Want your clinic to be the most sought-after massage practice in town? It’s time to take your massage skills to the next level. If you want a reputation for being the best, you need to be the best. In this article, we’ll review types of massage therapy specialties that can put you ahead of the curve. Plus, you’ll learn how to choose a specialty and how to market your expertise.
We call the work of massage therapy a “practice” because it requires constant learning and improvement. With every year of experience, your expertise becomes more apparent and your skills more precise.
Choosing a single area of study gives you a specialty. Massage therapists who specialize are in higher demand than those who offer only general massage.
Because they’re special.
Specializing may sound limiting. Dedicating your whole practice to one type of massage therapy specialty means you only work with a certain type of client.
Why is that a good thing?
Having a massage specialty means you're better at that type of treatment than other massage therapists. You can build a reputation around that. Having a reputation for being the best at something means more people want to hire you. You can command higher rates. Plus, when you choose a massage specialty you love, you're more engaged with your work (and work is more fun).
Let’s say there are 3 massage businesses in town:
1. A massage chain that offers monthly memberships for general maintenance and well-being.
2. A massage practice offering a wide variety of massage modalities, all provided by the same therapist.
3. A small massage clinic that works exclusively with athletes.
If you’re training for a marathon, which one seems like the best option? If your teenage son pulls a hamstring at football practice, which place do you call?
Someone at any of these massage practices could help, but the clinic for athletes instills the most confidence. The clinician who works exclusively with athletes will likely provide better results because they have more experience working with these issues.
Can you offer other types of massage if you specialize?
Of course. It’s your practice. Do what you want. Specializing in a type of massage therapy implies that’s the primary type of massage you offer. It doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else. Then again, you can build a whole practice on a single massage specialty and nothing else.
Choose something you enjoy and that’s different from what your competitors do. There’s no one size fits all answer. Ultimately, you want your practice to stand out from the competition by offering something people really need in a way that is unique.
Specializing is the opposite of being a jack of all trades. It’s taking one skill and mastering it.
Choose a marketable specialty that inspires you. You can do this with literally any massage modality, a common ailment, or a segment of the population. It doesn’t have to be a popular or well-known type of massage.
Choose something you can excel at and market well.
If you want to offer the most indulgent, luxury spa experience, choose specialties that support deep relaxation. If you want to be the go-to therapist for local sports teams, choose a modality that’s relevant to sports massage. If you want to be known for your ability to treat people with chronic pain, specialize in a modality used in medical massage.
You can build whatever type of practice you want. The key is to focus all your continuing education and advertising around the type of practice you want to have.
In 2021, 63% of consumers said massage was part of a treatment plan recommended to them by a medical provider, according to the AMTA fact sheet. The top 2 medical concerns that lead people to discuss massage with their doctor are pain and stress. Other concerns include injury recovery, staying fit & healthy, and controlling migraines.
The massage modalities on this list are specialties that fall into the realm of medical massage, deep tissue massage, and sports massage. Master one of them for optimal results and maximum referrals.
1. Neuromuscular Therapy
Neuromuscular therapists understand the interconnectedness between the nervous system and the muscular system. Massage techniques include trigger point therapy and precisely treating individual muscles. Neuromuscular therapists find the source of pain and then use just enough pressure to allow the nervous system to reset the threshold for pain and pressure in the tissue. This is different from other types of deep tissue massage that aim to manually force tension out of the muscle.
2. Active Release Therapy & Muscle Energy Technique
Integrating movement and stretching into a massage can set you apart and offer impressive results. Active release and muscle energy techniques are very similar but are two different specialties. Both involve assessing tissue texture to find the source of pain. Then having the patient actively contract the muscle before executing a pin and stretch type treatment. These therapies are practiced by a variety of medical providers to treat painful ailments.
3. Myofascial Release
Fascia binds everything in our bodies together. Think of it as one giant web that wraps itself around every muscle fiber. If you can release restrictions in the fascia, you can free up restrictions throughout the whole body. Myofascial release is the slow process of holding segments of fascia in a stretched position until it begins to broaden. This type of manual therapy can relieve pain, improve range of motion, and correct postural distortions.
4. Clinical Rehabilitative Massage
Massage used to rehabilitate injuries requires a deep understanding of functional anatomy, orthopedic assessments, and specific treatment of muscles. This type of massage specialty requires more clinical reasoning skills than the average massage therapist possesses. There’s not a single massage technique used in clinical rehabilitative massage. Instead, the technique chosen is based on the assessment of the tissue.
5. Prenatal Massage
Massage therapy doesn’t get more specialized than prenatal massage. Therapists work exclusively with expecting mothers. Some massage therapists also specialize in postpartum massage. Swedish and deep tissue massage techniques are used to relax and ease tension in women going through this special phase of life. Therapists who specialize in prenatal massage understand the complexities of pregnancy and the mother’s body.
When you decide to specialize, getting the education and mastering your skills is only the first part of the equation. After that, you need to build your reputation as a specialist and market your massage practice.
Keep in mind your prospective clients speak a different language than massage therapists. They aren’t familiar with different massage modalities. Also, some of the things they do know are not accurate. That makes advertising your massage specialty a little tricky.
How many times has someone asked you if you do “deep tissue massage?” That person probably has their own idea of what that type of massage looks and feels like. However, it’s unlikely they understand that deep tissue massage isn’t a specific massage technique. It’s actually a catch-all term for any massage technique that works with deeper layers of tissue. The technique in their head may be very different from the technique you practice.
How do you avoid confusion and make your advertising very clear?
Focus on the benefits you provide and the type of client you work with. Let that be your selling point.
Only go into the specifics of how it works after describing the benefit. Sometimes, people don’t need all the details. In most situations, the benefit you provide and the people you help are all you need. Simple is better.
1. Update your branding to reflect your specialty.
2. Advertise to your existing clients.
3. Update your website
4. Share your knowledge on social media.
5. Make strategic connections
6. Volunteer: Build your reputation in the circles you want to be known in.