1. Listen to your client. They are telling you their truth and in it is how to help them. 2. If a client cannot tell me what makes them better or what makes them worse, we will not make a very good team. 3. Pain is a the body’s indicator. It doesn’t necessarily tell us where or what. More like a check engine light. Get to the shop now. 4. Structure and symmetry are important, if not more than I thought in the beginning. 5. If you find something that works- stick with it. 6. If something doesn’t work, throw it out for now. But remember to add it back into your life as soon as you can. 7. Function for each person means something completely different. That is ultimately the goal- to move freely doing the things you love. 8. It takes a village. We need lots of good practitioners in our life to keep us moving at our best. 9. I still love an eclectic approach. Sometimes a solution really needs a different tool. 10. Find what you need to heal and put it in place. As we reflect on this past year, I extend my gratitude to all of my clients and mentors for their teachings. Remember to celebrate your own body daily! And listen to it’s messages.
‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ – Roald Dahl
Halloween just happens to be my favorite holiday as it gives me a hall pass to be a kid again. The further I get from the magic of those early years, the more I’ve come to need Halloween. It’s a day when you can become anyone or anything you wish. The seat belt light is officially turned off and you are free to walk about the cabin.
As I was accessory shopping for this years costume, I overheard a young girl ask her dad, “Can I be a ladybug warrior?” I thought to myself, wow those are kind of diametrically opposed. He must have thought something similar as his reply was, “I don’t think so sweetheart.” Can you imagine what kind of costume this child may have created? What would her ladybug warrior look like? One part cute and sweet and another part strong and powerful; who wouldn’t want to have those characteristics?
I just love to watch kids explore their environment, dogs dive into the water after a tossed stick, and cats in hot pursuit of a beam of light. They are all engaged in pure play. Stuart Brown MD has spent his career studying play. He says “We are built to play and built through play. Making it a part of our daily lives is a huge factor in being a fulfilled person. He compares play to oxygen- it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
Play is actually critical for children as it shapes their brain and helps them learn social skills and become better problem solvers. As an adult, because play is truly unproductive by its nature, it often gets left behind as our day to day demands take over. In multiple studies, it is noted that when play is denied over the long term our mood darkens and we lose our sense of optimism.
There is a kind of magic in play. It has the power to bring us joy, energy, a sense of ease, and opens us up to new possibilities. Relating this to bodywork, these assets are also one of the keys to healing. So from the bottom of my heart, please go play! And don’t hesitate to let me know if it made you smile and feel alive.
“Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind.” ~ Swami Bua
So the fall equinox came to town this morning at 4:04am (CDT). That means that autumn is officially here. Those that know me know how excited I get by a decrease in the Texas heat, and this summer has been one beyond any stretch of my imagination. Austin has now had 85 days over 100 degrees, and the last measurable rainfall in my yard was in May. It has created a whole new way for me to look at hot and dry. It has also created a whole bunch of imbalances in nature, as well as in peoples’ bodies.
I like that today represents the balance of light and dark; some yang with your yin, some good with your evil. The closer you live to the equator, the closer you will be to 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. One of the biggest myths about this day is that it is possible to balance an egg on its end due to the position of the earth’s axis in relation to the sun. Of course I tried it. Did it work at your house?
So my bodywork aficionados, what in the world does this have to do with you? Well this is the perfect time to set an intention toward balance. Balance is defined as a state of equilibrium. I like thinking about it in the concept of equanimity. How can we bring about a state of calmness or steadiness? This can be looked at broadly, as in our life, work or relationships, or more specifically as in our body, breath or movements.
The bodyworker in me is always trying to find a way to bring harmony to the body. And what I know is that it starts and finishes with you, the client. My job is to get your nervous system to quiet down long enough for you to listen. We may not perfectly understand what our body is trying to tell us, but it will definitely give some insight on areas that need attention. Even on a day closer to pure black and white, your body may still speak in shades of gray. When you are calm, all you have to do is listen to the whispers.
“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.” ~ Wu-men
In massage school, every one of my instructors constantly reminded us to remember to receive bodywork after graduation. I would laugh inside at how silly this sounded, like I could forget to get a massage, how is that even possible. And then massage becomes your profession, and like everything you are supposed to do, it too can get put on the back burner.
So when the opportunity presents itself, I grab that slot on the table. It becomes a treasured time and space. Most importantly it is an hour that I give myself. The key of course is to make it last! Here are some thoughts about ways you can take that massage back to everyday life.
1. Now is all there is: I feel an important part of bodywork is bringing yourself back into the present moment. Let go of focusing on how you should feel or how you used to feel, but instead explore this place where you are right now. This moment is the only one we have, remember to use it wisely.
