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Massage Today
October, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 10

Survival Tips for Massage Therapists

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Are you concerned about the potential length of your career as a massage therapist? Do aches and pains make you question how long you will physically last as a therapist? Are you having difficulty making ends meet while trying to find or maintain continuous employment? Do finances and other factors prevent you from changing careers? Read on to discover useful tips to help you survive a long and healthy career as a massage therapist.


Professional athletes prepare their physical bodies to avoid injuries. However, many massage therapists perform seventeen or more treatments, every few days, with little to no self-care. Massage therapists must train and maintain their bodies to avoid injuries and be prepared for the physical demands needed in the treatment room, whether during outcalls or performing chair massage.

What fundamentals of health do you discuss with your clients? Do you mention the importance of eating fresh, nutritious foods, drinking water to stay properly hydrated, adequately resting their mind and body, regularly stretching and strengthening, getting regular cardio exercise, the importance of receiving regular massage treatments? Are you "walking your massage therapist talk" and applying all the same concepts of health to yourself?

Is your self-care suffering because of time and or money? Would you like to avoid committing to an expensive gym membership? Does your work schedule or baby-sitting fees inhibit your self-care program? If you answered yes to any of the above, then now is a perfect time to get creative.

When was the last time you had a massage? There are many benefits for a therapist to receive regular treatments. You learn a lot every time you receive a massage. They help you stay connected to your profession, while caring for your body. Familiarize yourself with the different forms of massage, experience a few treatments in each modality to appreciate its unique benefits. Read Preparing for the Game (MT, January 2009).


Survival Tips - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Writing your goals and the action steps necessary to attain the desired outcomes is a powerful exercise. You must frequently review your goals, action list and follow through. The quality of the questions you ask yourself ultimately determines the answer your brain delivers, and this process drives your future behavior. For tips on designing empowering questions to help clarify and achieve your goals, read Taking Your Massage Practice to the Next Level (MT, November 2009) and The Power of the List (MT January 2008).

Committing a few minutes daily to achieving your goals accumulates over time into days, weeks and months of focused effort. Concentrate on the activities that provide the greatest return on your investment. Read The 80/20 Rule: Maximizing the Return on your Investment (MT March 2008) and The Power of a Minute (MT June 2007).


What makes your outcall, chair, spa or clinical treatment different from the others in your area? What triggers a client to reschedule, return and refer? Using the five human senses: visual (sight), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (touch), gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) to educate your patients will leave a lasting impression. A well-educated patient is more likely to schedule regular treatments that can generate tens of thousands of dollars of income to your practice overthe course of your career. Read The Initial Treatment: Generating Thousands to Your Practice (MT July 2010) and Building Raving Fans: Consistency Is the Key (MT April 2008).

Stimulate the sense of smell with aromatherapy, while satisfying the sense of taste with fresh water or hot tea. The auditory learner in our patients needs to hear the: who, what, how and why of the treatment. The auditory sense of a person in pain is comforted when they hear confidence in your voice.

The visual part of our patients need to see postural analysis photos to understand how the symptoms of chronic neck pain and muscular tension headaches are being caused from a forward head and rounded shoulder posture. The visual part of us expects to be educated with muscular, skeletal, trigger point and other types of wall or flip charts. Read Practice Building: Getting Inside Your Patient's Heads (MT January 2011).

Spend wisely on quality products, keeping in mind the long-term return on your investment. You can save a lot of money by looking for value packages that bundle multiple items together. Having the professional tools to function is vital to your survival.


Are you looking for work opportunities as a massage therapist? Stay in touch with potential referral sources and employers by going to local massage schools, professional association meetings, conferences, seminars and researching the web.

Are you dressing the part of a professional healthcare provider? Take pride in yourself and your appearance. When you look good, you feel good and you present yourself to the world, potential clients and employers, in a positive way. Always have business cards ready and give them out so people can contact you. A variety of cost effective styles are available online or at local printers. Read Employment Tips for Massage Therapists (MT, June 2011).


Unlike professional athletes that have contracts that pay them even when they are injured or sick, the income of a massage therapist is often directly related to the number of treatments they are performing. Protect your personal investment as a massage therapist with the proper insurance policies.

Do you have health insurance for an unexpected illness or injury that could land you in the hospital, requiring a multitude of medical tests, specialists and surgery? Do you have disability insurance if you are injured and unable to work for months, years or the rest of your life?

Do you have professional liability insurance? This protects you if a client sues claiming you injured them during a treatment session. Therapists can be sued years after the treatment was performed so be sure you understand the differences between an "Occurrence" verses a "Claims Made" liability insurance policy.


Professional organizations serve many purposes, protecting your profession on a national and a state level. There is strength in numbers and it is important to join such organizations and support your professional rights. We must unite and flex our political muscle to uphold, adapt or pass the laws needed to protect our profession. These groups keep you updated on legislative issues and connected to your peers. They offer resources like: online therapist locators, newsletters, chapter meetings, conventions, insurance and the list goes on.


Clarify your plan, take action, assess your progress, be flexible, modify and adapt as necessary. I want you to thrive not survive your career choice of being a massage therapist. I hope this article has stimulated new ideas, motivation and potential.

Click here for previous articles by David Kent, LMT, NCTMB.


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