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.

The Most Amazing Massage Clinic In The World – or Why I Became a Travelling Massage Therapist

tablebrookI first chose to become a travelling RMT because of two words – clinic rent. But the job quickly became more than just a way to save money. It became the most amazing and fascinating and challenging career I could have dreamed of. That’s why I ran Vancouver’s Mobile Massage Therapy for 12 years.

Travelling massage therapy is working on the cheap. Sort of. Maybe. True, you don’t have to pay clinic rent to somebody else. Instead you get to deduct your car, your gas, and your home office at income tax time. Of course, you also have to pay for your car and your gas. You get to be the receptionist, and the laundry lady, and the bookkeeper. You have to spend unpaid time travelling, and some of your patient time is spent messing with your table. You end up paying in time instead of money. So I answered my own phone, and learned the fastest ways around Vancouver, and got my table setup down to a reflex. I could live with that.

A travelling massage therapist is a minimalist. You don’t get to have heating pads, charts on the wall, incense and subdued lighting and soft music. You get your table, your oil bottle, and your hands. You work in your patient’s living room or bedroom or kitchen or back yard, to the soothing sounds of silence or screaming kids or Led Zeppelin or Oprah. You get supper smells or cigarettes or a lilac forest or eau de hospital. You get an infinite variety of circumstances to work with; and within it all, you and your hands get to do somebody some good.

I loved it all. Aside from my constantly changing office view, I had the opportunity to see inside my patients’ lives. I got to see where their stress, and sometimes their disease, came from. Sometimes it helped me inform my treatment plans. Always it broadened my own personal experience, and widened my worldview.

And then there were the clients themselves. Mobile massage therapy introduces you to a variety of patients you’d never see in a clinic setting. I was called to the homes of the elderly, the disabled, the comatose, and the dying. I worked with MS and Lupus and arthritis and strokes and spinal cord injury and every other condition that pins people to their beds. The conditions and situations I encountered in my practice shocked, scared, humbled, challenged and fascinated me. They sent me back to the books. Time and time again I was pushed to see what I could do. I rose to the challenges, and often I was able to do some good.

Travelling massage introduced me to so many unique and amazing people and situations. The young man in the throes of his very first MS attack, his entire family in turmoil after their doctor had told him to go home and live with it. The single mother of newborn twins who was so grateful because she had no time for a clinic visit for her aching back. The more than a handful of famous people who didn’t want to be seen. The man with the back spasm on his living room floor, only able to reach his phone. The homes where I was kept busy for a day massaging the entire family.

I’ve given sessions on a boat, in a park, in back yards and on balconies. I’ve worked on canopy beds and hospital beds. I’ve seen the inside of every health care facility and major hotel in Vancouver. I’ve been in mansions and hovels, from the British Properties to the Downtown East Side. I have helped all manner of people, and the experiences have made me rich. That is why I worked as a travelling massage therapist for as long as I did. That is why, for the right therapist – young, strong, independent, eager to be pushed – I highly recommend it.