Massage schools try and touch on as many pathologies as possible to give students some ideas about how to work with myriad of clients with unique lives and bodies.
Since every body truly is different and each body differs from day to day it can be challenging for a massage therapist to give the right massage for the person on the table.
I had been a massage therapist for about a year when I realized there was a pattern among some of myclients. I had a few who loved the really deep, deep tissue techniques, but then we’d get to some spots where even gentle pressure sent them jumping off the table. Often these spots were just inferior and posterior to the greater trochanter and the inferior portion of the adductors, or in plain English the hips and the inner thighs. The same clients would sometimes report that they felt “out of it”, “slugglish”, or really tender for a day or two after their treatments.
I thought, “Huh.” And I decided to keep paying attention to how this client group progressed.
These clients became regulars, their massages were the times they felt their best. They wanted that deep table time even if they had to pay in the form of brain fog, achiness, or low energy.
One day one of my clients mentioned starting the Abascal Diet at the recommendation of their naturopathic doctor.
This new tidbit was hungrily filed into these clients’ folder in my mind.
I thought, “How could inflammation connect to these symptoms?”. A few things floated around and due to the power of the Internet I found this article, published in 2004. I asked this client pool to do an experiment with me and try the techniques. Many of them had talked before with other health care providers about inflammation being related to their health issues, especially their pain. We had good success in terms of short term pain relief. We learned a lot and we found great hope and deeper body awareness.
Quelling Inflammation is like Herding Cats
Connective Tissue Massage, the techniques described in the article, is designed to turn off the sympathetic nervous system. You’re probably heard of this nervous system as putting you into a ‘fight or flight’ state. New research points to women’s unique response to this cascade of hormones more as a ‘tend and befriend’ stress reaction.
Well, maybe we had a really great session and the client felt awesome at the end. This client then arrives home to a disaster and has to do some heavy lifting that sends him into a “flare”. He feels low back pain that night, and the next morning has a migraine. The migraine goes away after 2 days but his neck is stiff. When he’s finally feeling better he picks up his toddler in a funny position and the whole cycle starts over again!
If it’s not one thing it’s often another.
Or maybe it’s a gluten intolerance that creates a lot of inflammation for another client. She dutifully avoids gluten and then a coworker snaps at her, causing a stress reaction. She has to cope with a few days of reduced mental acuity and some grumpiness.
And, sometimes stress is unavoidable. Your parent gets sick, your child isn’t doing well in school, you’ve got a deadline at work, all at the same time! Stress is a part of life and some of my clients’ internalize this stress into inflammation. They get a flare even though they’re doing everything else right.
My client group all found exercise really difficult. They would have the same kind of brain fog and low energy symptoms they got after massage, only more often accompanied by achiness. Many of these clients worked with a Physical Therapist to strengthen their bodies. Finding a PT that was experienced working with inflammation was important to building muscle without sending them into pain.
Goldilocks Rule applied to our massage sessions too. We could go pretty deep in some areas to bring pain relief but not too deep or else we’d trigger the sympathetic system and induce a pain response.
My clients who had the most success with the technique could accept that some days would be painful and other days would be blissful. They took each day as it came and didn’t feel doomed to pain for the rest of their life. Good luck with this one!
For more information on massage and inflammation email me!