Artful Touch Massage & Wellness Center

Why Are Massage Services So Costly?

Consider this common scenario:

You end up in a car accident. As part of the insurance claim and recovery program, you see a chiropractor. The chiropractor recommends you go see a massage therapist. You get used to a $20-$30 copay at the chiropractor, and then your massage therapist presents you with a bill for $70 and doesn't file with your insurance company. "Woah! What just happened here?! What was my chiropractor thinking?? I can't afford this on a regular basis!" you may be thinking.

Let's look at why you may perceive that price as being excessive. The first reason may be that you are comparing the price of massage service to a related field, in this case chiropractic care. The price of your chiropractic care was offset by your insurance company. You were just seeing the $20 copay, not the rest of the visit cost negotiated and paid by your insurance company. Also, it seems as though $70 per hour for any kind of work is a bit excessive, especially given that your massage therapist has a certification, not a PhD.

So, why is the price so high, relatively speaking? First let's talk about work hours versus paid hours. Your massage therapist may work from 9:00 am until 6:30 pm on an average day, with a couple of small breaks. Within that 8-hour workday, he or she may only schedule 4-5 (six if he or she is brave and likes pain) hour-long massage appointments. So an 8-hour work day could have only 4 paid hours. Thus, at $70 per hour for 4 hours, that's $280. Divide that among 8 work hours, it's $35 per hour for each work hour. Don't get me wrong--that's still a good wage! But it's not $70 per hour. That other time is not time that your massage therapist gets to sit around. He or she is taking the necessary client notes, taking phone calls and payments, stripping the sheets and towels from the massage table, restocking supplies, re-dressing the table, wiping down all fixtures and furniture in the room that are touched by the clients or therapist, and perhaps warming fresh towels or massage stones. Consider, too, that the massage therapist must wash all linens that come into contact with the client after each session. This may be several loads of laundry that the therapist does at the end of each work day. The price of this often unseen work is figured into the price for each session.

Another factor in pricing per session is the labor intensity of the work itself. Your massage therapist is not constrained only by time. Stamina and self-care must be factored in. Your massage therapist may have to limit his- or her-self to 4 appointments per day. This means there is not unlimited earning potential. Rather, there is a finite limit to what each massage therapist can handle physically and emotionally. When you limit supply, values may rise.

Overhead costs play a part in massage therapy pricing. Your therapist may be paying rent for his or her space; paying for extra gas, electric, and water for laundry and to keep you nice and comfortable in his or her facility; paying for lotions and oils used during each session; or paying for a host of other business expenses, including but not limited to insurances, referral fees or commissions, continuing education, other utilities, communication, facility maintenance, and additional supplies as they wear out or are needed.

Often mistaken and overlooked is the scheduling, or "cancelation," factor. Many therapists have a cancelation policy similar to that of a doctor's office, and they may charge ahead for appointments. However, these still don't completely eliminate the no-shows and unavoidable cancelations. In laymen's terms, clients who schedule and appointment but who do not come and do not pay make the cost go up for everyone else. This is similar to how the cost of goods in a department store goes up due to theft compensation. Your therapist knows that there is a limit to their time and energy, as discussed earlier. Thus, he or she does not double-book or over-book. When he or she loses an appointment that day, it could be 25% or more of his or her daily income. Your massage therapist compensates for this in overall prices.

Some forms of massage are more expensive than others. For instance, a therapist may charge more for massages that require extra training, larger amounts of preparation and recovery time, more supplies, or that require extra physical exertion. Certain appointment types will limit the therapist's ability to see other clients that day. By limiting the number of clients seen in a day from 5 to 4, the therapist's daily income is reduced by 20%. This is often the case when multiple clients choose deep tissue work versus a relaxation Swedish massage. Thus, the higher price for certain modalities is in compensation for this deficit.

In many states, massage therapists cannot claim insurance directly. Unfortunately, then the client is seeing the absolute bill. This can come with some initial sticker shock, but her are a few factors to consider:

  • Your massage therapist can help you stay healthy and active, which can keep other healthcare costs down.
  • Your massage therapist may be able to provide you with necessary documentation to help you apply for insurance reimbursement.
  • Your massage therapist may be flexible in his or her billing for those who need ongoing treatment.

Talk to your massage therapist about ways to work out a good billing system so that you can regularly care for yourself with the healthy habit of massage.