Friday, June 10, 2011

Mixed Massages

I've seen several massage therapists, before and after migraines, and it can be an invaluable therapy. But I've found that, for me, personality matters just as much as technique. And of course, I've had a series of uncomfortable moments I'd like to share with the class to support this statement.

The first massage therapist I ever saw was a guy that my employer contracted to come in every other Friday to work on us for 15 minutes increments. I'm not sure what anyone can get out of 15 minutes, but there it was. He had one of those backward chairs, and as soon as I'd rested my face in that suspicious looking hole, he started in on me so rough that I wanted to punch him. Instead, I asked him to soften it up, but he insisted that his way was necessary and continued to knead my (admittedly tense) shoulder muscles so hard that it hurt to move my arms or my head for a week.

I understand that there are several methods of massage that can involve a lot of pain. But I am largely uninterested in those methods. Even if the massage therapist knows that their rougher manner will get results, the needs of the client, aka the PERSON, should always be addressed first. It took me years to even consider trying someone else.

When my back started hurting me a little more regularly, the next man I saw was brilliant. He was gentle and accommodating, intuitive and easygoing. Unfortunately, he was also a friend of mine, and later a housemate, so after just a few sessions, I decided (despite his unfailing professionalism) that it felt too strange to have my friend rubbing my body. That's just me. But he did restore my faith in massage, so when the migraines took over, it was one of the first directions I turned for relief.

My boyfriend suggested someone he'd been seeing for his disc issues, a massage therapist who had a practice with his chiropractor wife. He was a nice person, very respectful and easygoing. His massages were pretty good, and I saw him several times. Until my final visit when he decided to spike the bodywork with a little guided imagery, starring Jesus.


Jesus was a great guy. I certainly appreciate his message of love and acceptance and charity. He seems like someone I could be friends with, he's sort of a socialist hippie! But he's not my personal savior and the last thing that's going to relax me is a soothing soliloquy about how much he loves me. I should have taken that opportunity to say that, but I was naked. And by the time I was dressed, I just wanted to get out of there. I was hesitant to go back, and found excuses not to for a few weeks. His office really was kind of far, and driving really was getting harder for me to do reliably. And then our insurance changed and the coffin, it was nailed shut.

I've seen one more massage therapist since, at a day spa to which I was gifted a trip. I was given a robe and some jasmine tea and I got my feet and hands scrubbed and massaged and that was really lovely, but when it was time for the body massage, I requested unscented oils and she didn't have any. She was baffled and helpless with the problem before her, so I nervously conceded to her using some "lighter" scents. Thankfully, they didn't immediately trigger my head, but I still had to take a shower immediately afterward. My mom (also gifted the trip) was aghast, why would I want to wash off all of the lovely oil? It smells so- ...oh.

That was the last professional I saw. My lower back pain has been getting gradually worse, and more frequent, and when my head is flaring high, my neck and shoulders scrunch themselves tight, my spine feels so stiff it might snap and the muscles on either side become solid, painful rock.

We do have a massage therapist next door. He's a sweet man, and he has a whole studio set up. But I can't do it. First, there are these steep stairs involved, and they trigger me every time; the angle gives me vertigo, the effort of stairs causes pain, and my balance isn't spectacular, so I'm terrified I'm going to fall every time I've used them. Stress and fear aren't the best way to follow-up a massage.

He's also my neighbor, so it's not a purely professional relationship, which I'm finding is very important to me. That kind of intimacy is either Intimate or professional. I just can't get comfortable in between.

And he tends to use a lot of scented products, so just walking into the room is like being hit in the face with a potpourri anvil. The very walls seem saturated with lavender, which would be a pleasant scent, except for the migraine it triggers, like, immediately.

So, I've really become quite the tough customer, with mysterious back pains, chronic migraines, so many sensitivities I get winded explaining them and OH YEAH, allodynia that can make even the lightest touch painful.

I really would like to find a professional to work on me, another massage therapist, maybe even a very gentle chiropractor. But, I am so intimidated. It's such a crapshoot just picking names out of the phonebook, even yelp isn't much help to me, since most other people don't have as many problems as I do.

Also, medicare doesn't cover massage (surprise, surprise), so, I'd have to go out of pocket, and my pockets are empty.

But, I am the luckiest girl in the world, because my boyfriend has been coming through big time. He works on me as often as he can and it makes a big difference. He's never trained professionally, but he's been learning from our neighbor (who he sees regularly), and without his help, I'm sure I'd be stuck in an incessant loop of back pain to migraine and back again.

Thank you, universe, for gifting me a man with strong hands and a generous spirit. I'd lose my mind without his shoulder rubs.


Migrainista said...

Massage is totally something I would love to do more of. That and accupuncture. Sounds like it is more difficult than I thought it would be to find just the right person when you are struggling with chronic pain issues.

Jessica said...

You're right...finding a good massage therapist if definately a crapshoot. I've been through a ton. But the woman I've been using is great...except she also likes to balance my chakras...which I think is a bunch of shit. But...I let her do her thing. The only other issue I have with that she tends to charge me a different amount each time...even if the treatment feels the same to me. So I am thinking of trying someone new. Thankfully, lavender does not make me too sick if it's not too strong. That and peppermint are my favs....but used sparsely.

Oh and I am definately thankful to also have a man who regularly rubs my head, shoulders and back. I actually sit in the tub and have him wash my hair like I'm at the hairdresser. It feels good and the soapy suds are good as a "massage lotion". Try it!

Sue said...

Oh my goodness! A massage therapist proselytizing you while you're on the table! He ought to be sued......seriously that qualifies as malpractice I my mind - and I'm a minister!

I've never had a male massage therapist. Not intentionally, it is just that friends have suggested women and they've been great. My present RMT is a nice blend of "hands of steel" and " perfect gentle touch". I know I've lucked out here, but it's good- and she doesn't preach to me! Sheesh.