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Massage Today
March, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 03

Practice Building: Learning to Engage All the Senses

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Patients are constantly evaluating their treatment experience utilizing a multitude of sensory stimuli including sight, hearing, smell and touch. The human senses can influence your patients to upgrade to a series of treatments, purchase additional products, refer others and, in some cases, the amount of your tip.

Implementing systems that make your practice standout from your competition are fundamental to insuring success. There are numerous strategies to build your practice by properly engaging the senses of your patients. (See "Getting In Our Patient's Head - Practice Building" MT, January 2011.)

Sight

Whether you work performing out-calls, in a spa or in a clinical setting, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Visually, patients can learn a lot about your practice by looking online at your web and social media sites. They can read, see pictures and take a virtual tour of your practice. Make sure you keep posted information up-to-date.

Show patients you use professional grade supplies and equipment that have been designed and tested for the therapy you perform. Selling these professional products like lotions, oils, topical analgesics and exercise balls to your patients will generate additional income that adds to the bottom line. Patients purchase these products for self-care and give them as gifts to family and friends. Your appearance, equipment and facility from the entrance, reception area, hallways, bathrooms and treatment rooms must also be neat and clean.

Postural Analysis photos - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Postural Analysis photos add a whole new meaning to the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words." Postural analysis photos can be utilized like doctors use X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs to evaluate, educate, design treatment plans and document progress. Smart phones, iPhones, tablets and iPads have a built-in high-resolution camera and screen, making them the perfect postural assessment and education tools. No special software is needed, simply snap a photo and instantly educate patients of the roll their high shoulder or forward head posture plays in perpetuating their pain (Photo 1).

Postural analysis photos are a great visual tool for attracting new clients and selling treatment packages. (See "Practice Building with Postural Analysis" MT, January 2012.) While wall charts are great, mobile therapists use flip charts to educate patients on a number of topics from muscles and bones to myofascial trigger points and the referred pain they produce. (See "Tools to Succeed for Massage Therapists" MT, May 2009.)

Hearing

Before you begin treatment, review intake forms, listen to your patients subjective complaints, make notes and address their concerns. Check with the patient throughout the treatment session that your pressure is comfortable. (Photo 2) Another component to creating a stress free ambiance is sound or the lack there of. Listening to music wearing headphones while receiving chair massage in a busy location can have a major impact on the patient's experience. Be conscious of the words you speak and the tone in your voice, as they can also affect the patient's experience.

Smell

Just like the aroma of freshly baked bread is a powerful trigger causing many to eat, aromatherapy can be used during treatment to stimulate the mind and body to relax. (Photo 4) Essential oils can be used in numerous ways for aromatherapy in oils, lotions, creams, baths, inhalers and vapor diffusers. A moist warm towel is another way of delivering aromatherapy to the face, hands, feet and other parts of the body. Selling aromatherapy products to your patients can be another way of earning additional income.

Touch

The skin is rich in sensory receptors that transmit the sensations not only of touch, but also pressure and pain. The last time you touched a hot pot or stubbed your toe, you felt your sense of pain. The goal of treatment is reduce pain, not create it. Continually confirm with the patient during treatment that their positioning and your pressure is comfortable. Only after reviewing the patient's subjective complaints and performing the appropriate objective findings will you be able to determine the most effective treatment techniques to use during the session. Pillows and bolstering systems allow for a wide range of positioning options. Some electric tabletops go a step further when it comes to making patients comfortable with sections that adjust to various angles.

Temperature

The temperature of multiple items must be monitored and adjusted to ensure patient comfort. The checklist should include the temperature of the: reception and treatment rooms, treatment table, lotions and oils (Photo 4). Remember the temperature of your cold hands can be a very chilling and unpleasant experience for a patient attempting to relax. Many pillows and gel packs are designed for use at various temperatures. Some can be placed in either the freezer and or microwave. These items can also be sold to your patients or included in a package of treatments.

The Bottom Line

Engaging the senses of your patients is a great way to standout from your competition to build your practice. Keep in mind, that how the patient "feels" about their treatment can trigger them to upgrade to a series of treatments, purchase products, refer others, and in some cases the amount of your tip. Make them "feel like a million bucks" and they will share their wealth with you.


Click here for more information about David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.

 

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