What is the value of massage?
I see this question as having two different meanings. The first one, referring to the monetary value of a massage, has a pretty easy answer. Depending on the city or town in which the massage is given, it’s typically valued at somewhere between $60 and $85. But the second meaning, the intrinsic value of massage, is much more complex. What is a massage worth?
Well, it depends on several factors. First of all, what is the goal of the massage? Is it for wellness? Prevention? Is it for physical pain? Stress relief? All of the above?
But just knowing the goal won’t answer the earlier question. How important is that goal? Is a client coming in for massages because she’s training for a marathon and wants to keep her legs and knees healthy? Is she coming in because she’s lived in pain for three years and has just now decided to do something about it? Which massage is worth more?
A new client is coming in for his first massage ever because he’s having the most stressful week of his entire life. A different client has been living under constant stress and pressure for years and has been coming to see you every month. Who will value their massage more?
But then, does it even matter?
In some sense, it doesn’t matter. A massage that someone values and appreciates is valued and appreciated regardless of its intent. But what happens when the intrinsic value of a massage comes into conflict with its monetary value? Let’s say that you suddenly have to start budgeting for expenses. Which items are the first to go?
I have some clients who are willing to pay for their frequent massages out-of-pocket because they know it’s what they need. I offer pretty good deals and discounts to help them out, to reward them for their commitment to getting healthy, but the fact still remains – this is money that they could spend elsewhere that they are spending on a massage.
I have other clients – well, potential clients – who cancel their appointment when it turns out that insurance won’t cover it. They know they could benefit from a massage, but it isn’t important enough to make the changes necessary to afford it. Sure, I know that some of these clients couldn’t afford to pay full price even with a modified budget. But not all of them. Clients from both of these groups – those who find the financial means to get a massage, and those who don’t – might have the same muscle problems, the same pain and tension. But they each assign a very different value to the massage.
As insurance coverage expands to cover more people and more services, I hope that the intrinsic value of massage will cease to be overshadowed by its monetary cost. No longer will financial considerations be the determining factor for whether someone receives appropriate treatment. Coming in for regular massages will be a thing that people do, not merely a thing that people dream about.
Likewise, as insurance coverage expands to cover more health care practitioners, the role of the massage therapist will change. What I hope most is that this will help to lend some legitimacy to our field. We are healers; we are medical professionals. I want people to know that massages can be uniquely beneficial for reasons far and wide. There is value in what we do.
In time, I hope that this means insurance companies will start to value our services as well. A solution to carpal tunnel pain that doesn’t involve expensive surgery? An answer to chronic back pain that doesn’t include a lifetime prescription to painkillers? I want to be put in the same category as other CAM providers, and not be overlooked or singled out as unworthy.
Sure, I have high hopes. But I think we’re on the right track.