There are not many experiences left in this world that cause me to come out of my stupor and say, ”Wow!” But a few days ago, I had my first ever massage and all I can say is “Wow!” In fact make that a double, “Wow!”

I’m not going to go into it (oh, the hell I’m not) but recently I have had a series of old age maladies that cause a fair amount of pain—knee pain, thigh pain, hip pain, neck pain, and pain pain. And after a one-hour massage, all I know is I was feeling pretty good for the first time in a long time. I don’t know how long the relief is going to last, but several days later, I still feel better than I did pre-massage.

Now getting a massage was one of my 20 Challenges for 2015 simply because I had heard other people talk about how good they felt after getting a massage and also because it was one of those things I have never done before. In my circle of friends, we have been known to say, “Massages, I don’t need no stinking massages.” But in the spirit of trying something new, I went to a masseuse who specialized in “Therapeutic Massage.”   In researching massage, I found that therapeutic massage is an indication that the masseuse may use several different massage techniques to manipulate the muscles and connective tissue to promote relaxation and relieve pain.

These techniques include:

  • Swedish—Muscles rubbed with long, flowing strokes combined with kneading and tapping the muscles. A rather gentle massage.
  • Hot Stone—Hot stones are placed on the body and also applied by hand to massage the body. Heat can help to release tension.
  • Trigger Point—Targets specific areas of pain and where pressure is alternatively applied then released. Problem areas are pinpointed for massage instead of just the body so that more time can be spent working on specific sites where pain or stress are localized.
  • Deep Tissue—This massage applies heavy pressure to specific problem areas like the neck and shoulder.   The force used may release tension in the deep muscles that are knotted and extremely tense.
  • Thai—An invigorating whole body massage where you are put into yoga-like stretches that increase flexibility and loosen joints.

There are also other types of massages available, but I would guess that you would need to try each one to see what worked best for you. The masseuse I went to used a couple of these techniques, but said that on my first massage we should keep things pretty gentle. I had several “sore” spots and she seemed to know exactly how much pressure to apply before it got painful. She also said that it is best to start getting massages on a regular basis where you can gradually increase the level of pressure needed to solve muscle problems.

As soon as I arrived at the therapist’s office, I was treated wonderfully.  I felt confident in my choice of this masseuse because my daughter recommended her and I knew that in Washington training followed by licensing were required. Just like in a doctor’s office, I had to fill out paperwork that defined my health problems and massage goals. From there I was taken back to a room where the décor could be called “soothing”—low lighting, covered windows, and soft, low music. There was a table in the middle of the room covered with a blanket and at one end was a donut pillow to allow you to lay face down. I was told to take whatever clothing I was comfortable in taking off (I took off my shoes and hat [and then everything, but my skivvies]) and then get under the blanket.

massage-bed

The masseuse left and then returned a few minutes later. From that point on she only took the blanket off the body part that she was working on. At no time did I feel exposed or uncomfortable.

She began by working on my back and in 5 seconds I started turning to butter. There are only a few things on my list of things that provide instant gratification; a really hot shower, a good alcoholic beverage, and one I can’t mention in mixed company. With my first massage, I have now have added another pleasurable experience, that may be the best one of all, to that list.

From the first time she touched me, everything was just “marvelous” (as Billy Crystal puts it). After putting oil on her hands, she did my back, then my arms down to my fingertips, my legs down to my toe tips, and my neck. There was no pain except for around the knee I had surgery on and then at the top of each shoulder. I expected the knee to hurt, but the shoulders were a surprise. When she rubbed my shoulders I instantly could actually feel the knots that she found with her hands. She massaged them briskly but stopped right before the pain got serious. I didn’t have to tell her when to ease off she just seemed to know. She said those tight spots in my shoulders were common in people who sit at a computer for any length of time—(damn blog.)

I could feel her hands on my back, but several time the intensity really increased. I asked her if she was using her elbows at times, but she said no, “I wasn’t ready for any deeper massage.” To me it was amazing that she could apply that much pressure just using her fingers and hands. I look forward to the day I get elbowed.

The whole experience was relaxing and refreshing. When I got home my muscles felt great for the first time in a long time. I took a nap and found that, following a massage, this was one more instant gratification. The next day, I returned to physical therapy for my knee and I know that this stretching and strengthening of the muscles is slowly helping, .  But having had my muscles kneaded, pushed, and pulled seemed to have further assisted in relieving the knee pain and stiffness.

I asked the masseuse what she felt I should do in the future and she said I should get massages as often as I felt they were helping me. She said I probably shouldn’t go more than two weeks between visits because your muscles start to regress after that. It was basically left to me getting a massage whenever I could afford one. Seeing as they are instantly addicting, I now find myself on street corners holding up a sign that says, “Will work for massage money!” I haven’t brought in a lot of money, but I have received a lot of weird propositions.

20 Challenges in 2015: Get a Massage

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