I was in a cafe, you know, one of those pokey little ones with beautiful wood panelling, hanging plants and not enough space to move about when it gets busy.
I smiled at the cashier after just paying for my caramel latte (yes, I do like a caramel latte´ from time to time) and backed up to the coffee machine side to await my order.
My heel crushed the toe of a poor woman who was collecting her coffee.
"Whoop! Sorry." I said, turning about and trying to regain balance.
Sandra (we'll call her Sandra), just smiled at me awkwardly and clutched her neck with one hand while holding her coffee with the other.
"Oh, I hope I didn't cause that!" I indicated to her neck.
She attempted a half laugh. "No. Not at all. Ugh, I've had this for days."
"Yeah. I get these wretched headaches, too." She said feigning a smile to be polite about her problems.
"I see. What brought this on? Was it from an accident or did it just come on suddenly?"
Typical me, out grabbing a coffee and I get right into therapist mode. Well, I became a therapist to help people after all. I know what chronic pain is like. It sucks.
I got talking to Sandra and she mentioned to me that she always suffers from tight neck and shoulders. Occasionally she gets a headache that stems from the back of her neck and presses in like a cap from the base of her skull all the way to her eyes.
Normally, Sandra tells me, she puts up with it but lately after working extra hard at her desk trying meet deadlines it had got much worse. It had gotten so bad her sleeping had been effected.
"I feel hungover without the fun of actually drinking." She mused, rubbing her neck some more.
Yip. A story I'd heard often before.
I mentioned to her what I do for a job and started explaining that I could assist in her recovery. I always feel a little silly doing this; I never want to come across like a used cars salesman.
But Sandra definitely needed my help.
After talking for a couple of minutes, sipping our coffees and hogging some of the precious floor space I presented her my card.
She thanked me then said: "I'd love to book in, but massages are expensive."
I wasn't offended. "Expensive compared to what?" I asked.
She looked at me. Contemplated my question and shrugged. "I could buy a nice top with the price of a massage."
I laughed. She was right. "You could. Yet, your neck wouldn't be any better. Massage therapy can improve your quality of life. There really is no price for good health."
Great. I really was sounding like a used car salesman.
"This feels pretty bad though. I don't think pampering will help me."
Ah, I see. There was the real problem. She didn't know that massage therapy was more than just a nice back rub. I explained a little bit more about what I actually do but I could tell she needed to go.
I gave her some quick advice and a stretch that might help.
She thanked me and we went our separate ways.
My phone rang a week or so later. It was Sandra. Her headaches had barely stopped since I last saw her in the cafe. She sounded tired and fed up. She had been to see her doctor (which is always a good idea) but her doctor had said that there was nothing wrong except her neck felt really tense and she was possibly stressed due to work.
So, she booked in with me.
After the first session she had a decent nights sleep and could focus at work. It took a few more treatments to calm things right down and get decent range of movement back in her neck. Following my advice on sitting posture, breathing techniques and exercises her headaches became less frequent and eventually went away.
Sandra couldn't believe how every treatment with me had been different. I told her that's because my massage is specific to the cause of dysfunction and what you need on the day
One thing I am always trying to do (and as I said, I hate sounding like a pushy salesman) is teaching people that massage is not just pampering.
It is a therapy that aids in the bodies recovery; the relaxing of oneself to heal and feel good, as well as correcting any imbalances.
In my sessions I employ a whole range of techniques: trigger point therapy, stretches, joint mobilisation, and general Swedish massage that makes you relax (the power of relaxation is terribly understated, FYI).
Sandra now comes in for a massage once a month to help her de-stress and if she feels her neck playing up she'll book in for one sooner. Mostly though she maintains her own health through my self care advice and having changed her desk around.
And that is my goal for everyone: to come in for the regular massage treatment that makes you feel good instead of waiting until things get bad, relieving it once, then waiting again until it's really bad again.
I call that 'chasing the pain tail'.
If you suffer from headaches, neck pain, shoulder instability, old injuries that seem to always come back or if you just feel so run down all the time, consider booking a massage with a professionally trained therapist.
It may take a few treatments, especially if you've had the issue for a long time, but soon you'll realise that massage is money well spent on your overall well-being!
Chris is a fully trained massage therapist, registered with Massage New Zealand,
he has two diplomas in therapeutic and clinical massage therapy and a certificate in relaxation.
Chris works from the historical Orewa House on the Hibiscus Coast and with the team at Lifestyles NMT in New Lynn, Auckland.