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Chronicles of a Massage Therapist: The Issue is in the Tissue

Cohutta Healing Arts Institute Relates Therapist’s Stories

“My right arm hurts” the client told me at her first session. “It’s near the elbow, and hurts after I’ve been working for a long time.” We reviewed her health history together, and then I started the massage session with gentle, sustained stretching to her right arm and shoulder, known as Myofascial Release. I repeated the stretches on the other side for “balance” and comparison, and was surprised to find severe restrictions and resistance in her left shoulder and arm. “What happened to this side?” I queried. “Nothing. It’s my right side that hurts. Please work on it”unnamed

The client is always right, so I continued to work locally on her right arm and elbow area, noticing tension in the tendon commonly described as “tennis elbow”. After a few minutes of an ice pack application and friction on the tight tendon, it loosened up, so I stretched the attached muscles and advised the client on how to continue treatment at home, and encouraged her not to overwork her right arm. My instincts said to check the other arm again, so I returned to her assess her left side.

Again I discovered unusual restrictions and muscle adhesions just below the surface of her skin. “What happened to this arm?” I asked again. All of a sudden, she gasped. “I’d pushed it totally out of my memory. It caught in a threshing machine when I was a kid, and it almost tore off my body. I forgot all about it until just now.” The dam holding back her flood of muscle memory and repressed trauma burst as she started crying hard, cradling her left arm with her right one, and rocking it back and forth like a baby.

After she calmed down, I encouraged her to let me try some more gentle Myofascial Release techniques while she continued to verbalize the pain and fear she’d repressed since childhood. Seeking continuous feedback during the process, my client was able to tell the story of what had happened to her for the first time as an adult, processing the emotions that were too intense to process as a child, so had been tucked away for a later date.

There is a saying in the field of bodywork that “The issue is in the tissue.” Old memories, wounds, emotional and physical traumas get trapped inside us at times. Later, when it is “safe” to do so in a supportive environment, the original incident can be replayed, processed, and finally be released. While massage therapists are encouraged to refer clients in need of psychological support to qualified physicians for diagnosis and treatment, there is quite often a mind-body connection that becomes apparent once a session starts.

This brave woman was able to actually feel the pain in her left arm and shoulder for the first time in decades, asked for help in relieving her injuries, and subsequently released a lot of the old scars that were held both in her muscle tissue and in her psyche. The overuse of her right arm was alleviated once she realized the left side had been forgotten “on purpose” long ago. She was then able to come back into balance and both arms became pain-free.

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Call 855-515-2424 to speak with a CHAI School of Massage staff member about their certificate program.

Located in Ellijay, Georgia, the CHAI School of Massage provides a comprehensive massage therapy educational program that includes training in medical massage, sports massage, and energetic modalities. For more details visit: