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“Just fix my neck, please!”
Insurance companies and the medical community opt into the partial body protocol, as well. Even I have succumbed to this idea of efficiency. For half of my twelve-year practice, I’ve been offering quick-fix sessions to appease those who want to quickly get out of pain, are too busy to spend a couple of hours on their health, or have a tight budget.
However, the quick fix route may be harmful to your health.
I knew from the get-go that working the whole body was healthier. But being a bit of a people pleaser, I ignored this wisdom gained by experience and shifted from whole body healing to body-part repair (renaming my practice in the process,) and didn’t get the connection when clients started complaining. At first, I thought I was losing my touch - a death sentence for a massage therapist if there ever was one - so, I worked harder to improve, but the problem didn’t go away.
The complaints kicked in, always at the end of the session, and went something like this:
“That doesn’t hurt any more, but now it hurts over here!”
The more intense the original complaint when they arrived, the more intense the follow-up complaint after the session was over. I felt terrible having to send them home, but time was up, and there was nothing I could do except ask them to come back for a full-body session and hope that they would. If you left someone’s office in pain, would you go back? Exactly.
Massaging where we hurt is temporary relief at best.
The source of the client’s problem often begins to 'speak' after we have alleviated their pain complaint, pain that was a result of the body trying to compensate for the original problem. In fact, clients often say, “Oh! This is where it all started long ago … I had forgotten.”
Four reasons to avoid the quick fix:
1. Where you hurt is rarely the root of the problem, and I assume you want to root it out.
Pain is the body’s last resort to get your attention, and it usually occurs where the body has been compensating for (protecting) whatever the original problem was. Consequently, just relieving the pain is at best, temporary relief.
Here’s a visual I give my clients: If I am pulling on your hair long enough that your neck starts to hurt, should I massage your neck or would it be better to stop pulling your hair?
For example, knee pain clients will often complain when I work on their calf or quads or even the opposite limb instead of massaging their knee. When they get off the table after I have checked and worked the whole body, they are surprised to find that their knee is now fine.
2. The problem is usually in the connective tissue and that’s a global organ of sorts, requiring a global response.
Connective tissue is literally connected to all other parts of the body, hence its generic name. We may be able to isolate the problem at the connective tissue of the bone, joint, muscle, organ, or skin level, but doing partial bodywork on a connective tissue level is a little like scratching only part of an itch. That’s the short, non-scientific summary, but it’s apt.
I figured out long ago that the health of the connective tissue, more often than not, determines the health of the organ or tissues it is attached to, and recent cancer research confirms this concept. So, only full body massage can address all of the connective tissue system, which in turn improves the health of everything else. Cool, huh?
3. Partial body massage causes backups in the plumbing.
Massage really does improve circulation, so it is unhealthy to rev up the circulation in one area, while the others get ignored and go stagnant by comparison.
Whether the fluids are blood, lymph, extracellular, adipose, cerebrospinal (of the outside the spinal cord variety), or cellular waste, massage gets them flowing by removing whatever congestions and adhesions were slowing them down in the first place. Think of plumbing: It does no good to improve the flow in one area if there are clogs down the line. In fact, it can and does actually cause a “back up”.
4. The brain really likes left/right body balance, when possible.
This one is more difficult/lengthy to explain, so please allow me to just state that if one limb is injured, please work both limbs. I joke to my clients that the opposite just gets jealous and will act up if you don’t. There’s science behind my opinion, but it’s a topic that deserves it’s own paper.
My first lesson in “quick fix fallout” came from my first, and still best, massage therapist.
This soft-spoken, serious therapist was a stickler for two-hour, full body sessions. He had found the value in soft tissue manipulation when he was restored to health via bodywork after a diving accident left him in a wheelchair. I didn’t know that about him when we first met back in the 80s when massage “parlours” were the only category in the yellow pages of the phone book.
At first, I thought he was crazy due to the tiny, cramped room filled with stacks of medical books, from the floor, up, and littered all over his desk. Then I added crank to my description after reading his office poster. It was a vertical banner of sorts, made by taping four or five sheets of copy paper together. On it was a long, hand printed rant in different colored markers about how he didn’t do less than two hour sessions and how he didn’t do anything less than full-body and how he didn’t offer discounts, and don’t even talk to him about insurance! But then I experienced his life-changing work and accepted him for what he was: A genius.
A few years later, I was broke and in pain and begging him to just fix my neck and back, and work on me for less than two hours and for less money. Against his better judgement, he caved. The parts I asked him to work on felt great, but hours later, I had this horrendous, deep, aching pain across my hips as if someone had drawn a line and nothing was moving below and everything was moving above and betwixt the two, my body was struggling.
In that instant and for the many hours that passed until my pain subsided, I kinesthetically understood why he had made that stubborn sign: He had drastically altered (improved) upper body circulations to the point that my lower body was struggling where he had stopped. It not only hurt in a bad way, it didn’t feel remotely healthy. I had no one to blame but myself.
Decades later, when I abandoned my computer career, became a massage therapist, and broke ranks from the muscle crowd over an obsession with connective tissue, I took on the same stubborn attitude:
Two hour sessions; nothing less than full-body therapy.
I need to return to that stubborn attitude.
While my clients still have control of what session they choose, they need to accept how I work, accept that the way I work is in their best interest, and accept the consequences should they ignore my recommendations. Neither my conscience nor professional integrity can bear the burden, otherwise.
Please take my advice and always make the time and find the funds to get the whole body in sync. You’ll be glad you did, and I’ll be happy that you feel much better, all over, for a much longer time. This is what constitutes true, preventive medicine. Insurance companies? Doctors? Hospitals? Are you listening?
Solutions to everyday stress involve identifying where we are emotionally unhappy and then taking action to correct or curb the circumstances involved, and that means finding out what’s at the root of a given problem, before seeking solutions. I love this kind of problem-solving and happily share for those seeking similar unique yet ubiquitous solutions. Consequently, the topics here may vary within health, lifestyle, and work/business.
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203 W 108th St
New York, NY 10025
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Prevention, Pain Management, Pain Solutions, Rehabilitation, Special Needs, Body as Instrument (Singers, Dancers, Athletes, Brainiacs, etc.), Stress Reduction, Anti-aging, Sports, Geriatric, Prenatal, etc.
The word massage denotes Paula's Fasciae Therapy (connective tissue therapy) which integrates and innovates based on: Swedish medical massage, Neuromuscular therapy, Trigger point therapy, Acupressure, Shiatsu, various vibrational therapies: Massage cupping by machine, Tok Sen, gentle Gua sha, and BioSyntonie.
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