In her article “Five Ways to Create a Winning Relationship with Chiropractors,” massage therapist Debbie Roberts characterizes the historical relationship between the two camps of practitioners as “contentious.” While it’s true that some chiropractors believe solely in skeletal and join manipulations, largely dismissing massage, in Roberts’ experience at least half embrace massage as a great complementary therapy to chiropractic care.
The reason for the difference in priorities between massage therapists and chiropractors has a lot to do with training and education. Many chiropractors attended schools that didn’t give much attention to soft-tissue work- but this curriculum focus is changing. The good news? With more practitioners learning about the benefits of soft tissue therapy, massage is increasingly regarded as a viable, useful treatment.
Roberts is right to say that “When there is a divide between our two modalities, everyone suffers.” The best patient outcomes require that we work together, but often this isn’t a reality, thanks to hesitation and misunderstanding on the part of both parties. Luckily she offers some valuable insights about how to work with chiropractors in a mutually beneficial professional relationship that optimizes client outcomes. Here are some of her suggestions:
#1. Hone your skills as a specific type of therapist. Chiropractors are less interested in the diversity of your skills, favouring therapists with mastery in one area. Learn your anatomy and demonstrate your skill in one important type of treatment.
#2. Never undermine a chiropractor’s treatment plan for a patient. Chiropractors hate to see patients replacing their chiropractic adjustments with soft tissue therapy once they begin to see a massage therapist. Avoid this problem by making it clear to clients how the treatments complement each other. Always honour your agreement to the chiropractor you’re working with, without overstepping your bounds- no exceptions.
#3. Be flexible about your work setting. Massage therapists tend to favour a more organic, relaxed environment as opposed to a clinic, but the chiropractor you work with may not feel the same way. Strike a balance by respecting the level of professionalism and tone of your work setting. You can conduct your massage therapy in whatever manner you choose- adding music or aromatherapy to maintain a more laid back atmosphere.
Roberts also reminds massage therapists to negotiate a fair agreement when working for a chiropractor from the get-go. Once you’ve settled parameters you’re comfortable with, make sure to respect and uphold these at all costs.
When both parties recognize it’s a privilege to work together, everyone wins. Working for a chiropractor can be a smart choice for your own learning, your career development and for the successful outcomes of your clients. To that end, co-operation and collaboration are a positive thing- so let’s work to bridge the gap between chiropractors and massage therapists.