A couple of weeks ago I started with my typical dry-skin challenges of winter. However, this time I developed a significant skin crack on the knuckle of my right middle finger. This knuckle is a tool that I use when I need to deliver precise, deep pressure. At first, I thought about cancelling some deep pressure clients, but I didn’t. Instead I worked around the injury—and I’m glad I did. For one, I got better at using my left (non-dominant), middle-finger knuckle to deliver deep pressure. I also “created” and got efficient at using new power tools (two or more tools—fingers, thumbs, knuckles, fists, elbows-forearms—that are used together). In essence, my injury helped me become a more durable and balanced therapist. Here’s my process for working around a hand injury:
1. Think: “Work Around” Not “Work Through”
We’ve all done it: repeat the same mistake over and over. My latest injury was a perfect example. At first I taped my knuckle and tried to work through the discomfort, like I’ve done in the past, but my knuckle just got angrier. Finally, after my knuckle became sore to the touch, I decided to work around the injury instead of through it. In other words, I would not use, or minimally use, my right, middle-finger knuckle. Instead I would figure out other ways to deliver precise, deep pressure. When I gave that knuckle a rest, it finally had time to heal and within a week, it was good to go again. This time I think (hope) the lesson has stuck.
2. Think: Opposite Side
Since I wasn’t going to use my right, middle-finger knuckle during a massage and I wasn’t cancelling any clients, the pressure was on. I needed to immediately figure out new ways to deliver precise, deep pressure during the upcoming scheduled massages. The good news was that I was familiar with using my left, middle-finger knuckle to deliver deep pressure, just not good at it. So with my right knuckle out of commission, I put my left knuckle to work. It took some work but to my surprise, within 10 massages I felt competent with my left knuckle. Which begs the question: if my right knuckle wasn’t injured, would I have ever gotten better with my left? My guess is probably not.
3. Think: T-Bar
I also tried substituting my thumbs and fingers for my right knuckle, but this wasn’t sustainable because I used my thumbs and fingers a lot throughout a massage already. So I started experimenting with my T-bar. The fact is that I also used my T-bar a lot throughout a massage, but the T-bar didn’t overtax my hand muscles and finger joints because I could hold it in a variety of ways. Substituting the T-bar for a knuckle was new to me, but I found it to be an excellent substitute when doing precise, deep pressure in the arches of the feet, on the levator scapulae attachment and in the upper cervical areas.
4. Think: New Power Tools
Though I had temporarily stopped massaging with my right, middle-finger knuckle, I habitually kept placing my hands down as if I were going to use my injured knuckle. When that happened I found myself experimenting with using other knuckles on my right hand. Because I never experimented with these knuckles individually, it felt comfortable to support them with another tool. Soon I had more power tools (two or more tools—fingers, thumbs, knuckles, fists, elbows-forearms—that are used together) at my disposal. My new power tools were right, pinky-knuckle braced with left thumb and right, index-finger knuckle braced with left thumb. These combinations were great for detail work in the back and upper shoulders.
There’s no doubt that it can be scary when you get injured. But if you can work around an injury there’s potential for multiple payoffs. For one, you’ll become more versatile with under-used tools. You’ll also begin to “create” and use new power tools in ways you never imagined before. Lastly, you’ll feel more confident in your ability to succeed in massage because despite being injured you will have gotten the job done without compromising the quality of your work.
Are you currently trying to work around an injury? Please let me know. Also, I’d love to hear how you turned an injury into a learning opportunity! Leave a comment here on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/themassageinstitute.net/