It sounds like a funny type of question to ask someone, but having worked as a Massage Therapist for 24 years, I’ve heard it asked more times than I can count. It’s usually asked while I’m actively working on a client on the table. It seems strange to be so disconnected mentally and physically from something that is what makes you, You. However, so many of us are out of touch with our own bodies.
We do everything with our bodies. We wake up and go to sleep with them. We eat and drink with them. We laugh, cry, talk, take them on personal and business trips, to the movies, run errands, pick up and drop off our children, go to work, we even dream with them…Everything!!! There is not a single thing we do without our bodies and yet for most of us, we have no idea how they work. For as much as we do with our bodies, you would think we’d know them better. But, we don’t. As a matter of fact, our bodies know us better than we know ourselves. They have been working on growing and developing long before we knew we existed. From the moment of conception, our bodies have begun a process that we have yet to fully understand, let alone half understand. Since that first moment of our existence, our bodies have been working hard to be the best we can be. Working with the nature of our DNA and the nurture of good ole mom and dad. Our bodies need important things such as water, food, and oxygen in order to sustain themselves. It works better with exercise, reading and rest. However, as amazing as our bodies are, they need our help. One way to help our bodies is through regular massage therapy treatments.
A great majority of the time, when I first meet a client for medical massage therapy, I am their last resort. Someone to go to when all other more mainstream options have run out. Generally, they don’t know what to expect from the treatment they’re about to receive. They have run the gamut of doctors, therapists and alternative specialists looking for relief from whatever it is ailing them, whether it be an acute or chronic injury or pain. By the time they come to me, they’re exhausted and are resolved to just giving massage a try since all other options have either failed them or only resolved the issues slightly. I’m their last hope for some kind of relief that will help them avoid medications and surgery.
To this day, massage has a reputation for being a fluff and buff luxury. Something to do to feel good for the moment. Something many do on a vacation or weekend getaway. A massage chair to sit on at the airport or train station while waiting to depart. A water massage bed to experience as if it’s a thrill ride at your local mall. While driving past most major city neighborhoods you’d be hard pressed not to see a sign in a window that says Massage/Foot Massage. And although Massage has had a boom in recent years, it still maintains a questionable existence in the minds of so many. It doesn’t help that so many of the businesses that people can walk right into are able to provide what they call Massage without the employees actually being certified in massage therapy. So it is no surprise that we in the medical massage therapy field continue to struggle against most people’s skewed views of all that massage has to offer our bodies. How with the proper attention given to our bodies that do all the heavy lifting for us, we can live our lives without thinking that everyday aches and pains are just things we have to accept as part of the aging process.
To be quite frank, most people think the issues they deal with as adults just popped out of nowhere. We don’t give our bodies the credit they deserve from lugging us around our entire lives. From our first roll off the bed or couch, our first timber-esque lean over to the floor from learning to sit up, our first tumble to the ground upon achieving our first step, our experiences through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Every bump and scrape, sprain, strain, break and fall, bike and car accident stays with us through this journey called life. Sometimes we bounce right back with seemingly no effect of the trauma we’ve experienced. It tends to be easier as our bodies are developing through life. Our bodies have so much to focus on than the pain from bumping into that pointy table corner. So much more to think about than the twisted ankle that slipped under us while running to catch a ball. We’ve got places to go, people to see and things to do. It would take up too much time to actually sit somewhere and take in exactly what our bodies have to endure to get us from point A to point B and back again.
It’s very interesting that for how many attempts people make at trying to figure out what is “wrong” with them, they somehow miss what it is their body is telling them. Somehow, they can’t hear or have trouble understanding the simple message being shouted at them…Hey You! This is your body talking to you. Our muscles hurt!!!! Our overused, underused, incorrectly used, injured, stressed muscles. Oh how we use and abuse our muscles. Oftentimes using them in ways in which they were never intended to be used (think of bending over to pick something up, folding yourself over at the waist, instead of bending those knees and using your quadriceps.) We constantly use smaller muscles to do the job of bigger muscles. Then there’s good old compensation, muscles on one side of the body working harder to compensate for hurt muscles on the other side. Our muscles are used every moment of our lives and yet, we don’t listen to them. We don’t hear what they are telling us.
Often, when things go wrong with our bodies, people think the worst. You suffer from a headache that lasts longer than a few days, some are convinced they have a brain tumor. One day you wake up in the morning with a crook in your neck and you’re convinced the explanation is some sort of mystery that only a rocket scientist can figure out. When muscles seize up or are in a state of spasm, they can be so debilitating, that you can find yourself seemingly paralizyed lying on the floor convinced you’re suffering from some life threatening disorder. We, at times, tend to look for issues far more complicated with solutions far more involved than what is staring us right in the face. We can find ourselves racking our brains performing countless internet searches trying to self diagnose, when the answer is screaming out to you. Our muscles hurt…REALLY HURT and we need help!
We as humans are so fascinated by things outside of our bodies, outside of our control that we miss how much we still have to learn about ourselves. If space is the final frontier, we as humans may never achieve full exploration, as we have barely touched on the first frontier of which we are inseparable. When clients ask me questions like, Don’t You Wish You Could Just Understand Your Body, I tend to take a pause before I answer. Regardless of how many times I’ve been asked that question, there is a deep breath and sigh of an exhale that comes before my response. I generally tell the client that for as much as we have left to discover space, the oceans, earth…we still struggle with understanding our own bodies. Although science and research have definitely taken us very far in our search to understand how the human body works, we are still very much lacking in listening to what it is our bodies tell us every day. The things they tell us that we choose to ignore. The things that if we just slowed down a bit and took the time to listen, we’d understand better.
In my life…my work, massage has been the answer to helping people live their lives with less pain, less stress, more mobility, increased activity, and more understanding of the body that eventually brings them to my office. The work isn’t always easy. At times, it can be very uncomfortable. Not only physically, but mentally as well, as our muscles can be vessels for both physical and emotional memories. The chronic issues are rarely resolved in one session. It takes commitment and planning on both my and the client’s part. Oftentimes, my clients leave with homework…suggestions for stretches, icing, heat and rest in order to follow through with the work performed in the office. Massage therapy is just that…Therapy. It can, and in my experience, has gone a long way to helping people achieve a better quality of life. My work as a medically trained massage therapist has allowed people to open up their minds so that they are better equipped to hear, listen, and achieve the ability to better understand their bodies.