These past few months (since mid- March) have been nothing short of weird, crazy, scary, and ultimately life changing. Who ever imagined a world wide sweep of a virus would lead to stay at home orders. WHAT?! Stay home? Overnight I became a home-school mom with an income that came to a screeching halt. I do realize others have more serious health related risks associated with a new, incurable virus on the loose and I was merely inconvenienced with the home school part but however this pandemic has touched your life, it's a big deal for you. It's a big deal for all of us. Is there a silver lining? I'm a cup half full person so here's one area where COVID-19 may be a blessing in disguise.
While there are many massage therapists without income which leads to stress and a host of other problems, I couldn't help but notice the frequency of posts on social media commenting how their body needed a break and this "forced" break gave them the excuse to rest and recuperate their overused body. These posts were across multiple groups and some received comments in the hundreds relating that they too needed a break. In my own circle of MT friends and colleagues I heard a few who were saying the same thing. I've been there too.
My first thought when reading these posts was, "I can totally relate, and I know how to help" but a quick second thought was "Why do we do this to ourselves?" Why does it take a "forced break" to give our bodies the rest it needs to stay healthy? Is it because we are caretakers, healers, therapists and we give, give, give? Is it because we have poor boundaries around saying no? Are we worried we will lose clients if we don't take the appointments when they are there? Is it that the management at our place of employment doesn't allow the breaks our body needs, or did we not even ask? Whichever of these may have hit home for you it's time to put ourselves first. Massage and bodywork is a physically demanding profession. Years of school and thousands of dollars invested does no one any good if our body breaks down. The importance of self care is drilled into us from school forward so why don't we do it? I can't speak for everyone but as a personal trainer and massage therapy teacher I've heard every excuse/reason in the book. They all fall into two categories. Excuses and lack of knowledge where to begin.
The excuses are just that and there is no place for excuses if you want to be successful.
For someone beginning a self care routine with no prior exercise background it can be overwhelming. For the massage therapist with a movement background (dance, sports, martial arts) this may come naturally. Most people are somewhere in between. So where is a good place to start that will offer the most benefit for massage therapists specifically? Start with basic strength training! And not just any strength training. Strength training specific to the joints and body parts used most during massage treatments is the best use of your time. Fingers,hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders. These aren't the only joints MTs use repetitively but are the ones that need to withstand the most torque and pressure.
Let's take tendinitis of the elbow for an example. Massage therapists use their hands or some part of them for the majority of their work. Use of the fingers, knuckles, fists and palms all go through the elbow joint. Being that the radius and ulna can rotate around one another, or pronate/supinate, the muscles around this joint (where tendinitis pain occurs) can be affected when not used in a straight line. A more likely cause for tendinitis at the elbow is the use of hands and fingers in a squeezing or grasping movement. This type of movement is often paired with a bending of the wrist or supination of the forearm which leads to inflammation and tendinitis. One other culprit is not engaging the muscles of the back and torso. The serratus anterior and lower trapezius should be working during every stroke. While the misuse of the hands can be corrected by awareness, the back and torso muscles can be strengthened to help tendinitis go away and not return. Massage therapists need to know how to turn on (contract) these large back and torso muscles. Strengthening them specifically brings awareness to how it feels when they are contracted so they can be turned on when needed during the work day.
There is always a way out of pain with strength training at the top of the list. It doesn't take much. Simple strength exercises using little to no equipment is all you need. What you put in to taking care of your body is what it will give you in return. Do your self care. Stay safe and be ready to go back to work when we are able.
If treated with respect a massage therapist's body will stand the test of time.
Until next time,
Be fit, Be strong
Come hang with us, where we are happy and massaging pain-free.
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