When someone asks me why I became a massage therapist, I just say - "I wanted to be passionate about my career." Then it became, "I want to help people manage pain. " Then I honestly wanted to share my joy and the usefulness I've found in manual therapy within anyone who would listen - at one point we were 'chastised to get a bullhorn and shout it from the street corners,' so this is my version of doing just that.
Integrative Health and Medicine current offers a comprehensive prevention-based approach to effectively treat chronic disease and enhance health. This should include the use of soft tissue therapy and treatments to leverage CAM health care appointments. All appointments from health practitioners such as naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, nurse practitioners, nurses, midwives, and nutritionists and orthopedic surgeons can benefit from pre- and post- healthcare appointments from a CMT/NMT. To fully embraces a multi-disciplinary team of licensed health care providers working at the highest level of their scope of practice, massage and neuromuscular therapy provide extensive preventative at pre-tax savings, as well as effective knowledge of soft tissue details .
These health care practitioners have been lumped into the term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers, and if we use the term Integrative Health and Medicine professionals with distinct licensed professional certifications, CAM can be used in the traditional and there is no need to “discover” a new model of care. Patients who work with Integrative Health and Medicine practitioners are already achieving basic wellness goals 1) are healthier, 2) have lower health care costs, and 3) report extremely high levels of patient satisfaction. Through a collaborative approach to health care, integrative health care solutions contribute improved health care every day.
How does the interrelated way in which the contributions of licensed Massage Therapy professionals can help reduce health care costs and fit into the existing Health Care system?
Without disruption, Massage therapy can be used prior to ALL appointments to soften, warm and prepare tissues in areas like the spine, or head and neck to leverage existing services and make them more than previously identified. Like corporate Wellness programs, Massage Therapy aims to help get people healthier to prevent big-ticket chronic diseases, like the seven preventable chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, pulmonary conditions and mental illness. The cost of these chronic and life threatening heath issues, costs the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion annually, including the cost of lost productivity, treatment in the form of insurance reimbursement and medication. Combining the diversion of caregivers with the costs of absenteeism and ‘reduced workload’, the total impact of chronic disease already exceeds $1 trillion a year, including more than $100 billion in California alone.
While healthy lifestyle change requires investment from more than just the health care arena, health-oriented providers play a critical role. CAM users were 64% more likely to report that their health had improved over the last year. Not only are prevention and health promotion fundamental cornerstones of CAM, integrative health and medicine practitioners including Massage Therapists can consistently provide additional resources and avenues into conventional providers. Because CAM creates better outcomes, contrary to the common critique that there is a lack of evidence, thousands of studies, including randomized controlled trials published in top medical journals which highlight research demonstrating the ways naturopathic medicine prevents cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome at a cost less than prescribing a pill!
European countries, in which general practitioners are co-trained in integrative approaches, have incorporated CAM into national health care systems based on studies showing better outcomes and lower costs. Keeping costs low by keeping care simple and adhering to a common-sense therapeutic order, allows individuals to make a choice on healthy alternatives that have a longer lasting impact. With back pain alone, the cost to the health care system is 60% less with CAM treatments and largely due to expensive, often ineffective diagnostics and surgical procedures.
Massage therapists are experts in administering less invasive, low-cost treatments that support the body while it heals itself, and that serve as effective substitutes for riskier modalities such as prescription narcotics. An approach to treatment that begins with low-force, non-addictive, low-cost care options that feel good just makes sense. Reduce costs up front through complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies. Many people have the impression that the use of CAM creates substantial add-on costs for health care systems and individual payers. The myth that patients are draining their bank accounts on out-of-pocket costs associated with CAM looks like actual costs – $33 billion – which is pocket change compared to the $268 billion spent out-of-pocket on conventional care in the same year.
In Washington state, where CAM health care providers of every discipline have been a mandated part of the health care system for nearly 20 years, data show that patients who see CAM providers have lower prescription drug costs, hospitalization costs, and total costs, despite starting out in poorer health and incurring the “additional” cost of the CAM provider’s services. Because CAM providers – including Massage Therapists offer therapies that are less expensive than those provided by other health care professionals, they not only reduce costs, but also may increase access through “first contact points of entry,” reaching people who are unwilling or unable to access the conventional health care system.
So, when you look at what we do, and why being a massage therapist is 'life changing,' not only for ourselves, fellow therapists and our clients...It can be for everyone in the health care system.