a community of practitioners
Two opportunities for feedback this issue:
#1: Inspiration & Insight
How do you pay it forward? (reply with a picture)
#2: Speak Your Mind
How do you take care of your hands? (reply with your best advice)
#1: I do volunteer hospice massage. I would do it 100% of the time if I didn't need to pay bills! I think all of us, as massage therapists, find making people feel better VERY rewarding so helping terminal patients reduce their pain and anxiety the ultimate gift. Attached is a photo with my 29-year-old patient, Tawni, that has Glioblastoma brain cancer. Nothing is more rewarding than someone that is in non-stop pain telling you that they feel great. Its also a huge relief to the caregivers since they have anxiety seeing their loved one suffer.
#2: Oh gosh. Good question! I use the SPAball Kaddy tool for trigger point and deep tissue manipulation. That helps A LOT, but I'm also very quick to use ice at the end of the day... with a glass of chardonnay at times! And, of course, stretching my forearms muscles in between massages.
#2 How do you take care of your hands?
Just Listen...and find the alternatives
Since I also love to play guitar, it's especially challenging to resist the temptation to over-do it with my hands, but I have to listen to them. That listening, fellow LMTs, is the key. As we all love to instruct our clients, we too must listen to our own pain, listen to our own injuries, and heed the warning signs of a potential injury. Self-care means tuning into what we need to give attention to in our bodies (and in our minds if we feel burn-out coming on, for instance...).
It's very easy to take one more client, or one more shift and ignore that aching feeling in your hands (or anywhere for that matter). The way to prevent injury is to balance your work and your life with alternatives. That means, per treatment, maybe try some rocking to use the client's own body-weight for leverage; per day, be comfortable saying "no" to one more client, per week to one more shift. And even per career, consider other modalities like aquatic bodywork, Reiki, or teaching to break up your heavy hands-on days.
For the here and now, in stead of playing the guitar, doing the dishes or scrubbing the tub when you get home from work, wait until tomorrow! Choose instead to catch up on your reading or listen to music, dance, sing, or engage yourself with some other art or activity that restores you, and in turn, restores your hands.
Lisa DiBello, LMT
I am a very spiritual person, so I stay in tune with myself, and make sure to give myself moments of peace, away from the world. It can be very helpful to just get away, be one with nature, and forget about the rest of the world for a moment. I find that a lot of clarity can come in those moments.
I am also a very creative person, and I enjoy music, drawing and writing. As much as we help others, it is important to have a way to express ourselves, and let ourselves be heard in some way that has nothing to do with massage or anything else. To have something that is simply you is absolutely priceless.
As far as massage goes, I like to use my work as a form of therapy for both the client and myself. When I walk into my room, I leave all my junk outside. Every bit of stress and worry is obsolete until the massage day is over. In the massage room, it's just me and my client, sharing the same moment of peace and relief. Nothing else matters, nothing else is there, except positivity and peace, until we walk out of the room. When I spend the day like this, I find myself in similar shape as the client - relaxed, and ready to take on the rest of my day.
Instead of over-working my muscles, I lean into my massage, using my body weight to provide the pressure for my clients. This allows the muscles in my hands and arms to be preserved, while still allowing for optimal pressure and quality of the massage. I avoid using my thumbs unless I feel it is necessary. Instead, I will use a braced finger or two, a knuckle, a fist, or an elbow. This will prevent my thumbs from going out in a few short years, which is a common occurrence in this field of work.
Maintaining enthusiasm within my practice is as easy, and as difficult, as taking care of clients, who in turn inspire me to greater efforts with a spontaneous hug when they leave my treatment room, pain free for the first time in weeks.
Providing therapeutic massage is hard on the therapist, especially on the hands. We are human, so sometimes don't follow the advice we give to our clients, and fail to counter the hypertonicity in forearm flexors by exercising and stretching our forearm extensors. Following every session, overhead and posterior stretching of arms coupled with extensor stretching of hands immediately provides relief to my aching hands.