Massage Therapy Career Outlook Pros and Cons …

Clinical Medical Massage Therapy Business and Career

Massage Therapy Career and Market Forces

We have rounded up several of the most important quotes from around the internet on the massage therapy career outlook, pros and cons, so you can see them all in one place.

We also make our comments on those quotes within the text.

“We have more than 1,300 massage schools in this country. 52% of schools are proprietary, yet only 20% of proprietary schools are accredited. This means proprietary schools have yet to embrace accreditation as a means to stabilize their programs by accessing Title IV funding. It might be time to reassess this situation.”

“Does being accredited make a difference? The ABMP biennial school enrollment census suggests accreditation does make a difference. When proprietary schools are compared based on accreditation status, accredited schools enroll close to 50% more students than non-accredited proprietary schools. The differences in enrollment between accredited and non-accredited schools could be a market driver in the future.”

“Additionally, Career Training Institutes enroll more than two times more then proprietary schools according to the census. All CTI’s are accredited and have the infrastructure to recruit students for a variety of programs.”

“Maybe it is time to review [the schools’s] long-term sustainability by exploring the value of obtaining accreditation. Maybe its time to explore synergistic trainings that help establish your school as an education hub. Whether aesthetics, personal training, or yoga therapy, attracting health-oriented leads may help enrollment at your school.”

“Is accreditation the answer for small schools? The report shows approximately 60% of massage programs hold some form of accreditation. These programs offer student loans and grants and are able to demonstrate financial stability. Accredited schools report yearly to their commissioners and renew on a five-year cycle. While many of these accredited schools are able ‘to withstand the bumps of competition and a sluggish U.S. economy,’ these schools still face limited income potential if they only enroll an average of 20 to 35 students per year!”

“Want more students? Need to compete with within your market? Accreditation could make the difference. Evaluate your school curriculum and administration compared to the COMTA standards. Using these standards will help you as you plan for future sustainability. Even if you just volunteer as a peer reviewer, you will have a better understanding of the process and can evaluate the pros and cons for your school.”

DSL COMMENT: It seems to me that accreditation actually puts the school in a more potentially fragile position. That’s because any changes coming from the state, be it state or federal, can be the death knell of the school. It also seems the main reason to get accredited is more enrollments. But that seems to be more of a marketing problem???

DSL Comment: The more common styles of massage offered at the “relaxation” and “spa” style facilities have been around a long time in America, since prior to 1900. But one statistic is that only 18% of the adult population has received one massage in a recent year.

A much smaller percentage gets them regularly, such as once a month.

While not exactly saturated (no where near, actually), certain market dynamics have put downward pressure on prices for this type of therapy. And more therapists are accepting much less  money per hour than was the case as little as a decade or two ago.

Yet for millennials just out of high school or college, making almost $20 per hour plus benefits is a better option than working in fast food or other lower paying jobs. But like it or not, a wage is only worth what someone can afford to pay. And if enough people will work for less money, then wages WILL go down.

People in the fast food industry pushing for $15 per hour are going to wake up one day and find themselves replaced by robots, which is already happening on a wide scale in places like Japan, and is already coming here to America, though at a slower pace, so far.

PLEASE SEE Economics 101 for Massage Therapy HERE

Clinical / Medical Massage Therapy Business & Career

Now, the more overtly therapeutic and medically focused styles of massage therapy have been around a long time as well. In fact, prior to 1900, doctors of osteopathy used massage-related therapies to loosen up muscles prior to administering spinal and joint adjustments. Dr. Kellogg’s health & surgical sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, was famous for using various forms of massage back in the later 1800s.

A few medical and chiropractic physicians used manual muscle therapy in their practices too, and a very few still do.

But despite their effectiveness, more overtly therapeutic hands-on massage & bodywork have been far overshadowed by the pervasive influence of the orthodox medical system (including physical therapy). And chiropractic care focuses almost exclusively on spinal & joint adjusting. (Most osteopaths abandoned manual massage and joint adjusting in the early 1900s to conform to political pressures place on them by the orthodox medical establishment.)

Massage Not Widely Accepted As Highly Therapeutic By Orthodox Medicine

Because of the focus of orthodox or “modern” medicine on drugs, surgery, radiation, and such, and chiropractic focus on directly manipulating joints, massage and bodywork have remained “off the radar” or “in the closet” for most health care consumers when it comes to solving the more complex or problematic health care issues massage & bodywork could really help with.

This has kept demand for such overtly therapeutic applications of massage therapy quite suppressed for many decades. For such purposes, it is still used by only a small segment of the population.

Our many years of direct experience is most physicians of all kinds really have little or no idea of the potential effectiveness of manual muscle therapy, especially with a medical or clinical focus. Yet with increasing experimentation with, and eventual acceptance of, manual muscle therapy, this minimal focus had been slowly changing.

