Muscle Man & Bone Boy

By Robert Chute
[Practitioner Parables]

Chiropractors and massage therapists can work together like Batman and Robin. It makes perfect sense that these two professions combined should make for healthier clients and better therapeutic outcomes. Of course, realistically, the partnership doesn’t always work.

Full disclosure: my cousin is a chiropractor and I shared a roof with a chiropractor for almost three years. That was one of the happy collaborations. If I hadn’t had children and a fear of day care, I might still be working with him.

The key to making it work is compatibility. Collaboration works best when you’ve each worked out your expectations first. For instance, are your two clinics under one roof or are you one clinic providing an integrated service? Do you know each other’s skill sets? Do you refer freely? Is collaboration a priority? Which overhead costs will you share? Do you like each other? Take a logical look at the cost/benefit analysis, financially and emotionally. Have a long courtship to hammer out a contract, complete with an exit strategy.

An established and motivated chiropractor who appreciates the benefits of massage can fill your practice. However, mismatched expectations can lead to resentment. If the chiropractor’s goal is simply to add to income by renting out a room to a complementary service, you’ll be considered presumptuous if you expect heavy client referrals.

I know of a chiropractor who happily filled two therapists’ schedules in a few weeks. He valued the service because it was of great benefit to his clients. Make sure whomever you partner with doesn’t consider adjustments the be-all and end-all. That attitude doesn’t leave much room for massage referrals.

It’s counterintuitive, but not all chiropractic patients will make great clients for you. Think of it: they are in and out of an adjustment in 10 minutes tops and may be hesitant to jump at an hour massage. My solution was to open up to 10- and 20-minute clothed treatments.

Chances are excellent that you are the renter and the chiropractor is the rentee. Guess whose name is the one in biggest print on the sign?

The truth is that chiropractors went to school longer than you did and have the magic title “doctor.” That is the key to understanding your place in the order of things when you work alongside or for a chiropractor. They’ve got the title—they probably own the room you’re in—so they set the tone. If the chiropractor is enthusiastic about your work, practice-building is much easier. All you have to do then is market, communicate well, and, of course, be an amazing massage therapist. Simple, yes?


Though Robert Chute did refer to his chiropractic friend as Bone Boy and himself as Muscle Man, capes were not involved. Contact him at