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I am starting massage therapy school in August and am really excited about it. I have been thinking about venues in which I want to work in after graduation. After researching possible employment options I have decided to stay away from chiropractor offices. Why? Because I would never let them crack any part of my body, and two; they don't practice real medicine. How common are opportunities for LMTs to work with orthopedic doctors or physical therapists?
I hate to disappoint, but I am dual licensed as a chiropractor (*cough cough*, I know you may not like that idea, but it is what it is) and a massage therapist. I have been in practice for about 25 years. I completed my LMT education about 10 years after I earned my DC.
In working with DC's you just have to be judicious in your choices (for a number of reasons). There are plenty of good DC's and there are plenty who may not be a good fit. The same goes for MD's, PT's and spa owners. In the DC realm, you need to be cautious of those who will use you up with no regard to your physical needs. In the MD realm you have to be cautious of what are known as the "cutters" - those who use surgical repair when it is likely not needed. In the PT realm you need to be cautious of the group that believes in "no pain, no gain" and hurts the patient, and in the spa owner realm, you'll also have to be cautious of being used up.
However, when you need work, you need work. And, there are times when beggars cannot be choosers. So, keep your options open. Most all of us who don't have someone to help out, have had to work in ways we don't like in order to keep food on the table. Keep in mind the long game and work toward it. I doubt you will find work with an orthopedic (in their office) early on... and likely never. But, it doesn't mean you shouldn't try. You never know where you will be when something amazing will occur. I met the neurologist I have cross-referred with for over 13 years now, while helping out someone I knew who worked in a day spa (when they lost one of their massage therapists to a broken leg... there was no reason for me to take the job and some suggested it was below my station... but I did and look what I gained). She had been looking for a knowledgeable therapist to send her migraine patients to for follow up care, for quite some time and ran across me because I showed up to that facility way too early one morning, and she had just come off a night shift at the hospital and was looking for a session. When she found out I had my own office not far from hers, we booked a lunch and the rest is history.
It took me many years to gain the trust of orthopedics. One sent out letters to the chiropractors in our city when he moved here, and I was the only one who responded. He eventually became known for his trauma work and later became Chief of Surgery in one of the hospitals he works in. As of late, he is head of the Sports Medicine Department in the same facility. He refers patients to me for massage and chiropractic, but I usually provide most with bodywork and massage as he leaves it up to my discretion.
Nowadays, I get referrals from a handful of MD's for the bodywork I provide, and sometimes I am first choice. But, for the most part, unless they know you, and you have fostered long term relationships, they will refer to the Physical Therapists in their community first.
And PT's, from my experience, are a hard group to work with. I have rarely found a PT who is open to working with an MT. Maybe someone here has a different experience than I. But, even getting a PT to let me take them to lunch is abysmal. And I actively market to them when the opportunity arises. I find it best to send a note to them (and MD's, and other DC's) when I am also seeing one of their patients concurrently to try and foster a relationship, but it's a slow road.
Even when I have been in coursework with PT's, there is a factor of aloofness if I only tell them I am an MT. And, when I add in that I am a DC, I usually only garner a very little more discussion. I have never found any warmth from the PT's I have met, except for the one I currently cross-refer with (as a side note, he actually works in an orthopedic clinic for an orthopedic who I refer patients to --- and different than the ortho I mentioned in a prior paragraph).
To date, I have one PT who actively refers to me, and this is generally because he feels the patient needs a longer period of hands-on time than he is able to provide in the setting he works in. Even with a decent working relationship, it's rare he'll see the need for the referral.
My best advice is very similar to Gordon's. Don't be a prima donna unless you have plenty of money backing you. ;)