When Your Patient Asks You If You Are “Like a Massage Therapist”?

By: Cheryl “Chae” Dimapasoc, PT, DPT;  OptimisPT Director of Implementation and Compliance

What do you say if your patient asks you if “you’re like a massage therapist”, or if you’ve gone to school for this?

The general population is still highly unaware of the training, expertise and focus of a physical therapist.  Much of the time they are referred to us due to an injury or condition that warrants our services, but they arrive not knowing what to expect or what the full scope of physical therapy entails.  I’m still amazed at the number of patients that are surprised I hold a doctorate degree or that I even went to graduate school.  Our scope of practice and knowledge has grown significantly over the past twenty years, including from the entry level degree being a bachelor’s degree, to now a doctorate degree.  During that time, however, the general public and even the rest of the medical profession are still only slowly learning the capabilities of our rewarding profession.  Because of this, many people do not know you can see a physical therapist first prior to seeing a physician, and many do not know the scope of what we’re able to offer.  Part of the challenge is that the physical therapy profession, as a whole, has not done a great job of marketing ourselves. 

For the sake of marketing, keep in mind, some individuals are very “online and social media” savvy, while others are very “non-tech savvy”.  It is encouraged that marketing efforts toward the intended audience incorporate methods that don’t require an internet connection, as well as those that do, to reach a wider audience.  When we think “marketing”, we’re trying to reach individuals that may not even realize they can benefit from our services.  It’s important to inform our communities that contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be injured or have surgery to see a physical therapist.  Just as we see a dentist once or twice a year to ensure our dental health and take our cars in for a “tune up” to keep them balanced and working properly, we should educate our communities that physical therapists should be the “go-to-practitioner” where a person can benefit twice a year for a movement assessment and “body tune-up”.  We can help when you are having dysfunction with activities that you normally would not (i.e. walking, running, weight lifting, etc.); chronic, recurring, or episodic pain.

National PT Month  is a great time to push this initiative forward.  Get started this month as a way to celebrate and promote our profession!  While the month of October should not be the only month this occurs, it’s a great time to start if you haven’t been marketing to your community consistently. 

Here are a few ideas:

~ Team up with your local newspaper or local news station to promote the profession of PT, provide a quick summary of why someone should #choosePT, and offer a free screening at your clinic.  This is a great way to get your name out there along with the benefit of physical therapy.

~ Hosting a workshop is a powerful tool to get direct access referrals while you educate the public on your level of expertise.  Some ideas for a workshop include:

  • Back Pain and Sciatica Clinic
  • Injury Prevention for Runners
  • Shoulder Pain Clinic
  • Fall Prevention and Balance Clinic

Those that attend are usually new referrals for your practice, especially after they see how knowledgeable you are about the specific subject area and how you’re able to help them.

Another way to help spread the news of why #choosept, including what a PT can assess and treat, is to consistently market year round to your community.  Pain, injury and problems that physical therapists can treat can come at any time. If an individual remembers seeing your name consistently and how you can help improve their function, they are more likely to give you a call to see if you can help them when that time arrives.

While these are just a few examples of how to educate the community and our patients on who we are and why #choosePT, they are ones that I have found to be effective in the clinic and wanted to share them with you during National PT Month.  The more we promote our knowledge and services and advocate for our profession, the less and less we should hear the question “so you’re like a massage therapist, right?”.

Happy National PT Month!!

For more ideas, search #choosePT.