A recent venture to the Grand Canyon was filled with peace!
I was finishing up with a newer client and they asked me if what I had just done was Sports Massage. I replied that the techniques fell within the realm of Orthopedic Massage, being that the goal of the session was to achieve a muscular balance. He was indeed athletic, so sure, that qualified it as Sports Massage.
I tend to oversimplify what I do. A client comes in presenting with pain. I assess whether the pain is related to soft tissue dysfunction, which quite often it is, since that is why they sought out my services. If the client is rehabilitating from a surgical procedure, my goals are pretty straight forward. I’m typically working to restore unhealthy soft tissue to a “normalized” healthy state and work toward gaining healthy range of motion within a joint.
Or there may be an acute injury, which might involve remodeling scar tissue, lengthening shortened, tight muscles, resolving trigger points or resolving deep adhesions due to lack of healthy mobility. Acute injuries are typically easier to work with if caught early in the healing process. I trust good science regarding my approaches and techniques. There is always a reason behind my approach to massage therapy. Additionally, I resource 17 years of clinical work and experience, using techniques and theory that have been successful in helping people with pain.
At other times, however, there may be deeper problems within the body. One common example is low back pain. This can be perplexing even with good diagnostic imaging and baffles Orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists and a host of other health care providers. There may be a myriad of reasons as to why the pain does not resolve easily. It all becomes frustrating for the client as well as the health care providers who are assembling as a sort of team to help the person in pain.
Quite often, even chronic low back pain gets better. The late Robert King, when teaching a continuing education class said “You can hang a shingle outside your place of business stating that 80% of all back pain cured here, because 80% of all back pain will get better on its own, even if you do nothing.” In short, the body has an amazing way of healing itself in spite of what we do, and low back pain can be tremendously puzzling. Then even more puzzling, quite often it will get better for no explainable reason.
Chronic pain sufferers require patience, understanding and support over a long term. They can quite often feel that they are under attack, or they did something wrong or are being punished for the pain that they have to endure. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a fine line in working with someone who is in this kind of pain. There needs to be tenderness in the approaches of the work but also needs to be effectiveness in facilitating change. Stress levels of the client can elevate the degree of pain that they are experiencing.
With this situation my goals might be different. If this is a long term client I strive to support them in a different way. I might tell them, “Let’s work to reduce your stress, knowing that stress can potentially make your pain worse.” Or our goals might be to get them comfortable for the next hour, or working together to find a comfortable sleeping position.
With a client of this nature, I have higher concern for their heart. I can see that they are distressed, they are vulnerable and might even have lost hope. I want them to know that I am standing by them and sometimes I may even become a resource for them as they pursue different provider options to manage their pain. I may objectively act as a sounding board for them regarding different treatment options, both conservative and more aggressive, such as a surgical procedure.
At times like this, I have had to ask a question of clients that is most difficult to ask. I put this question to them and state that I do not need a reply but that it is something for them to think about. “If your pain never got any better, would you still be able to find peace in your life?”
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to a person’s pain nor do I profess to know “magic” techniques to alleviate the pain. The bottom line is that I just do my level best with the experience and knowledge that I have.
The question I pose then becomes one of a philosophical nature about life. If we are waiting upon the pain free body before we find peace, we may never find peace. If we are waiting to lose those x number of pounds before we find peace, peace may ever elude us. We can battle for peace and lose that battle and this can be around the situations in our life that we have absolute control over.
What about the things of which we have no control? There are many things, situations and people of which we simply cannot control. A former yoga teacher once told a class that I took, “I gave up trying to change my past.” The past is indeed behind, it is history. But for the future, I can work toward applying a better strategy for my future.
Circling back to the client that has chronic pain but no end in sight, I offer as much compassion and understanding as I can. I balance accountability and empowerment with that as well. With many of my clients I may be working with the physical body but I love their heart as well. I see them fighting the pain in their body and I am their biggest cheerleader. I rejoice in their victories, and cry with them in the defeats. But whether victorious or ever fighting, I honor them with all of my being.
I leave you with this quote that I heard today.
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. —Unknown