Massage Therapy Case Study – Everybody Is Different

different berry

We’ll call her Nancy. A wonderful woman, fit and healthy, a steady client who knew the value of massage therapy as a regular part of her lifestyle. I was able to help her with a number of challenges over the years – car accidents, tennis elbow, a fall from her bicycle – but over and over I kept returning to what I saw as a glaring problem in Nancy’s body.

She had a hunch. No, not a brilliant idea, although Nancy was full of those. I don’t even mean the one-shoulder hump of pronounced scoliosis. Nancy’s body just insisted on carrying her head forward and her shoulders in, producing a characteristic hunch at the nape of her neck. It struck me every time I assessed her posture from the side. To my eyes her posture just kept saying, fix me.

We’ve all seen this in our practice. It can be the kind of stubborn condition that makes a therapist want to slap the patient into a medieval rack and start cranking. Or put a knee between their scapulas and pull on their arms until they straighten the heck up. But such techniques are frowned upon in polite circles, so I did the next best thing. Neuromuscular technique, deep and specific both front and back to lengthen the musculature and reset the tension. Myofascial release for chest and anterior neck and posterior fascia. Facet joint work. Manual traction. Over the years I threw everything I knew at it, and a few techniques that haven’t been officially invented yet. Nothing. Nada. Nyet. Nancy’s posture didn’t budge. It was a professional irritation.

Since I was a travelling therapist, all this was taking place in her living room. One day I looked over at the mantelpiece and asked, “Is that what I think it is?” Nancy replied, “Why yes, I just found it the other day.” Sitting in a gilt metal frame was a photo of a nice woman in three-quarter profile. She was dressed in some sort of 1940’s wartime uniform. She had exactly the same hunched neck posture as Nancy. Her eyes, too.

It was her mother, of course. At that moment I forgot about trying to fix Nancy’s posture. It was built into her very genetics. And did I mention that Nancy wasn’t experiencing any actual discomfort from it? Her mother had lived a long and happy life with exactly the same look. Nancy’s posture was, arguably, not even broken.

That’s when I really got that everybody – every body – is different. There is no one perfect posture. No ideal shape and form to measure everyone against. Although I have the eyes of an expert therapist, sometimes when something strikes my perceptions as not right, it may be my perceptions that need to be changed.

A good lesson, that one. Nancy and I had a fine laugh over it, and our sessions became a little more relaxed.