Massage Therapy Beneficial for Chronic Pain Sufferers
This is a first-hand account of how massage has helped to improve the quality of life of an extraordinary woman who has suffered with chronic, debilitating pain for many, many years. She has utilized the skill and knowledge of massage therapists who have used a variety of massage therapy techniques to help her cope and manage her symptoms. She has offered to share her experiences on how massage therapy and bodywork have helped her to grow and move beyond the pain.
Suzanne, can you tell us briefly what happened to you and how it has affected your health and well being?
I have been suffering from chronic, debilitating pain for 27 years. I was in a boating accident which resulted in an evulsion of the brachial plexus - the nerves to my right arm were pulled out thus the prognosis for full recovery was nil. My right arm and hand became paralyzed. Although I had no feeling in my arm and hand, I continued to suffer excruciating nerve pain twenty four hours a day.
I still have excruciating pain in my arm/hand, but less often, and usually when the weather changes and because I tense up from the pain. There are times when the pain becomes so intense I have trouble focusing, concentrating, thinking and receiving any auditory feedback. With constant, chronic pain and the ensuing sleep deprivation, there were times when I contemplated suicide as an alternative to pain.
Prior to my accident, I had always considered myself emotionally stable, so when I experienced extreme anger at God and the "healthy, whole" people around me, it frightened me. I found myself bargaining with God and at the same time feeling abandoned by Him. As a result, I fell into a deep depression which lasted several years. Through Bodywork, I finally came to realize that what I was experiencing was the stages that people experience when they are dying. That freed my Spirit! I came to realize that I was grieving the loss of who I used to be, and at the same, hated what I had become – handicapped. I no longer felt like I was going crazy. I realized the process I was going through was normal.
Have you tried other types of alternative and complementary health treatments other than massage, to help you cope with the pain?
I have tried a wide range of alternative treatment modalities over the years to obtain relief from the pain, but also with the added hope that my nerves would regenerate. I attended physiotherapy for two years which was beneficial in keeping my range of motion but did little to relieve the pain. I have tried a variety of pain interventions such as Acupuncture, Chiropractic, Hypnotism, Guided Imagery, Reiki and Bio-feedback.
I also do deep breathing and relaxation techniques and water therapy, all of which bring only temporary relief.
How long have you been utilizing massage therapy?
Approximately 20 years ago, I was referred for massage treatments by my family doctor. I started going for weekly sessions and increased the sessions for those days when the pain was all consuming. At those times (usually Winter and Spring), I increased my sessions to every second day.
Then, about five years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (FM). The pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia were so debilitating that I had to take early retirement. With deep massage and with the help of a massage chair at my home, there has been a significant reduction in pain and exhaustion. I am able to function much better than other FM sufferers from my FM Group.
About 2 years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes. I have problems with circulation in my feet and foot reflexology was s a godsend in helping me take care of my feet.
Perhaps you could elaborate more on how massage has helped you?
Massage therapy has been my lifeline. There are tremendous physical benefits of massage that I was not able to attain through any other method. My massage therapist is skilled in deep tissue massage, reflexology and other forms of body work. I have deep penetrating scars on my back where the propeller of the boat ran over me. Over time, with the help of massage, these scars have become almost non-existent. My neck suffered severe bone and muscular damage. I had to wear a neck brace on and off to relieve the pressure in my neck and shoulders. Thanks to deep tissue massage, I no longer wear the brace.
My massage therapist helped increase the range of motion in my neck, paralyzed arm/shoulder and stiff, painful hips. I did a variety of exercises to use at home to relieve pain and increase mobility in my limbs.
Body work has also reduced my pain significantly by helping me to release the painful emotions that I was holding in my body. I had no idea that I was carrying around so much emotional pain from my accident. With guidance from my massage therapist, I started to slowly identify and release the painful emotions I was holding in various parts of my body. The emotions of sadness, despair, anger, and fear started to emerge. As I released these emotions, I found myself feeling more serene, peaceful and free of negativity.
I am so very grateful for having a massage therapist that I can trust and someone who slowly helps me unravel the mental/emotional pain inside my body. For me, massage therapy takes a client to a much higher level of being and is far more effective than traditional psychotherapy. I can feel the emotions being released from my body and the ensuing feelings of relief and contentment. I am very indebted to my massage therapist for her unobtrusive practice, and controlled, gentle pace. I always felt in control of the process, hence I never felt afraid.