Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tales From the (Massage) Table: First, Do No Harm. In Fact, Be Gentle. Really, Really Gentle.

There is a wonderful, lovely woman.  She has lots of health issues, and as a result, goes to lots of doctors, therapists, x-ray people, and so on.  It hurts her to stand, to move, to sit, to ... pretty much everything hurts.

When I first saw her, she had been to a physician, a radiologist, and another healthcare person.  The first had scolded her, the second had rushed her and moved her body abruptly for the scans, and the last tried to be calming, but still insisted on prodding her (probably for good reason -- who knows?).

Bu the time she got to me, she was looked like she had been dragged through a hedge backwards. She was suffering, and not just physically. She was breathless, wild-eyed, worried, panicky, and limping.

The recommendation from one of her providers was that she "needed deep work on her glutes, etc."

Then I heard as her husband helped her get on the massage table, propping her with pillows, adding an icepack onto an aching limb, and positioning her just so. She was nearly crying with pain.  She sounded so hopeless, so upset.  So frantic.

When I came in, she was breathing hard, and talking at me about her aches and pains. Not to me.  At me.  Protecting herself with words.

I stood near her, still.  I said that the recommendation was that she needed "deep work," but perhaps that the last thing she needed today was someone else hurting her.

She stopped talking for a moment.


"Well, I thought that perhaps instead of doing anything that would cause you distress or pain, I could just help you feel a little better."

"Oh. Well, ok."

I began lightly, gently, to apply warmed lotion to her back. As I moved over her back, shoulders, and arms, I tucked the other parts into the warm, fluffy blanket so she stayed warm.  I kept my movements steady, rhythmic, gentle.  Her shoulders and arms didn't hurt at all, so I spent some time kneading them, taking advantage of the fact that making something feel good can release endorphins in the body.  Endorphins can start a wonderful cascade of relaxation leading to enjoyment, leading to more relaxation.

Within minutes, I heard her breath slow; I felt her relax.  I gently started working on the "problem areas" on her low back and glutes.  They initially tensed up.  I told her quietly that I was only going to do what the muscles let me, and that I would not try to "fix" them, but just warm them up and help the blood flow more easily.  Before long, her surface muscles let go, and then the deeper muscles began to be more flexible.  I did not attempt any deep pressure or any "goal-related" work.  I just tried to let her muscles know that someone out there was not planning on hurting them today.

After our 30 minute massage (that was all she thought she'd be able to handle), her husband helped her off of the table.  He came out while she dressed, saying, "I can't believe it.  She got such relief in just 30 minutes!"
She came out and hugged me, thanked me, and then walked -- WALKED, not limped -- out.

They came in the very next day for another massage.  This time, she looked like an entirely different person.  She had her hair done, some lipstick on, and she actually looked right at me and smiled.  No talking at me.

This massage was different.  She trusted me immediately, and before long, fell asleep.  At the end, I gently shook her shoulder and said that it was time to rejoin the world she was amazed she had slept.

Because she got such tremendous relief from just a 30 minute massage, she has scheduled two to three short massages a week for the next few months.  I can only hope that she continues to feel better.


smalltownme said...

Wow. You made such a difference for her. It's wonderful.

Stephanie Burgis said...

I really, really love this entry. And I'm so glad to be your friend.

Aunt Snow said...

That is so wonderful.

Ilyanna Kreske said...

What I wouldn't give to be on your table. Your soul shines thorugh your writing, and you.are.gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.