July 29, 2013

Taming the Tube

It had been a particularly busy Saturday, with lots of clients coming in for massage therapy at my office. After work, tired though I was, honey and I went over to the local promenade for dinner and walked along the cement boardwalk for quite a ways looking at the crowds and shops.
Usually we stop for a few moments to listen to the street musicians. This time I wanted to stop at the benches by the flamenco guitarist. We found a spot. Honey asked me what was wrong.
“My quad(ricep)s are numb,” I said. “It seems to go away when I sit down.”
After a few minutes we resumed walking. Again, the front of my legs above the knee went numb.
“What’s going on?” Sweetie asked.
“I don’t know, but I am going to find out,” I said.
We walked back to the car pretty slowly, my legs complaining the whole way back.
As massage therapists we are used to people having symptoms of things that might be a bit worse than just sore muscles. I know I have. It is easy to tell a client to go have it checked out. But do we forget how hard that can be?
My doctor wanted to know what was going on right away. He recommended a lumbar X-ray series and a lumbar MRI. The X-rays, no problem. I walked in to the offices of the local. The MRI?
Oh heavens. I’d had one years ago for my neck and shoulders, and I remembered being able to handle it as long as I kept my eyes shut. Starting in the hall outside the machine. I put the test off for a few days.
My doctor called to find out if I had the MRI yet. The X-rays showed suspected spinal stenosis. I needed to get in ASAP.
Spinal stenosis? I did what everyone else does. I looked it up on WebMD. By the way, never do that. By the time I went in for the MRI, I was convinced I would be disabled for life.
MRIs have not changed much, but I have. This time my arms hit the side of the tube, making me feel like I was being held. I couldn’t do the time in the machine. Two tries later I was sweating and resigned. I went to the local “open” MRI. Much better. Except for the train-wreck sounds. The tech had insisted I listen to some spa music. Thank heavens. It gave me something to focus on besides the noise of the MRI.
I was pretty tense when I went in for a consult with a neurosurgeon. The lady in the waiting room was about 30, in a wheelchair. She smiled at me. I thought about whether they have to measure you for a tongue stick. You know, the kind you use to paint watercolors because you are in a wheelchair for life.

In the exam room, I had high blood pressure for the first time in my life. “White coat syndrome?” the assistant asked.

Seeing a neurosurgeon. Egads. The assistant loaded the MRI onto a computer. I stared at the image. What was that? Lobster tail?

The discs and all were fine, but I do have spinal stenosis and a pinched nerve at the L4-L5 foramen. The doctor smiled at me and recommended a cortisone shot. “You should be fine,” he said. “That should take care of your symptoms. You need to strengthen your psoas and spinal erectors.”

Hmm. That last part sounded like what I find with many massage clients. I thought I could feel my blood pressure drop back to normal.

I took a breath, perhaps my first of the day. “I’m sorry. I have been pretty freaked out about this,” I said.

Time for a massage.

July 11, 2013

Frequent Fliers and Massage Therapy

Folks who travel for vacations complain the most about the plane ride home – they are tired, often sunburned and a bit depressed that the dream vacation is over.

Many clients book massages during their vacations, but forget about dealing with the stress and fatigue of the trip home.

That’s why I have recommended people get a jet lag massage post-vacation.

We book it in advance for the day after they return, (air travel isn’t always timely these days) and I plan on spending a lot of the massage time trying to relax the nervous system and flush the lymphatic system.
The post-vacation massage seems to be helpful in getting rid of the blues and trip tiredness. I also enjoy hearing a bit about the vacation, as most of my clients `take much more exciting trips than I do.
Clients are often surprised by how much better they feel. It helps them get enough energy together to unpack, clean up and get ready for work again.

So I suggest more massage therapists offer the post-travel massage. It is a wonderful way to reconnect with clients and serves their needs well.

July 8, 2013

Wrapped Up in Fibromyalgia Massage

A recent study showed hyper nerve endings under the skin of people with fibromyalgia – the first “objective” sign that people with fibro are not just whining about their pain.

Well, we massage therapists are different from others in the treatment community who have doubted the clinical basis of fibromyalgia. The difference is fairly simple – when people tell us they hurt and where they hurt, we believe them.

For something to be so simple it is also hugely significant for people with fibro. They are often battered, doubted, maligned and otherwise felt to be somehow less legit than someone who has an X-ray proven injury such as a broken leg.

I have had clients who have been “fired” by therapists in other modalities because they can’t stick to exercise programs. Even though within a few weeks, even a few hours, exercise programs make fibro folks feel worse.

A recent client pointed it out to me in bright flashing lights. She does not look like she has fibro. She is young, thin, and fairly flexible and has no apparent history of trauma other than a car accident 5 years ago.

Several times she has tried to comply with strengthening programs only to have her head and neck pain increase – and her disability from fibro go wild. When she complained of increasing problems, her complaints are dismissed.

Figuring that the definition of insanity was proving true – Crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result - she decided to do her own research.

She stumbled across some articles about trigger points and fibro and decided to try massage. I’m happy to say she is feeling much better.

Reminding us all that it never hurts a massage therapist to believe people when they report symptoms, nor does it hurt to use our skills to relieve those symptoms. It is our strength.