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Humor is reason gone mad. Groucho Marx

"Groucho" in 1992

“Groucho” in 1992


Maybe I need to share the funny side of my recent massage. Yeah, when you are letting someone pull your scalp and poke levels in your ears and such, it helps to keep a sense of humor.

Or maybe humor is just what I used to defuse fear—because trust me, there is fear with letting someone try to fix a body that hasn’t been treating you so well lately. Plus, getting a massage is just pretty awkward in the first place because—make no mistake—you are vulnerable when you are mostly naked and lying on a table in a darkened room.

None of this even addresses the fact I grew up in a very German-American family. We may hug at our reunions now but we definitely weren’t huggers back in the day—and I was probably one of the most hug-averse of the group. I remember going to church conferences away from home and almost breaking out in a cold sweat when I realized that people I hardly knew were going to hug me. Oh no, there was no excessive touch in my early years once I was too old for sitting on laps and such.

Did not have my first massage until I had been a mother of twins for several years—and by then I was a little touched-out, if you know what I mean. So that first massage definitely was not as relaxing as I’d hoped. Seriously, I have pretty much only used massage as pain treatment—my family calls me “Olga” because I only seem to give or want to receive hard massages.

OK, now that we’ve established that I have hang-ups about touch you might really understand why I think funny thoughts sometimes during massage.

No, my current practioner is not some big woman with an accent. She is slender, calm, and gentle (but firm—you probably already knew that!) The walls of her massage space are not just filled with peaceful images of animals and scenery; tangible proof of her knowledge and qualifications also shares those same walls, just as in offices of other educated professionals.

The measuring processes she performed require several tools—some with technical names I didn’t catch. But I did recognize the levels she used for verifying, well, my levelness, as well as the chopsticks (!) she used as visual props. Of course, she required me to stand with correct posture—well, my best version of correct posture for now—and to look her in the eyes all while she measured up and down and across and backward and forwards.

So the first crazy thought I had had to do with seeing her eyes close-up in her glasses, which she does not usually wear. The concentrated focus reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard (with the seemingly all-seeing eyeglasses) in The Great Gatsby. Somehow I worried that under such close scrutiny, I would be found lacking, just as the characters were in that novel.

However, it was hard to feel too serious with a couple levels sticking out of your ears. And then when she used the chopsticks as a visual aid—by my head, of course—all I could think was that I hoped she wasn’t a zombie seeking out brains for an afternoon snack.

What a picture this whole process must have made. The visual would be great for a movie—well, with other people playing the roles. Even some of the massage techniques look funny although there isn’t really anything too funny about getting long-held pain to release—but I’m sure Hollywood could figure out a way to minimize that minor factor.

All I can tell you is that, despite the awkward moments and the discomfort as well as the pain, every time I leave I walk out a slightly newer woman—or at least a woman who is shedding some of the damage added over the years. There is nothing funny about that, except that the better I feel, the more I want to laugh. And while I might let you hug me, don’t even think about pulling my scalp—let’s leave that to the professionals! My madness has its limits.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Had a facelift yesterday. OK—not really, but somehow I look younger for having my cranium, of all things, worked on in order to help reduce my hip pain.

I’m at the point in my pursuit of healing where I’m chasing down subtle treatments—well, subtle in that it’s not always obvious how something such as the head’s placement might affect the hip. Not so subtle in the treatment—which was fairly intense and involved working on the connections around bones in my head with names that mostly escape me. But, trust me, the painful work on my mandible (the lower jawbone) had me realizing just how much I had to trust my neuromuscular massage therapist to let her do this.

How did I know that getting my jaw worked on would help my hip? I didn’t—but I had to trust the process based on past experiences with the practioner and the healing she’s brought me so far. I absolutely believe one of the bigger problems with seeing a physical therapist or an orthopedic doctor (which I haven’t done but my daughter has) is that those professionals see the body more in pieces. For those of us who didn’t get injured from an event, perhaps knowing how to fix the ache won’t be enough to prevent it again, if nothing else changes.

Am I a case in point? Possibly. My trigger-point-dry-needling and exercises from the PT—along with time—definitely healed me from my bulging disc. I felt good after I healed, but I didn’t want to do therapy exercises just to feel good—I wanted to do those exercises so I could get back to doing other activities I enjoy. And that isn’t the craziest thought since I do not have any major musculoskeletal damage.

But what about my biomechanics no longer allows me to do my activities as I’d choose, even with a fairly regular maintenance exercise routine? This, my friends, leads me to an even grayer area than that of how to treat initial lower back/hip pain. If you think all the different types of professional experts have opposing opinions about how to treat such pain in an acute situation, just try to get treatment for that pain in a chronic situation. You can find all sorts of valid scientific research to point you in a treatment direction, but so little is absolute in how such treatments will best bring about healing in your particular lower back/hip.

No, I’ve done yoga long enough to realize that all those pieces of our bodies are connected. My slight understanding of physics tells me that change one part of the body and another part will respond or act in a different way. By now I’m aware that a holistic approach as to why a certain section of my body isn’t working well very likely will include some other section of my body, but I have to admit I never really thought my head might be that section damaging my hip. (And for today, not even going to go into depth on the mind-body connection which adds a whole ‘nuther layer to the holistic approach.)

Just so you know, the practioner didn’t just start yanking around on my head. She measured quite a few sections of my body, looking for quantification of discrepancies. Who knew that a pair of levels could be used to analyze how various bones in my body compared side-by-side? Turns out I’m not as crooked as she expected and the crookedness I demonstrate is focused in a few crucial areas.

Sometime during the post-measurement massage session I realized my hip was not screaming quite as loudly as it had been—and not just because other body parts were receiving more focused attention. When I finally stood from the table, I really did feel the shift.

And last night? I slept better than I had in ages and woke more with the stiffness of a good workout than from the stiffness of chronic pain.

I know enough to understand that my body can shift back again. I still have to train it to learn these new alignments, just as I have done with other changes made over my lifetime from wearing orthotics or doing drills at a track practice or practicing yoga or being treated with dry needling. Muscle memory is both what holds me back and what may save me with intention and practice as I attempt to teach my body new memories.

Once again we’re back to the head—and the mind-body connection. All I know is for today I’ve got a good head (straight) on my shoulders—which may yet bring the crooked (back and hip) in line.

(See Neurosomatic Therapy.)

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