The Massage Therapist: A Day in the Life

A Look at the Challenges, and Rewards of a Massage Therapist's Career

Woman receiving leg massage from a massage therapist
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If you’ve ever had a massage, you’ve probably spent some time chatting with your massage therapist. As a result of this conversation, many people go on to decide they want to pursue a career as a massage therapist.

There is a good reason for this. Massages do not just feel good. They are highly therapeutic; that is one reason that massage therapy jobs are in high demand, and growing much faster than many other traditional jobs in the healthcare fields.

Let’s take a look at a day in the life of a massage therapist -- from the flip side of the table.

Becoming A Massage Therapist

Many people think becoming a massage therapist is easy. But the daily job of a massage therapist is quite challenging. A massage therapist is like any other physical or occupational therapist and must perform many duties that require strength and stamina.

Massage therapists are trained and certified to treat clients using advanced massage techniques that allow them to manipulate the soft-tissue muscles in the body. This requires advanced training, commitment, and dedication. During the course of a day a massage therapist can see as few as three but as many as five patients or clients a day for 60 to 90 minutes. That’s a lot of massage therapy.

Massage therapists, much like physical therapists, can treat and work to improve many different illnesses and injuries in the body:

  • Chronic pain
  • Stress injuries
  • Headaches
  • Rehabilitation
  • Improve relaxation/Reduce stress
  • Promote total wellness

Where a Massage Therapist Treats Clients

A massage therapist may work in many different settings. The type of setting where a massage therapist treats his or her patient dramatically influences their day.

Some typical settings a massage therapist might work in may include:

  • Spas
  • Assisted-living facilities
  • Private or corporate offices
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Fitness centers
  • Doctor or chiropractic offices
  • Wellness or rehabilitation centers
  • Shopping centers

If you choose to work in a spa, you will cater to a certain type of client. You may see more sports injuries, and more clients coming in for services that help with total wellness and relaxation. Some massage therapists enjoy working in spas because there are certain perks. associated with spas that may not be available elsewhere.

For example, you may receive a free membership to the spa for working there. During the course of your day, you may take a break to relax in the sauna at the spa.

Other therapists prefer working with doctors or chiropractors because they build relationships with the healthcare providers they work with, and receive free referrals. This is an excellent way to build a client base particularly for massage therapists that are first starting out.

More Ways a Therapist's Work Environment Affects the Daily Schedule

A massage therapist’s daily schedule may be set depending on the client load of the doctor or may rotate depending on the days the doctor works.

Typically massage therapists working in a clinical setting provide more rehabilitative services than those working in a spa setting. They may not charge as high a rate as massage therapists working in a spa. As a bonus to their clients, however, they may be able to bill a client’s insurance for massage services, depending on the arrangements they make with the physician or other healthcare provider.

Other massage therapists are mobile therapists and will travel to their client’s home or office to provide services on call. This can be a tremendous benefit for massage therapists that prefer to have a flexible schedule or the freedom to move around and work in diverse settings.

There is a very diverse client base that requires home-based services from various therapists including massage therapists.

Even more massage therapists prefer to work out of their home. This can reduce some of the expenses associated with setting up shop in a wellness facility or other private office.

Unexpected Problems Massage Therapists Face

As with any job, massage therapists encounter difficulties during the course of their day. For example, a client may schedule an appointment for a massage, and the therapist may find the client has a more serious injury than previously expected after performing an initial evaluation.

There are certain circumstances where massage therapy may increase inflammation posing a danger to the client. In instances like this, the massage therapist may have to advise the patient to cancel the appointment and consult with their healthcare provider or physician.

There are other instances where massage therapy may be contraindicated. The patient or client scheduling the appointment may not realize this until they show up for their appointment. Often they believe massage therapy will help them feel better, when a massage may actually make their condition worse.

Examples may include:

In cases like this, the massage therapist will often have to re-schedule or refer the client to their doctor for a consultation or medical examination. It is important when rescheduling, the massage therapist remain calm and help the client understand that at some point massage therapy may be an option for the client.

Source

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Massage Therapists. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm .

NYSED. Precautions for Massage/Bodywork Therapy. NY State Office of the Professions Massage Therapy, 2009. http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/mt/mtprecautions.htm

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