We see orthodox medical doctors, and medicine in general, beginning to more often recommend massage and bodywork to their patients on a more frequent basis. Even more doctors are using massage therapy for their own afflictions. or just managing tension and stress.

Yet we believe this overall trend is in its infancy, and just now getting ready to enter a more rapid and expansive growth period.

This will be driven more by grass roots, consumer exploration, education, and demand than any “enlightenment” of the medical, osteopathic or chiropractic professions. And it is up to the massage & bodywork therapists to provide the education, the enlightenment, to health care consumers.

Chiropractors

Chiropractors have been far more accepting of massage therapy for much longer. Many DCs have long ago hired MTs to work in their clinics, or at least refer out to MTs quite frequently. This can be a very successful partnership if structured properly, and the therapist has the appropriate training. Yet this is still nowhere near as wide-speed as it could be.

[Possibly mention Dr. Koplen’s upcoming course on Massage Therapists working with Chiropractors??? We might even offer it as a CE course.]

Ironically, there are more than a few stories of chiropractors who fired their massage therapists because the massage person was being requested more often than the chiropractor. That’s because in many cases, what the patient really needs is manual muscle therapy (massage or bodywork), more than they need spinal or joint adjusting. And the patient could tell the difference.

On the other hand, many massage therapists get a chip on their shoulder and don’t know how to properly and respectfully interact with the doctor and their patients. This is a problem that’s handled by proper training of both the doctor and therapist learning to understand each other and cooperate for the benefit of the patient, something we fully encourage.

Physical Therapy

An interesting case is physical therapy (PT) and physical therapy assistants (PTA). Massage therapy is usually included in PT and PTA school. Yet it is rarely effectively administered to patients, if at all, or is in only small “doses.” As well, both KCW and DSL have had PTs in their bodywork trainings. The feedback is usually that the training they received in PT school was very inadequate compared to what they learned from one of us in a relatively short time.

Yet one would think PTs and PTAs are the most obvious practitioners to administer massage & bodywork styled therapies in clinical or hospital environments. But it is almost ignored, for the most part.

One problem is the economics of health care in general are usually focused way too much on the financial aspects. Manual muscle therapy — massage and bodywork — obviously take far more time than administering drugs or even surgery (especially compared to the number of dollars that can be charged).

And for the most part, massage therapists get paid not for the value they produce, but for the hours they put in.

Most PTs (unless self employed) are under great pressure to move patients through “the system” with great speed, and as few minutes as possible spent directly treating patients. Therefore the focus on mechanical processes such as heat and cold, exercise and stretching machines, TENS units, and the like.

Chiropractic care is similar. Large numbers of chiropractors can do their treatments in five or ten, occasionally up to twenty minutes. (There are a few providing longer treatments, but they are very often including massage-type therapy or other therapies in their treatment process.)

An Explosion Is Coming In Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork Services

So we see a BIG pent up demand for what clinical & medical massage therapy can do, the average health care consumer just doesn’t know it yet. Nor do most physicians.

The Big Holdup, then, has been that orthodox medical therapies (which include physical therapy) have had great amounts of capital (money and other resources) invested in their research & development. They were able to dramatically influence the political process a well, giving them an almost exclusive competitive advantage over other health care professions.

Though nowhere near as great a number, chiropractic has had far more capital invested than massage has, as well.

You Can Only Keep A Secret For So Long

But all that said, you can only keep a secret for so long. and the secret of the effectiveness for massage and bodywork for many health care issues is finally, though slowly, getting known. The message IS getting out.

The political process is getting freed up as well, and alternative therapies are getting more free to practice without excessive competitive protections for the orthodox medical system.

Therefore, with all the pent up demand and various factors just touched on above, we see a potential explosion in application of massage & bodywork therapies coming very soon. In fact, it’s already started. It’s been growing very slowly, for many years.

The key will be for each therapist, and their schools, and their associations, to increase their efforts of educating the public, of getting the word out about the many benefits and successes of properly administered massage & bodywork therapy.

They need to accumulate Case Studies into a database the public can search.

(Yes, case studies are not as reliable as well designed, double blind trials and studies. However, those are usually very expensive, beyond the financial ability of the massage industry to pay for at this time.)

SO … We feel those therapists who more fully embrace the educational and marketing aspects of their practices, and become more highly skilled at administering highly therapeutic techniques, will prosper beyond what the “average” therapist will achieve.

How you can gain those highly therapeutic skills is the MISSION of the Schools of Advanced Bodywork. And accelerating getting that message out to the general public is the topic of a separate article.

Clinical / Medical Massage Therapy Business & Career

David Lynn
David Lynn

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