People have often asked me questions or made comments such as, “Does anyone ever gross you out?” “How do you touch people’s feet? I just couldn’t do it.” “How do you deal with warts or other blemishes?” and “What if someone has a rash?”
I am certain my answer will mirror many healthcare professionals rationale here. Be compassionate and real with clients. Be smart. Wear gloves when gloves are needed. Refer when someone needs referring. Don’t touch what doesn’t need touching. Treat the client to the best of your ability, always!
I am not worried about unshaven legs and people’s bodies do not ever “gross” me out. It just doesn’t happen. Touch is a huge part of the human experience and has long been a universal healing method. Need reminding? Check out: Touch: An Instinctive Healing Modality
I don’t look at you through the lens of flaws. I look at your body and your life experiences as a whole system; a quite efficient and mind-blowing system, really. I see an operating system in need of some maintenance.
Let’s go ahead and break it down a bit…
I Visualize the Muscular System
The actual true number of muscles in the human body is up for debate. We are going to go with the agreed upon, “nearly 700” muscles in the human body. These are muscles we can actually count and are known. As a Massage Therapist, I am clinically most interested in 200 or so of those muscles.
There are three categories of muscle: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle.
- Skeletal muscles move bones.
- Cardiac muscle is solely found in the walls of the heart.
- Smooth muscles are known as the involuntary muscles. Smooth muscle is found in the walls of hollow organs such as: stomach, oesophagus, bronchi, and the walls of the blood vessels. It is nearly impossible to quantify the smooth muscle as they are not as easily distinguished as the skeletal muscles.
I Feel Tension and Trigger Points
When you are on the table, I am feeling your muscles for spasms, tenderness, trigger points, and overall tension spots. I am examining your muscle fiber for lines of tension that run through the body. An example of that is tracking muscle tightness from the top of your shoulder up into your neck.
I Visualize the Skeletal System
Here is a bit of bone trivia to put in your back pocket:
There are 206 bones in the human adult body. We are born with 270 bones, however over time some of our bones fuse together therefore decreases the total number of bones. Over half of our bones are located in our hands (54 bones) and our feet (52 bones). That is a pretty awesome structural system we have going on, agreed?
I Watch Your Movement
I watch you walk. I observe you sit. I notice how you approach stairs and uneven surfaces. It’s important to pay attention to how you roll over on the massage table and how you lay your arms and how your hips and feet fall when you are relaxed. Watching you move tells me where you may have old or recent injuries and it tells me what could be hurting and where there are imbalances.
I Observe Your Mood
Some may refer to this as “energy” or “affect.” For the purposes of a quick evaluation, I lump all of the words together under one basic umbrella meaning. Checking out your facial expressions and body language tells me so much about your state of being. Being in touch with that information allows there to be space to factor in your mood as it relates to your pain and healing.
I Hear You
Life stories are shared in various ways. As a Massage Therapist, I witness those stories expressed through the scars left behind from injuries and past bruises and falls. I hear these stories in how people explain themselves, how they explain their pain, and how they approach healing. Sometimes people are a total open book – they speak their story, holding very little back as they laugh about their college days and talk about their recent heartbreak.
It is my job to simply hold the space. I don’t hold onto those stories and I don’t try to fix their heartache. I focus on how this pain is presenting in the body and I help them to heal that.
So what do I see when I see you? I see YOU – the whole you.
Bonus: “Flaws” by Bastille
I want to circle back to the mention of looking through the lens of flaws. Many people come to a massage feeling vulnerable. Let’s face it; it can be an intimate experience.
It is a complete honor to be invited into someone’s healing process. It is something I take very seriously and respect.
Here is a musical interlude about flaws. I think it speaks well to understanding our vulnerability and our points of growth. It can be applied to the emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological. Enjoy.