Regular Clients

One of my clients, we’ll call him Scott, has been coming to my office for almost a year. When he first came in, he told me that he had two different goals in mind for the massage sessions, one specific and immediate, the other more long-term.

The first, as you could probably guess, was to alleviate the pain and stiffness in his neck and shoulders. Easy. So we met every week (sometimes every other), and after seven massages, Scott’s upper body loosened up and his pain disappeared.

Scott’s second goal was to increase his flexibility, particularly in his legs. Flexibility, however, is a complex problem. One’s general level of activity, amount of stretching, even their genetics can come into play. Reducing muscle tension is only a small piece of the puzzle. Since Scott’s goal wasn’t going to be achieved exclusively through massage, it didn’t make sense to change gears completely and just work on his legs. I didn’t want to neglect the progress we had made with his upper body. So we began full body massages, every other week, for upper body maintenance and lower body flexibility.

Months passed. Thanksgiving arrived, and Scott spent the four-day weekend driving around Oregon with his family, visiting relatives. By the time he came to see me, he had already been in pain for the past three days. His shoulders were a wreck again.

His pain gave way to distress, fear that the four days on the road had undone what we had accomplished in the past nine months. But I told him not to worry. I explained that he had adapted to being pain-free over our time working together, and had established a lower pain baseline, a new normal. This was a good thing. But with this healthier baseline, any deviation from it was now much more noticeable.

After living in pain for so long, people will habituate to it. So often I listen to friends, acquaintances, prospective clients assure me that their constant pain isn’t so bad, that they’ve gotten used to it and even accepted it as “normal”. But once the massage sessions begin, the pain decreases and their attitude about the pain shifts. Suddenly, spending four days in the car results in an unacceptable amount of pain.

Luckily, if the pain does return, it will go away much quicker than before.

There’s a certain quality to muscles when they’re tight and have been tight for years. The muscle adhesions envelop the trigger points; tension in the problem area spills over into the surrounding connective tissue. In contrast, when muscles are generally in good shape but a stressful day at work or too many hours on the road throw them off, the muscles feel, well, different. It’s hard to describe in words, but when I feel muscles like that I think, “this is tight, but still healthy. The tension here won’t last.” When you get massages regularly, any pain that pops up later is just a temporary setback.

Sure enough, Scott’s muscles loosened up quickly and the pain was gone again after just two sessions.

Anyway, I think this is a good post to start off the new year with. Since there’s still time to make resolutions and plan ahead for the year to come, and I’m going to suggest a few. Resolve to pay more attention your body and your muscles, especially to the level of pain you accept as normal. Make a goal to be a regular massage client, and see what kind of difference it can make.

This entry was posted in Healing, Muscle Pain. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

Leave a Reply