Erin (not her real name) had enjoyed massage for many years prior to a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Erin had particularly enjoyed deep tissue massage, as it was extremely relaxing and reduced her body aches and pains.
After her RA and PTSD diagnoses, however, deep tissue massage was no longer enjoyable. She said that her body would pay for the massage that same day and for several days after. What she meant by that is that she had more pain than before the massage, she felt very fatigued, and she required more sleep to recover. That is not the intended outcome of a massage!!
Prioritize Client Communication and Adjust Techniques
As a long time believer in the benefits of massage therapy, Erin was not willing to give up on massage as part of her pain relief plan. She knew that the modality needed to change, but she was confident that massage would help her in her healing process.
One of the key elements of my practice is communication. I ask clients about any diagnoses they have, what kind of pain they live with, what medications they take if they have any old injuries, and how they are doing with mental health and sleep. Massage is about treating a whole person, which means my bodywork will have an impact on other systems.
Erin’s chief complaints aside from the pain associated with her RA were fatigue and weakness. Because her diagnosis was recent, she was also dealing with medication adjustments and simply learning new things about what was going on in her body. My nursing background is especially helpful when talking to clients about their medications. I have a good idea of what side effects to expect and can incorporate that into my approach.
Add Massage Modalities One at a Time for Better Tracking
Because Erin was dealing with post-massage pain and fatigue from her previously preferred methods, I needed to recommend a different approach. Rather than deep tissue massage, I saw Erin for traditional massage appointments. This helped initially, but then she reported those same issues with fatigue and weakness. I am very persistent with my clients to be honest with me about how they feel between appointments. I would much rather they come to me with a problem so that we can strategize an alternative than have them just stop coming completely.
I knew that Erin’s medications were likely having an impact, so we needed to work around that. We focused on gentle techniques that would offer her relaxation but not leave her feeling fatigued. Once we had a good rhythm of Erin feeling well between appointments, I suggested adding Craniosacral Therapy.
Craniosacral Therapy uses gentle touch to promote healing in the central nervous system. Craniosacral Therapy is non-invasive, and I use my sense of touch to “listen” for tension and imbalance in the body. Because of Erin’s RA and PTSD, I felt that Craniosacral Therapy would be a gentle way to relieve tension in her central nervous system so that she could experience reduced pain and fatigue. It was important to me that we waited to add Craniosacral Therapy until we had established a traditional massage technique that worked well for Erin. I never want to throw several techniques together at once, but rather build one upon another so that we can keep track of their effects.
Achieving the Client’s Goals for Massage
Obviously, Erin has a long way to go in her overall healing. She is still adjusting to medication and therapy that will address her medical diagnoses. But massage is a vital component to her treatment plan, and we both feel that she has the right combination of modalities at this time.
Erin’s feedback on our current plan is, “The treatment was perfect for what I need. After my session, I felt very relaxed, and sleepy, and for the first time my body stopped vibrating all the time.”
My hope for Erin is that she will feel more relaxed during the day, sleep restfully at night, and experience less fatigue and weakness while she pursues wellness.
Sometimes the idea of massage seems counter-intuitive as treatment for physical pain. Why would you want to put pressure on something that already hurts? The truth is, however, that a well-trained massage therapist can absolutely apply the kind of touch that does reduce pain. As someone who had long appreciated the benefits of massage, Erin knew that there would be a way to continue using it in her present condition.
If you are living in pain, or you are dealing with a diagnosis that has you feeling weak, fatigued, stressed out, or uncomfortable in your skin, please contact me. I have the highest respect for my clients and will work with you at your comfort level to promote your body’s healing. Ross Therapeutic Massage is located in Telford and is easy to reach from Souderton, Harleysville, Quakertown, Perkasie, Sellersville, Green Lane, and more.