Sore Bodies, Self-Care, and Rockstar Clients

Sore Bodies, Self-Care, and Rockstar Clients

Part of my job as a massage therapist is to refer my clients to tools, tips and resources that will help them avoid developing chronic pain in their bodies and relieve tension. My “Rockstar Clients” are the people who really do their homework and every time I see them they tell me “That low back pain is totally gone since I have started doing that stretch that you taught me” or “I haven’t had any tension headaches since you reminded me to pay attention to dropping my shoulders away from my ears when I am working.”

People generally don’t expect that their teeth and gums will be healthy and last a long time if they solely rely on visiting the Roya Arbab or other dental offices twice a year and don’t brush in between visits, right? I have observed over the years that this is a common expectation people have when they come in for a massage, which is that a long period of accumulated neglect can be set right in one massage. I’m a massage therapist, not a magician! I have been guilty of this unlikely hope myself. Unless we do some maintenance for those body issues in between visits, we will keep arriving to those massage appointments with the same complaints.

As a massage therapist I will work hard to try to smooth out those tangled muscle fibers, but if I don’t see that client again for 6 months I have to start right back at square one and not make any progress. So I will ask them to come back in regular, frequent intervals to address an acute problem. I will tell them how often I need to see them and what they need to do in-between appointments to get relief. Then after a few appointments they can go back to regular maintenance once every month depending on their needs.

We have an amazing ability to ignore pain and discomfort in our bodies. In fact, this is often seen as an admirable quality to be able to “grin and bear it” and get the job done despite the pain. Our bodies have an incredible capacity for self-healing and those messages that it sends us comes from a much wiser place than our anxious brains that tell us we have a deadline to meet so we need to push through this discomfort. My grandmother used to say “Life is a marathon so you have to keep the body in shape.”  I hope to inspire my clients to listen to their bodies more and respect the wisdom it offers. This is the best advice I can think of for preventing illness and pain. If your body is speaking to you but you can’t decipher the message, be curious about it and hire a professional detective (like a massage therapist, or for non-muscular issues a Doctor of Chinese Medicine or a Naturopath who will give you more information) to help you figure it out and address the imbalance.

A few simple home care tips for a tight neck and shoulders (one of the most common complaints):

1. Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and gently drop your chin to your chest. Roll your head from side to side. When you feel a tight spot, stay there and breathe deeply for one full minute. With every exhalation gently deepen the stretch.

2. Throughout your day start to notice what your body is doing and how it is feeling. Are you breathing shallowly as you work? Are your shoulders hunched around your ears? Are you slouched over your computer? Do you have healthy circulation in your legs? Do you need to stretch? Just notice and then modify what you are doing over and over throughout the day without judgement.

3. Put your hands on a door frame at chest height and lean forward to stretch out your chest muscles. Grip the door way from the other side, and gently lean back to separate your shoulder blades and stretch out your mid-back.

A little bit of effort will go a long way to prevent accumulating a lot of muscular imbalance and pain later. Your massage therapist will thank you!

~Heather Wade, Licensed Massage Therapist, Esthetician

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