Musings on massage

Photo by Anete Lusina on

Of all the odd things that have happened to me over the past year and a half, (and there have been quite a few) perhaps the oddest would be that I have been voluntarily going to massage appointments. Now, some people will read that and say, “What? Of course you would go to massage voluntarily!” I wish I was one of those people–but I’m not.

I am an individual with personal space and boundary issues. I like to keep my distance. As for taking off my clothes, I would shower in my shirt and jeans if I could figure out how to get clean that way. To receive a massage, you must both remove at least some clothing and you must abandon your boundary issues. So, I was never one of those people who scheduled a massage the same way they do a hair appointment or a pedicure. Until now, that is.

My last year has been fraught with back and neck issues and it wasn’t very long into it before someone suggested physical therapy. Once you have been stretched, twisted, snapped and manipulated by a physical therapist, you lose a lot of your inhibitions and a lot of your fear of being tortured on a rack. They do their job well, but they don’t do it easily. And when they are done and you’re feeling a little less tied in knots, their final advice is, “Keep going regularly to a therapist.”

For a therapist to work on me, I have to get out of my clothes from the waist up. Then, I must hoist my heavy body onto a narrow table, lying face down (for the back, you know) and figure out something comfortable to do with my arms. The first time I went, I put my claustrophobic face in that little headrest, ignored the fact that my nose was itching incredibly, and lifted my feet onto the little support pillow, praying the whole time I wouldn’t have some sort of hysterical fit.

In this position, I discovered I couldn’t breath very well, couldn’t adjust my chest in any comfortable position and worst of all, couldn’t see what the massage therapist was doing. They usually play some comforting “elevator” type music, but if that is designed to relax me, it doesn’t. I have always hated elevator music and I am so busy preparing for when they start the massage that I don’t hear it anyway.

Massage would be a great thing if they didn’t insist on touching places where I am stiff and sore. I know, I know, that is their job, and truly I do feel better–later–but at the time, it can be painful. “Just turn your head a little this way,” they will instruct and I will try, but I’m sure I’m as stiff as a board when they try to do anything to help me and my head is always silently screaming that it doesn’t WANT to turn that way!

I have never been very agile at moving positions when I am on my stomach and worst of all, no matter how much I avoid gaseous foods before I go, I always seem to feel bloated when I go and I always managed to prove it–loudly–before the session is over. I guess someone passing gas in their faces is one of the hazards of their profession, but I always hate to be the one to do it!

One of the hardest things to get used to was the manipulation of the neck. As part of that, they apply gentle pressure under the ears and pull. I am sure I go in with my neck folded down into my shoulders like a turtle, but by the time they are done stretching, I feel more like a giraffe. The first time it was done, I had a terrible dream that night that I was on the block and being beheaded. Only they didn’t chop my head off, they just pulled it off. Massage has a strange effect on my dreams!

While I don’t much enjoy the process of massage, I can tell that it helps with my neck and back issues. I admit this reluctantly because I would like to be right in all of my phobias and the one about being worse off if someone touches me has proven untrue. Even so, when I tell someone I have a massage appointment and they sigh and say, “Oh I LOVE massage! It is so relaxing and enjoyable,” I always have to bite my tongue just a little. But only a little–I don’t want to injure it and require another massage!

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