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In Praise of Muscular Masseurs

I skipped my workout today (!!!! I can feel the fat cells already bulking up!) and instead spent some very high-quality time with my massage therapist. Chris operates his massage clinic out of the YMCA where I am a faithful member. He's a great guy and does a fantastic job. And I have the bruises to prove it.

Because he works via a gym, Chris specializes in sports-related massage. I imagine a few of his clients are more interested in a gentle, relaxation type of massage. But for me, I don't see a point in getting a massage unless he's really digging into the pressure points and breaking down some major muscle knots! And Chris, who is built like a wrestler, knows how to put the pressure on.

Unfortunately, I don't take the time to see Chris often enough, and he is very popular so there's sometimes a wait. I probably should see him weekly, because I have a lot of neck and shoulder problems, major muscle knots and scarring, which over the years have threatened to turn into a very serious repetitive stress injury. My health has improved dramatically in the past year, since I quit journalism after 20 years. The job had become a serious health hazard for me (as it is for a lot of reporters!) I used to work shifts where I'd be so busy that only after I had filed my stories would I realize that I had put off, for hours, going to pee. And I don't even want to confess how often I'd have the telephone receiver cradled between my neck and shoulder; so that my hands would be free to take notes and turn the pages of my notepad; or worse, be free to type directly into the computer. The constant stress on my neck and shoulders eventually fired up a lot of nerves in my wrists and hands; really, pain all the way down each arm from the neck.

When I started getting severe pain in my hands a few years ago, I took it seriously because at about the same time, one colleague actually had to quit work because her condition had become so severe that merely brushing her hair had become agonizing. The pain is a final, desperate signal warning of nerve damage. The thought of destroying my hands, my ability to brush my teeth or write, was frightening. Indeed, another colleague went on sick leave around the same time after he discovered he could no longer lift a bottle of wine due to horrific pain in his hands. And he and his wife had a baby on the way at that time.

I turned to acupuncture and physiotherapy, focusing on my tight neck and shoulder muscles, and that helped a lot. Massage therapy also helped a great deal, and so I continue. Most importantly, I dramatically changed my work habits, but I know some damage has been done. I've recently been finding that it painful to wash the inside of wineglasses and coffee cups, because of the pressure on my hands when I squeeze them into a small space. So, I'm reviewing my posture at the keyboard and now carry my gym bag with a long strap across my chest, rather than by the handle because I think clutching that heavy bad every day is a lot of pressure and strain.

I also go for massage therapy as often as possible, and ask Chris to really focus on breaking up knots in my neck and shoulders, as well as the forearms. Sometimes, its quite painful as he tries to work out an old knot and probably scar tissue that's built up from 20 years of bad habits and poor posture. From time to time, I'll let him do some lower back work because muscles there can get pretty tight, especially if I've been doing weights. THAT hurts like the devil, especially when Chris starts digging into the spot deep in the butt where a lot of major muscles from the legs up and back down, all connect. Eeeeyowch! Who knew that underneath all those large, large layers of fat, so many muscles were attaching themselves. And they seem to be pretty angry about it!

Comments (2)


I had some cranial sacral work done by a really good therapyst and the permanent pain in my back from painting for hours has never come back. It felt like a refridgerator floated off my body when the pain went away. I just found the number for a massage therapyst here in Paris. You have to be careful who you go to.

Good for you for trying to remedy and prevent as much as possible. Neck, shoulder and arm problems are SO common. I know I am guilty of slouching myself, and of spending too much time on the computer. I try to do a lot of yoga and pilates to counteract it. A massage sounds great too!

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