Healing Hands

Princess Alethea MermaidAs I mentioned last month, among my resolutions for 2013 were a few “Internal” goals. One of these goals I actually cheated and started before the New Year, mostly because I was in ghastly amounts of pain.

That’s right — I booked a massage.

Right now you’re thinking, “Oh, Alethea. What is wrong with you? It’s not terrible to book a massage, you selfish thing!” Part of me thinks that too. In fact, I thought that for so long, I never actually GOT a massage, because I was worried that I would fall in love with it and then never be able to afford it again. All I knew about massages I read in books and saw in movies. They looked like wonderful, magical things…especially for a writer with chronic neck & shoulder stiffness.

A few years ago, I tried a 30-minute chair massage.
I was in severe pain for the next three days.

I tried chair massages twice after that, thinking that it was ood for me, working out these muscles. Now, I’ve had whiplash from riding Outer Limits (now Flight of Fear) at King’s Island. The pain I felt after every chair massage was ten times worse than whiplash.

I did a lot last year — driving myself 2500 miles around the southeast for my own book tour, then sitting down to write an entire novel, all the while still attending conventions and Comic Cons every other week. I saw a chiropractor and hated every minute of it. By Halloween, I’d lost feeling in my right armpit. I bought a coupon for a local Yoga studio online…and then promptly got sick. By Christmas, I decided to make the call. I was prepared for the pain.

A month and three massages later, I’m here to tell you: I have found a new way of life. I’m sleeping better and have fewer headaches. Luis, my masseuse, is my new favorite person. This is one resolution I mean to keep.

If you have never had a table massage before, here are some helpful things to know:

1.) A chair massage and a table massage are totally different. A chair massage can be done in a mall. A table massage is done in a private room, with low lighting and soothing music. It’s amazing what a difference ambiance makes. The more relaxed you are, the better your massage will go. My massages were performed on a heated table, and were a million times less painful than my experience in The Chair.

2.) Get naked. This is really the perfect opportunity to get over all those hang-ups you might have with your body. What the masseuse needs you to be is a lump of dead weight on the table–he or she will move your arms and legs and head as needed. You are under layers of bedsheets, and the masseuse reveals only what he/she needs to, folding and tucking the ends under your body so nothing comes loose. It’sĀ  very professional and discreet.

On my first visit, I kept envisioning myself as a big fat mob boss with a cigar, like in the comic books. THEY don’t care what they look like, and those guys get massages ALL THE TIME. (Plus, when your masseuse finds that magical pressure point in your size-14 butt that clenches around your sciatic nerve after sitting in a chair for 9 hours, you will be so happy you won’t even care.)

3.) Communication is key. Be sure to let your masseuse know up front that this is your first time. He or she will help guide you through things (like when it’s time to flip over). Ask any questions you like and bring up any concerns you might have before it all starts. No need to overshare–just tell them if you have areas you’d like them to concentrate on. They’ll find the rough spots, even the ones you don’t know about.

Then it’s time to shut up and relax. Relaxing is difficult for me, so it requires concentration. Similarly, your masseuse is doing the equivalent of seeing inside your body with their hands. They need to concentrate as well. Of course, if you are feeling unbearable pain, let your masseuse know immediately. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable as they work on those rough patches, but pain is not the goal.

4.) There are different types of massage. Books and movies teach us to be scared of “deep tissue” and anything that involves someone walking on your back. Massages can range from 1-10, 1 being Relaxation Massage and 10 being Deep Tissue. The massages I get are “Therapeutic Massages,” which are at about a 7 or 8. In Therapeutic Massage, there is a lot of work done with thumbs and forearms. With Deep Tissue, it’s all elbows. Communicate to your masseuse about the level of massage you desire.

5.) Tip well. Yes, massages are expensive, and I balked when I realized that I was expected to fork over an additional $15-20 to the masseuse when my hour was up. But consider: this person has just spent an hour intimately touching your naked body with the express purpose of you feeling better. And at the end of that hour, when you DO feel better, you will wish you’d brought more than a $20 with you to give this person. Trust me.

This doesn’t cover everything, but hopefully this post will help some writers who might be on the fence make the decision to treat themselves better and spring for a therapeutic massage. If exercise and chiropractomancy hasn’t worked for you and you’re leaning toward physical therapy or–heaven forbid–surgery, give massage a try. Personally, I am SO glad I did.

And maybe one day in the future I’ll get Luis to have a Guy Day with us… *grin*