I “gumbified” 4 clients with my own neck in spasm

September 27, 2015  |  no comments yet
Image courtesy of Brad Harrison at sxc.hu

Image courtesy of Brad Harrison at sxc.hu

One of our clients says she’s “gumbified” after she’s had a treatment here. That’s as clear a description as I’ve heard for post-massage looseness and relaxation.

Four clients I saw at the end of last week all reported reaching that state (if not exactly with that word). What they didn’t know, what there was no reason to tell them because it didn’t affect our work together, was that my own neck and shoulder were in such painful spasm that I could hardly turn my head.

Massage clients, yoga students, and others have told me, “You must be so relaxed.” Or, “You probably have no stress.”

Chris and I do have relaxing jobs. Doing calm, healing work has ongoing benefits for us. Working in a soothing environment with clients who leave feeling better than when they arrived is a formula for reducing stress and increasing our own relaxation.

However, we are not immune to life’s stressors. We are vulnerable to injury, illness, stressful events, and anxiety about things everyone else worries about.

Being a professional bodywork and yoga practitioner means I have access and expertise to utilize tools for healing and relaxation. That helps. A lot.

But just as I have no magic wand to change a client’s reality, there is none for mine either . The neck injury I sustained in 1991 sometimes recurs in the form of very painful neck and shoulder spasm.

I have worked diligently with professionals including P.T.s, chiropractors, orthopedists, and, yes, massage therapists. I’ve utilized self-care including ice, heat, strengthening, stretching, and more. I have altered my own yoga and meditation practice, exercise, and ways of using my body and mind to reduce the likelihood I’ll trigger the recurring spasm and increase my strength and mobility.

I have learned what makes my neck worse and what helps it heal. Nearly guaranteed to trigger my neck spasm: Neck stretches, passive range of motion (i.e., when someone turns or tilts my head for me), and direct pressure in the affected area. Even when a deep neck massage feels yummy at the time, by the next day I cannot turn my head.

Even the most skilled manual physical therapy and medical massage that help so many people recover from car accident injuries and other issues actually make my neck worse. I refer clients to these practitioners when appropriate because they do help others.

What makes my neck feel better? Aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, Jazzercise) and general relaxation. These are the activities most likely to prevent my recurrent spasm and to help it heal once it’s begun. Getting foot reflexology treatments also relaxes my entire body, including my neck. (That’s why I trained in, and now offer, reflexology, too.) Patience helps, too. Once my neck spasm recurs, it takes about as long to resolve as a cold virus.

Working with clients last week during my acute neck spasm doesn’t make it worse. If it did, I would “call in sick.” I worked sensibly with my body, as well with my clients’ (true whether or not I’m in spasm).

On this beautiful fall weekend, I am taking long walks and taking it easy. I have massages scheduled for myself every week for the foreseeable weeks ahead. They are general relaxation massages because that is what most relaxes my neck and the rest of me.

Part of our work as professional touch therapists is helping clients discover what helps them toward their goals. Often, I am my own client. Here’s to gumbifying oneself.