Today, I’d like to talk about some of the challenges that a massage therapist will face when a new client comes into the office. The other day a lady came to me because she had been in a car wreck and after that car wreck she was experiencing numbness and tingling in her hands and in her fingers. Now, the first thing that my mind is going to go to when somebody mentions this, numbness, numbness and tingling is a constriction of either the blood vessels or of the nerves or both.
Now, this can come from a couple of different areas. This because it was on both sides, it is reasonably likely that there is something going on with her neck, with the nerves in her neck, but it can also be that both shoulders are constricting the blood vessels and nerves as well. Also, it can be a combination of both of these things. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but it can be both of these problems together. So that is the issue that she was presenting with and that was the obvious cause for the trouble. But I want to dig a little bit deeper. I want to know is this car wreck the real cause of the trouble that she is experiencing or was it simply a trigger that started to reveal deeper underlying issues that were going on in her body? So what sort of deeper underlying issues could I be talking about? Well, when I take a history of a client, I want to know things like, have you ever been in the hospital before? Have you ever had surgery before? This includes things like breast augmentation, c-sections, having an appendix removed or a gallbladder removed.
These sorts of things. We even want to know if there has been tubes put in the ears or tonsillectomy or other procedures that sometimes clients will forget to mention. They seem small and they seem like they might not be important or they seem like they may have happened a long time ago, but these are important, an important part of the overall client health. I also want to know what their job is like. Is the job stressful? Is there a lot of sitting? Is there a lot of lifting, pulling, pushing? Is there some repetitive motion? Does it involve driving where the feet or the legs are in one position for a long period of time? These sorts of things are going to be important clues to know what sort of overall picture we are dealing with. I also want to get a feel for the overall health of the client. Very often the body is manifesting its symptoms because there something deeper going on. Something deeper might have something to do with emotional trauma. When I say emotional trauma, what I mean is this person may have been the victim of abuse in the past, either physical abuse or mental abuse or even sexual abuse. These things can and will manifest in the body. Let’s talk about that for a little bit. How can these things manifest in the body?
Well, one of the ways is that a client can be tight and rigid all over. When most people think of getting a massage, they think of something that is going to be relaxing, something that is going to feel good, something that is might make them feel kind of loose all over their body and this is a good thing. When there is some surface tension and the massage therapist is able to take out some of that surface tension, then the body tends to react very well and it is quite a pleasant experience. This is entirely different for somebody who has been deeply affected by some trauma. What is what feels good and what is relaxing and what is comfortable for one client will feel extremely painful and extremely uncomfortable for somebody who has deep emotional trauma going on. What has happened is that the brain is constantly trying to protect the body and the body is always in a heightened state of awareness, heightened sense of alertness, and the muscles can never fully relax. They can never fully let go. When this happens, over time, the muscles develop a tension and a rigidity to them and so any touch to those muscles is going to be uncomfortable. The brain registers the sensations that should feel good as sensations of pain.
So a good massage therapist needs to take this into consideration and needs to know what sort of client they are working with. So when the body is in a heightened emotional state like I have just described, how can it respond positively to work done by the massage therapist? In short, it is very, very difficult for the body to respond positively to the massage. The massage therapist first needs to find a way to make that person feel safe when a person comes in for a massage, particularly if they have been abused and particularly if they have not experienced good and healthy touch before, then that person’s body is going to have an additional state of alert in addition to what is already being experienced. So if the massage therapist is going to have a good effect on the client, he first needs to make her feel comfortable.
She may have, she may feel uncomfortable about her body, about how it looks, about how it feels, about how it acts, and she may be ashamed of her body. It is the most job of the massage therapist to provide a safe place for her body to heal. If she doesn’t have that safe place to heal, then there’s really not much chance of getting anything positive done. The client needs to know that even though there has been trouble in the past, even though her body doesn’t do the things that she wants it to do, even though she feels like she might be disconnected from her body, she needs to know that this is a safe place, that she can start the healing process. Once she knows that this is a safe place, then the massage therapist can gently start to do some of his work.