Archive for January 4th, 2007

Yesterday I had sort of an epiphany, for lack of a better word.  I have been walking down memory lane recently, and spent a certain amount of time cogitating over my own experience on the periphery of the arts world.  There was sadness, and a certain amount of regret about lost opportunities.  Once again, I was sucked into the trap of second-guessing my life choices.

For about ten years I have been acting secure in the knowledge that I am engaged in my “right work”.   I do love massage, and without wanting to sound overly prideful, I am quite good at it.  Perhaps my hands were made to play the piano, as someone once said, but they were also made to touch tissue and unwind it.

In the course of my day’s work yesterday, I happened to be touching four different bodies that made me think about what a profound effect my work has had on people’s lives. One person is someone who owned arms that were so bound up in tension she could not write with a pen or pencil because of their uncontrollable shaking.  Over the last couple of months, this has resolved itself. 

Another woman had been severely injured in an automobile wreck.  When she came to me, she was walking in a leg brace and suffering from chronic pain in her back, shoulder and arm.  Her doctor had sent her through the Pain Clinic, where she was taught to learn to live with her pain, and given an apparatus designed to shock the nerves in the area enough to tire them out so she could have a short respite from pain.  Her team of physicians had told her this was the best they could do for her, and she was looking forward to a life of pain alleviated by oxycontin and shock therapy.  She came to me in desperation because her grand-daughter, who was taking piano lessons from me, suggested she should at least try massage.  Neither one of us knew what to expect. 

Over the course of time, however, things have resolved very satisfactorily.  She no longer needs the brace, and has had no pain for over two years.  The only thing that changed is that she started getting regular massage.  The amazing thing is that after our first 5 sessions, which were spaced 10 days apart, she started coming only once a month.  This was an economic decision forced on her by the fact that she is elderly, and retired on a fixed income.

A third client was having shooting pains down her arm, also caused by an automobile accident.   It felt like she had smacked the funny bone on her elbow, when all she had done was turn her arm.   This had been going on for three years since the accident, and had not gotten better during that time.  The doctor could not find anything to do to help it, her chiropractor had not been able to resolve it either.   She started getting massage because it was a taxable fringe benefit offered by her place of employment.  Yesterday she told me that she realized over the Christmas break that she has not had the “elbow thing” happen for so long she can’t remember when it last occurred.  And it used to happen on a daily basis.

My last client is recovering from a knee replacement gone bad.  She has major amounts of cheloid scar tissue and adhesions in her knee.  After a second surgery and two rounds of physical therapy, she was sent away, told “We’re sorry, this is the best we can do.”  Her knee would flex only enough to barely lift her foot off the table.   Her walk was a hitching gait, slowed by the necessity of swinging her stiff leg out to the side as she took each step.  All I have done is work on the adhesions using cross fiber friction and deep tissue release, some myofascial release, active isolated stretching, and energy work.  It has been slow, and she still limps.  But now her knee will bend.  And we lack only 20 degrees of it making a right angle.

It was her comment that made me stop dead in my tracks of sadness and regret.  “You must get a wonderful feeling of satisfaction to be able to touch people and have such a profound effect on their lives and health.”  I told her it was an amazing thing, to be a facilitator in their healing. 

I do not feel like “I” do it, though.  I am just a channel for healing, and I work with my clients to accomplish change.  Whenever I feel a little arrogant, and tell people “Oh, I can fix this,” I receive a little lesson in humility because inevitably, if those words have passed my lips in that sort of arrogant tone one can get, I can NOT fix THEM.  Even if I have resolved lower back pain for 900 people in a row, if I say that to a person, that person’s lower back pain proves to be intractable. 

Which leads to my rant.  People exist who WANT to be “fixed”.   But they want some external power to do it to them, they do not wish to participate in the search for healing.  To top it off, they will not do the simplest thing to aid and abet the professional who is working with them.   For example, they are morbidly obese, but cannot stop eating chips.  “Well, I just can’t resist them,” they will whine.  My question is, why are those chips in their house?  Why aren’t they still on the store shelf, where they will not be an irresistable temptation?

I come across numerous folks who have pain because they do repetitive jobs, and their bodies are being harmed by the stress.  There are things you can do to alleviate the pain, things you can do to keep it from happening int he first place.  These things are simple, and free:  getting regular aerobic exercise, putting your muscles through their full range of motion once in a while, and stretching every day so that you do not sleep with your muscles in the “full, upright, locked position.” 

It is major effort to keep from smacking some of these people upside the  head when they come to me, week in and week out, with their arms falling asleep at night, with numb fingers or thumbs, and I start working on them and discover their forearm muscles in spasm.  I have told them over and over again, “You need to stretch.”  I have taught them the stretches, demonstrated the stretches, given them information sheets detailing the stretches.  So I ask the poor suffering victim, “Have you been stretching after work?”  “No, that’s what I have you for.”  At that point of the conversation, I resist the urge to do deep tissue trigger point release until they scream. 

There are similar conversations held regularly about the value of regular walks, drinking water, staying away from artificial colors and flavors (for people with fibromyalgia, this is critically important).  Self care is an essential part of the healing process.  I can set things in motion, and help move the situation towards health.  But I can’t do it alone, the owner of the body has to do some work too.

I compare it to their cars.  “You have your car serviced regularly, right?” 

“Oh, yes, of course I do,” they will eagerly reply.

“Change the oil, check the fluids, make sure the tires are inflated correctly?  Get a tune up when it is running rough, all that?”

“Oh, yes.  I sure do.”

“So, I’m wondering.  Why do you do these things?”

“Because it makes the car last longer, run better.”

“Right.   Here’s what bothers me.   You will do maintenance for your car because it makes it last longer, run better, be more fuel efficient.  But we both know that you can always buy a new car if it gets too old, and replace parts that break down, right?”

“Right, of course.”

“So my question is, why won’t you do the same thing for your body?  Especially when you only get ONE of those.  ONE to a customer only, if it breaks down you will be in pain or die.  Replacement parts are pretty hard to get too.  Why won’t you do some simple regular maintenance for your precious body?”

Why?  Why?  Why? 

I have to go for a walk now.  Thanks for listening.

Y’all have a good day, hear?   Oh, and DRINK SOME WATER!!

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