Chiropractic and massage, the often coupled disciplines, are united under one educational roof

INTEGRATIVE CARE IS THE MANTRA IN MODERN HEALTH CARE. It brings together health professionals from diverse backgrounds such as chiropractic and massage and perspectives to use their sometimes very different skills to treat health consumers and focus on patient needs.

It’s a job any health professional could agree to that is still easier said than done. Efforts are being made on many fronts to deliver the value and promise of inclusive care.

A new generation of health professionals

“It’s what we’re all about and what we’re trying to do with the next generation of health professionals,” says Michele Renee, a chiropractor who is also a massage therapist. Renee leads the massage program at Northwestern Health Sciences University and recently received an additional title: Director of Integrative Care. “It is a reflection of how we teach and how we teach here on campus, in our clinics, and while we train our students in it to practice in many different places, “she says.

Chiropractic and massage therapy in particular – their two disciplines – have many ways to work together and make a difference for patients.

“For a chiropractor in a massage therapist setting who is experienced in soft tissue work, this is just a different world and not at all the same as what a chiropractor has traditionally learned and practiced,” she says. “And the opposite is also the case. A massage therapist can learn and work a lot alongside a chiropractor. When they work side by side, they gain a new appreciation for each other’s skills and for how they can benefit their patients. In many ways, it makes the job of treating the patient so much better and so much easier too. “

Integrative in action

This type of integrative care takes place every day in clinics.

At the Minnesota Integrative Clinic, health professionals offer their skills to care for patients with health problems and concerns of all kinds. The clinic is unique in the Twin Cities region. For more than a decade, the company has operated in a residential area south of downtown Minneapolis, providing care from massage to chiropractic to traditional medicine to anyone in the neighborhood or region who comes to the free clinic for treatment.

A case in point is a patient who has had arthritis but has not previously been to a healthcare professional for treatment. Working under one roof – and often in the same room – a chiropractor and massage therapist offers a range of treatments to help the patient feel better and improve their range of motion and physical activity.

“The clinic is an amazing place with interdisciplinary work and interprofessional activity across the boundaries of health,” says Renee. “In the world of healthcare, we often have different backgrounds with different training courses. However, when we work together we can use our skills to address our patients’ needs and often find solutions that we would not have considered working separately. “

She adds: “We can also learn a lot from each other.”

Chiropractic and massage together for athletes

In the Campus Human Performance Center on campus, a clinic that helps patients, including professional and world-class athletes, improve their competitive performance. The center recently moved to a new location where professionals such as chiropractors and massage therapists work directly and daily to help those who treat them.

“It’s a spacious and open space with treatment areas where we can see patients together and work side by side,” said Timothy Stark, athletic chiropractor and director of the center. “I love seeing our chiropractors take a patient over for a consultation or treatment with a massage therapist, or vice versa.”

He adds, “This is the future of healthcare where we are all present and available to help our patients as they need them. It’s about putting their needs first, whether it’s about pain, freedom of movement, or improving performance. Each profession offers expertise that goes well with the other, but that’s different. We can be more careful when we know how to work together and when we have the opportunity to work together. “

Practical providers

Jordan Knowlton-Key, a chiropractor, has decided to take the next step in his practice by completing the massage program. When he’s done, he’ll become not only a chiropractor but also a massage therapist. He has recognized the need and benefits of working with chiropractors and massage therapists together and wants to bring these skills together in his practice.

“Sometimes I need more massage skills, more manual hands-on skills for the patient,” he says. “Sometimes this is the only thing the patient can tolerate when dealing with pain or a particular problem. I want to have all the tools and knowledge available. No job has all the answers. “

As a sports chiropractor, he also knows that athletes or teams sometimes cannot afford to have more than one health professional working on the sidelines or in the training room. A professional who is broadly trained and able to practice a variety of disciplines such as chiropractic and massage brings value.

“I’ve always been a more practical provider,” says Knowlton-Key. “But with massage therapy, I can bring in the muscle work and better understand how everything works together. I’ve been in some settings where I couldn’t do some of the more aggressive manual therapies because the patient could only withstand a light touch. In these cases I can be more helpful to my patients with dual skills. “

Knowlton-Key plans to join the massage program in spring 2020 and complete a slightly streamlined program in about 18 months that takes into account some of the courses he has already completed for his chiropractic degree. After all, he would like to open his own integrative health practice in his home region in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

“Integrative health care doesn’t really exist there – at least not to this extent,” he says. “I believe in order to teach and practice inclusive health we have to live the example.”

ROB KARWATH is a former newspaper and television reporter and editor, President and CEO of North Coast Communications with offices in Duluth, Minnesota and Lawrence, Kan. One of his clients is Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota. For more information about The University or its programs, visit or call 952-888-4777.