Joanne had been a client of mine for many years and loved deep pressure. One day she asked: “Does your body ever hurt after doing massage?” To this day I wonder if my head actually cocked to the side like a confused puppy. Wasn’t the obvious answer: Hell, yes?!
I responded with something like: “I have ways to manage.” But, at the time, the truth was that I didn’t. In fact, my left arm felt like it was going to fall off. Eventually, I got to the point where I needed to take action: fix what hurt or find a new job. And after a year or so of experimentation, I discovered if I keep my work below, close to, and in front of me, I could essentially eliminate my shoulder and neck pain.
Keep Your Work Below You
My neck issue (cervical radiculopathy) was causing pain in my upper back and down my arm. I could see a connection between using my left elbow and an increase in pain down my arm. If I were going to use my left elbow less, I needed a replacement. I chose my knuckles. But I couldn’t generate enough pressure with my knuckles at my normal table height. That’s when I began experimenting with lowering my table.
When I lowered my table, my neck/shoulder/arm started to feel better, but now I was raising my shoulders to generate more pressure. What would happen if I lowered my table even more? My neck condition got even better!
Oops, Too Low
The next question was how low should I go? My lower back provided the answer. After a period of “ups and downs” with my table, I discovered the other two ingredients that allowed me to keep my table low enough to save my neck/shoulders/arms without bothering my lower-back.
Close To You
It’s the best feeling in the world when a youngin’ asks YOU to pick him up. Unfortunately, as he grows, it gets harder to do so and tougher on your back. But you may have noticed that if you can keep the child close to your body as you squat and lift him, you can reduce back strain by maintaining a neutral (not flexed) back.
I found the same to be true when doing deep pressure. The closer I can get to the table (without touching the client with my body), the easier it was for me to keep my back neutral. I also had better leverage.
In Front of You
The “below” and “close to” was working well for eliminating the pain down my arm—but I’d still get the sharp pain in my levator scapulae area. I noticed that it seemed to occur more frequently when I was reaching to a side while pressing—and I didn’t have to reach too far off center to trigger the pain. To keep my work in front of me I needed to move my feet so that I would always be in a position to lean straight ahead.
Move Your Feet
Moving your feet may seem like a lot a work—but it probably takes more energy to press with your upper body when you’re not in a position to simply use your body weight to generate pressure than it does to move your feet and lean.
And I promise you, in the long run, the pay-off is worth the practice it takes to make “moving your feet” a habit. I demonstrate “moving your feet” here.
Change Your Pain Today
For me, there’s nothing worse to my psyche then when my philosophy, who I think I am and/or who I want to be, doesn’t match my reality. I used to think that being in pain from working deep was the price I had to pay for helping someone get out of pain. But as my pain compounded, my martyrdom philosophy stopped working for me. If I couldn’t lessen the pain for myself, I’d have to find a new career.
I was able to reduce/eliminate shoulder and neck pain when doing deep pressure—and I know you can, too. Start experimenting with keeping your work below, close to and in front of you. Don’t worry if you find that what works best for your body is different then what worked best for me. It can vary. If you get stuck, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me or leave a comment. We can figure it out!