2. Relax and trust: ‘I’ve found that perhaps the deepest source of suffering is the feeling of being flawed, the belief that “something is wrong with me.”’~ Tara Brach. The massage table should be a safe haven for you to let your guard down. Go ahead and notice the areas you hold onto in your body, but don’t beat yourself up for your imperfections. Just notice the sensations and thoughts that arise and breathe. Remember that you already have everything you need to heal.
3. Make space for the positive: The unlearning of old patterns is what creates freedom in our lives as well as our bodies. While you have this wonderful time available, pay attention to your thoughts. See if you can change them to a positive or just let them go as your tissues are being released. These mental changes are a huge contribution to your own healing process. Anytime you find you are really beating yourself up, remember to come back to the positive.
4. Breathe when things get challenging: Have you ever noticed that you hold your breath when you are stressed? When your breath is compromised, you will create tension and pain. Just by not breathing you instill a big challenge on the body’s ability to heal itself. Now is a beautiful time to really focus on your breath! First, notice your exhale. If you remember to breathe out fully, the inhale will take care of itself. Pay attention to how often you hold your breathe in a given day.
5. Smile! And flaunt those face cradle creases! It will remind someone else that it is time to get on the table.
Choose your injury care team wisely
If you have an injury or a pain that isn’t going away, one of your most important decisions is choosing your ‘healthcare’ team. It is actually critical in your healing to pick people you trust and feel comfortable with. So before you choose, think carefully about what that means to you. Is it their treatment approach? Your out of pocket expense? Do you have something in common? Is it a recommendation from a trusted source?
Making that call
People don’t call me because they feel good, so I always do a phone interview. First, I want to make sure that bodywork is appropriate at this stage of your healing. Sometimes I feel you could be better served by a good medical work up first. But ultimately, I want you to be heard. It’s good to have a safe outlet to tell your story and share the natural feelings of frustration, fear, and anxiety that accompany an injury.
Remember that an injury is a very challenging experience!
Sports psychologists tell us that hurting from an injury may not be purely physical; it can leave you mentally depleted. One of my clients’ biggest concerns is when will they be well again. Unfortunately, I know no one out there who has a crystal ball to foretell your particular journey of recovery.
Specializing in harmony for your body
I feel strongly that I am part of my clients’ healthcare team. My main goal is to improve their quality of life. I want to help take the swelling out of their tissues, the pain out of their scars, and put balance back into their bodies, so they can do whatever means the most to them without pain. Finish an ironman, do a handstand, whatever they wish, it’s their life!
What can you expect from a session with me?
Each person and their injuries are unique, so in my practice everyone gets a session designed to meet their specific needs. What could that look like for you? Say you have knee pain, I will first look to pinpoint where the problem is coming from. I often find that knee pain can come from the hip or the foot, so it wouldn’t make sense to focus solely on your knee unless the symptoms were from there. Next I pull from over my 20+ years experience in manual therapy, and offer my best solution.
You are a part of the team, too!
I think being a well informed team member is one of the biggest assets of your own healing. I have seen it help fuel a positive approach to healing vs. an unknowing self-sabotage. Your recovery is really all about your choices. Is that knee really ready to run a marathon when it still hurts to run a 5K? So gather a good team and stay focused on your recovery plan. If you veer off, your team will get you back on track.
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” – Old Chinese proverb
Just the other day, an old friend gave me a very insightful compliment. It turned out to be more valuable than I could have anticipated, as with one single phone call, my carefree Saturday went from playful and free to concerned and helpless. I found myself drawing from his earlier words, as they helped me to remember that ultimately I am patient and I am strong.
Being miles away from the situation, there was nothing I could personally do to assist except to be present when the phone rang again. As hard as it is for me to feel helpless, I know that if I was a witness to pain or anguish in someone that I love, I would want someone to talk to. So I pulled strength from my friend’s earlier comment, and just sat patiently with the fact that things were out of my hands. What I could control was being there when I was needed. I could push my own fears aside and be completely present for someone else.
So in gratitude for my friend’s kind words, I want to remind us all that our words matter. I think it is important to use them wisely and with care, as they can be more powerful than you know. So if you’re thinking about giving someone a compliment, like Nike says “Just Do It!” I found truth in the saying that a sincere compliment boosts one’s morale. You never know, what you say may change someone elses’ day too!
“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” ~Mark Twain
I’m always behind the curve when it comes to seeing the latest movie, so yes I did miss The King’s Speech while it was in the theater. Due to the wonderful buzz among everyone I know who saw it, I was quick to watch it on DVD. And it did not disappoint. You may be wondering why this is relevant to my bodywork practice, or then again you may be right there with me. The story line ran such a strong parallel with my own belief system that besides being glued to the amazing cinematography, I felt like I was watching my own professional story unfold.
