new_health (2006-31)

Body Shop

Hurts so good

by Wendy C. Smith

I have, as usual, procrastinated on “getting into shape for summer” until now. So I find myself in mid-summer exercising with my friend and exercise fanatic, Sergeant Jessyca. She’s tough, and there’s not much slack in our self-imposed exercise program. She’s been nudging me along for about three weeks now, though I must admit that bicycling downtown to exercise class followed by sausage and biscuits at the Bistro before biking home is not a bad nudge. It’s those 6:30 a.m. runs that make me go “hmmm…”

My lower back has been bothering me, especially after these runs, so I decided to visit Marianne Wilson, a sports massage expert. Marianne is a lively Sagittarius who thoroughly enjoys her work and likes to educate her clients. She is a certified massage therapist and specializes in massage, myofascial muscle release and structural integration. She is also a certified Ashtanga yoga instructor.

She told me that although she does sports massage, her style is more correctly termed deep-tissue massage. I cringed a bit at that, conjuring up images of my poor bruised body. I’ve never tried deep-tissue massage, but I’ve heard that it can be quite painful due to the probing fingers of the therapist and the toxins that the body releases during such work. Marianne must have noticed my response because she immediately told me that bruising results from digging too deep. To avoid that, she reads the energy of the client’s muscles and uses her intuition to decide how deep to go. She also gave me a one-to-10 scale and told me to let her know if she hit a seven, as that was her “back-off” number.

Marianne believes in looking at the client as a whole and has worked with many people to relieve chronic pain. Her theory works to find the original injury and figure out how that led to further injury. When we’re hurt, our bodies try to make us whole again, and sometimes that causes parts of our body that aren’t near the injury site to overcompensate. Over time, that overcompensation can cause pain and further injury. Her goal is to find the areas of injury and overcompensation and manipulate them back into correct form.

She left the room while I undressed and slipped under the covers. When she returned, the first several minutes of the massage were about warming up the muscles. That was new. I don’t recall receiving a massage that began with a warm-up. She rubbed my back and shoulders with firm strokes and announced that my shoulders, particularly my right one, were very tight. She also told me that my pelvis was tilted forward. She said that a lot of people have tilted pelvises due to, in most cases, sitting incorrectly and slouching and that it can cause lower back pain. I admit I do both, and as previously mentioned, also have some pain. I had attributed it to running, but maybe not.

One of the things I liked about Marianne is her penchant for talking about the different muscles and how they interconnect as she’s working on them. It’s like a mini biology lesson. I found it interesting to hear how my muscles, the muscle fascia and skeletal system all interact. (The fascia is the thin membrane that covers the muscles, like cling wrap, and can restrict muscle movement when it is crinkled.)

I was surprised at how hard she manipulated my muscles, yet I only said “seven” once throughout the whole massage. She worked out all the knots in my shoulders and back and I could feel them actually breaking up as she kneaded and rubbed my muscles. She spent a lot of time on my lower back in anticipation of realigning my pelvis. I wasn’t looking forward to that. It sounded painful, even though the massage thus far had not been. “Realign” and “pelvis” are just not meant to be in the same sentence.

Anyhow, after the knots and crinkles were gone, she manipulated my hips to open the sacroiliac joint and re-orient the pelvis. This was the amazing part. I actually felt my pelvis kind of sink in and settle, and it felt good. She did some sort of muscle measurement to make sure my pelvic bones were even and we were done.

When I got off the table, my back pain was gone. I felt loose, graceful and energized, and my center of gravity had shifted. I had noticed earlier in the month that my center of gravity had moved upward and my movement had been feeling very awkward. The pelvic alignment returned my center of gravity to its regular place and that awkwardness was gone.

It was an eye-opening experience for me. My muscles and structure were never manipulated in such a manner or with such results. Marianne says that this world is so full of stress and injury that massage is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. To that, I say yes.

Marianne Wilson can be reached at 584-3864.