Two years ago, as I sat waiting for a doctor's appointment, I did what most people do: I picked up the magazine from the top of the pile and settled in for my typically long wait.

I had very little interest in the copy of Massage magazine that I had grabbed, but an caught my attention. The article was discussing the rapidly growing massage industry, and it claimed that "since 1997, the number of adult Americans who have been treated by a massage therapist has jumped from eight percent to 22%. Furthermore, 90% of adults now believe that massage can be beneficial to health." That sounded like a market to me!

I currently own a Fitness Together Personal Training Studio in College Station, Texas and have experienced tremendous and exciting financial growth over the last two years. But after finishing that article, I created an Excel spreadsheet to figure out how massage services might fit into our training studio. Coincidentally, one of our personal trainers was also a very well respected massage therapist in our community, so with his advice and direction, we turned what was literally a closet into a small massage room.

 

Quick Growth

The first week that we opened, almost 30% of our personal training clients immediately reserved their first massage, and by the second month, over 50% of the clients became weekly massage clients. Word-of-mouth began to take over, and Geoffrey, our therapist, moved into a full-time massage role. Within months, his daily schedule became completely booked.

Financially, I realized we had a perfect marriage of businesses, but one afternoon, something happened that made me realize we had more than just a financial marriage. One of our personal training clients had just pulled a lower back muscle and struggled to stand up straight. We called Geoffrey, and he took over in the training studio. Within minutes, the issue was resolved, and the client was more than thrilled. In fact, a year later, he still reiterates this story about how complete our training services had become once we added massage.

 


Why Massage Is Skyrocketing
Over 47 million American adults are receiving a massage each year, and the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a future growth of 27% or more. In 2005, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reported that seven percent more American adults discussed massage therapy with their health care provider, an increase from three years prior.
According to AMTA, the reason for the $11 billion industry's growth, besides the fact that most people just enjoy a bit of high-quality unwinding time, has a lot to do with massage therapy's growing popularity among medical professionals. Clinical studies are now proving that receiving a massage on a regular basis isn't just relaxing — it's good for your health as well!
"Massage is no longer just a stress-relief modality. People are seeking it as a preventative medicine for their health and for wellness," says Dr. Leena Guptha, President-Elect of the AMTA. "Some of the immediate benefits of massage are that it reduces heart rate and blood pressure and increases blood and lymphatic circulation."
 
Which of Your Clients Are Looking for Massage?
Very quickly, massage therapy is becoming known more for its therapeutic and medicinal benefits. Consequently, more of your clients than you may think have become your target market. Here are four up-and-coming niches that are growing in the massage industry:
 
 
  •     Sports injuries: None of us want to think about it, but it happens. Your client twists a knee, tears a rotator cuff or has surging pain through their back. What if you could send them to your own licensed massage therapist? Beyond just injuries, it is becoming more common for athletes to receive massages after exercise, especially to the muscles they use most. A massage helps increase blood flow to the working muscles and will more effectively reduce soreness after an exercise bout.

  •     Pre- and post-natal: A study conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that massage actually reduces stress hormones in the body. Touch is vital to the mother's physical and emotional well-being as she adapts to her new body image. Massage gives special attention to the mother-to-be, which, in turn, nurtures the new life that grows within her.

  •     Infants and children: Studies have shown increased weight gain, improved immune function and myelination of nerves in infants, all of which are needed to encourage appropriate brain and muscle development. Today's research supports benefits of infant massage for babies born prematurely.

  •     Dogs: If you'd like to specialize, pet massage is growing as well, but that one is your call!

 
Health Benefits
Massage has historically been tied to aiding muscle tension, and most people use it to relieve stress and anxiety or for muscle soreness. However, massage can also cause your body to release natural painkillers, consequently boosting your immune system. Some studies have found it helpful for:
 
 
  •     Anxiety — Massage has reduced anxiety in depressed children, anorexic women and adults who are trying to quit smoking.

  •     Pain — Pain decreased in people with fibromyalgia, migraines and recent surgeries.

  •     Labor pain — Massage during labor appears to reduce stress and anxiety, relax muscles and help block pain.

  •     Children with diabetes — Children who were massaged daily by their parents were more likely to stick to medication and diet regimens, which helped reduce their blood glucose levels.

  •     Alcohol withdrawal — Massage during withdrawal from alcohol has shown benefits when combined with traditional medical treatment by increasing feelings of support, safety and engagement in the therapy.

  •     Immune system — People with HIV showed an increase in natural killer cells, which are thought to defend the body from viral and cancer cells.

  •     Cancer treatment — People with cancer who received regularly scheduled massage therapy during treatment reported less anxiety, pain and fatigue.

  •     Self-esteem — Direct contact can make you feel cared for, which can improve self-image in people with physical disabilities and terminal illnesses and can help children with severe physical disabilities.

 
How To Profit from Massage:
 
  •     Start small. It doesn't take much to get started, and a good massage therapist will attract clients in even a small setting.

  •     Package services together. Use massage as a gift, perk or selling point. When hooked, it's hard to get them to stop booking paid appointments!

  •     Find a therapist. Finding one to help you should be easy. Search online for "licensed" and "massage."  Send out a letter to all the therapists, hold interviews and choose one that shares your facility's vision and philosophy.

  •     Outfit your first studio. Ask your therapist how they would like their room outfitted, and they will help develop your first studio. There are many good suppliers, and we have had prompt and courteous service through BodyWorkMall.com.

 
Cliff Latham, MS, is the owner of a Fitness Together training studio and the soon-to-be-opened Elements Massage Studio and is the president of Cutting Edge Seminars. For more information, visit www.clifflatham.com or call 979.575.4640.

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