upper back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, headaches, stress-related insomnia, nerve pain, and soft tissue strains or injuries.
With so many healing properties, it’s no wonder more patients are asking for massage therapy as part of their health treatment plan.
Massage therapy isn’t for everyone
While most people benefit from one form of massage therapy or another, it’s important to consider the patient’s health condition, especially if they are pregnant, have cancer or are experiencing undiagnosed pain.
A massage should never feel uncomfortably painful, but some forms of massage can leave one feeling sore the next day. It’s important to be fully certified in massage therapy, as applying too much pressure during massage can result in serious problems. Massage therapy may not be suitable for patients with bleeding disorders, burns, wounds, infections, broken bones or fractures, deep vein thrombosis or osteoporosis.
Medical massage therapy and insurance coverage
Massage therapy is not only beneficial for most patients but also good for business. Insurance companies will often cover medical massage treatments prescribed by a doctor for the purposes of improving mobility and/or relieving muscle pain.
Certain insurance billing codes allow certified massage therapists to bill for their services. When a doctor prescribes medical massage therapy services, the therapist administering the treatment can use that script to get reimbursed for the services provided — so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Including physical therapy massage as part of your chiropractic care can help boost your business and improve patient satisfaction. With a growing shift to holistic well-being, your practice can stand out from the rest as a leading provider in overall mental and physical wellness services. It’s good for your practice, with lasting, powerful effects for your patients.
RUSSELL GREENSEID, DC, is a chiropractor, major shareholder and chief of staff at Metro Healthcare Partners in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is a trusted advocate and respected voice in the chiropractic field with a doctor of chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College in Seneca Falls, N.Y. He resides in Short Hills, N.J., with his wife and two sons. Visit metrohealthnyc.com for more information on Greenseid and his multidisciplinary team of professionals.