In case you haven’t seen the film yet, here is a quick glance without giving all the good parts away. This British historical drama is about the Duke of York soon to be King George the VI. To help the Duke overcome his stammer his wife seeks out Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, known for his unique yet effective methodology. Logue believes there are emotional triggers that underlie the onset of most speech impediments. Initially the Duke will not discuss personal matters and only wants to work on the mechanical problem at hand. Logue agrees, and they work together on muscle relaxation and breathe control, but Logue continues to probe into the psychological roots of his stammer. The King eventually tells about the difficulties of his childhood at the time his stammer appeared: his strict father; repression of his left-handedness; painful knee splints; a nanny who mistreated him and “It took my parents three years to notice.”
I absolutely love the structural part of the human body and continue to find relevance in the study of anatomy, and other coursework to help me make sense of this amazing system. But I know that behind every pain and injury there is an emotional story as well. So when clients’ report pain or numbness somewhere, and they can remember the exact moment it came on, I find myself drawn as much to what was happening in their life that day, as the idea that the pain resulted from ‘I was just putting on my shoes.’ Besides the actual mechanical pain process, I like to look at what they may be holding on to….An inability to forgive someone, bitterness about how the pain has changed their life, anger about something someone said or did. The list can go on but I, like Logue, have come to believe that wellness comes from healing both the mechanical and the emotional. We may find that on some days trying softer may get us further ahead than trying harder.
One of the more delicate parts of my job is discussing radiological findings with my clients. These tests have become the gold standard to rule out serious medical conditions. They are also used to figure out why someone has pain. This can bring great comfort to people as they now have a clear cause, and yet great distress to others because their tests are normal and they still hurt.
So in truth, how much weight should a scan hold in the overall picture of your pain? Here is the case that really challenged my own outlook. On his first visit, this client came into my office with his written MRI report in hand. Luckily the medical terminology wasn’t written in layman’s terms, so he wasn’t able to judge the severity. He was comfortable with his doctors’ assurance that it was arthritis, and at 60 years of age he personally felt like that was to be expected. At that time, I had fifteen years experience under my belt and was pretty sure I had never read a scan so daunting. It could have taken the prize for ‘the worst stiff neck imaginable’, if awards for this were actually given out. I remember thinking can a neck like this ever move normally again.
What began with so many doubts, turned into an incredible journey. It broke down barriers in my belief system that needed to be challenged. I had a big aha moment when I came to realize that an image is one thing and the body’s own ability to heal is quite another. Had I relied solely on what the scan said, with major arthritic changes at each and every level of his neck, I would have feared moving forward. The beauty was that his body was ready for relief from a year of headaches and an inability to look over either shoulder. It became clear very quickly, that his neck just needed a little guidance.
If I was a betting woman, I would have lost, as I didn’t hold faith in his full recovery. Thankfully he proved me wrong and this one man’s success has completely changed my outlook. I no longer judge a client by their imaging; instead it is just one small piece of the amazing puzzle called the human body. With this said, I recommend that you don’t judge yourself by your scans, and see if a brighter outlook doesn’t appear.
Recently I received a call from a potential client who didn’t even offer me his name. He opened the conversation with who had referred him to me, and that he preferred to get in ASAP because of his pain. Since it seemed very important to him, I proceeded by inquiring about the nature of his pain. His response was that he has persistent pain in his shoulders, which he feels comes from a guarding pattern he can’t seem to change following a cervical spine fusion surgery.
Since his issue seemed really straight forward and I didn’t have space to fit him in that day, I recommended some other bodywork practices that may have immediate availability. But now the real story came out. “Would they know what to do with a fusion?” he asked. I find I am taken a little aback, as rarely do I get a referral for someone still on restrictions without getting a phone call from their practitioner or doctor. To clarify my questions, he stated that his surgery was over a year ago and he has been given the all clear by his surgeon to resume all his normal activities.
Here is the catch, and ultimately what may be creating an underlying holding pattern in the muscles of his shoulders. On his last visit, the doctor explained that on one view of his x-rays the bone looked as if it hadn’t completely filled in, but even with this information he was released from all his previous restrictions. So despite the wonderful hall pass he received, he leaves the doctors office in conflict. As he has heard that he is not whole, in fact still quite broken and fragile, with the fusion not being completely perfect. He also heard the words he is free to get back to his life as before. But now, he just may write his story that he is getting back to his life, but despite giving a year of his life to surgery, rehab and recovery, he still isn’t well.
He needs to believe that it is okay to not have a perfect x-ray at the one-year mark, and that the doctor feels very good with the outcome of his surgery even with these findings. And most importantly, it is okay to move on with your healing by editing this part of your story to mean that imperfect doesn’t mean broken. I hope he realizes this sooner rather than later, and gets back to being himself, and not his injury. I will know this is true if he calls again, and begins by giving me his name.
“Not everything that can be counted counts, And not everything that counts can be counted.” ~ Einstein