After a Lengthy Hiatus, I Finally Had a Massage and Bodywork

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by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Last week, I returned to work for the first time since late March. It’s been an odd summer, to say the least. I also haven’t been able to get bodywork in months, an essential part of my self-care routine and critical to keeping my pain levels under control.

Firstly, massage therapy wasn’t available due to the COVID-19 lockdown in Virginia, where I live. After that was lifted, Kim, my bodyworker, offered a modified schedule, but after giving me one session, she injured her neck and shoulder while sleeping and required several months of recovery.

Some have asked why I didn’t go to someone else, and there are two main reasons. The first is that I’m a bit of a mess physically. It has taken Kim years of working on me to begin to understand some of some of the strange patterns of compensation my body has developed to respond to the pain. Without that knowledge, bodywork would be difficult.

Secondly, I trust her. I know she’s following COVID-19 protocols strictly and requiring patients to do the same. If I went to someone I didn’t know, how could I be confident they’re doing everything possible to stay safe?

Last week, Kim messaged to ask if I wanted a session. Of course I did. I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, as I was a mess. But I hadn’t realized just how bad I was until she started to work on me. After a long period without bodywork, I move past traditional pain and simply lump everything into a numb block of my shoulder and back.

My right arm reaches a point in which it stops swinging as I walk, because my shoulder is so tight and sore that it tries to “help” itself by remaining still. In actuality, that makes things worse, so I try to keep my arm moving, but it doesn’t deal with the root of the problem.

The pain must be pretty severe for me to consciously recognize it by that point, which actually happened a few days before my appointment, when my bad shoulder and neck were so tight and painful that it caused a throbbing headache that made me nauseous. I hate it when that happens.

When Kim first started to work on me at the latest appointment, not much happened. I wasn’t flinching, twitching, or having my other normal reactions. My body seemed oddly calm. Then it was like a sleeping bear had been poked. The bear was angry everywhere — my neck, shoulder, back, hips.

Kim made a lot of progress, but I’ve definitely slid backward in the past several months without regular sessions.

Although it was a rough return, I feel much better as I write this, and I’m thankful I was able to have an appointment with her. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to return to a relatively normal schedule going forward so that we can continue the progress.

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