Have you ever had a therapeutic massage? I don't mean the kind where the masseuse plays tinkly music and powders your feet and tickles them with a feather duster. I once received a gift certificate for a massage, and it turned out to be a little more new agey than I'm able to appreciate.
What I experienced yesterday was nothing related to the bell-ringing incense-burning chickie who scared me. Her massage, although it made an hour seem like a day, did nothing but make me tired and cranky. My muscles didn't even realize they'd been massaged. It was a skin rub.
Today I visited Ollie Layne, massage therapist, at Elswick Chiropractic over on Custer Drive here in Lexington. I chose a half-hour treatment because I was skeptical. I have a combination of conditions that we'd both be bored to hear described. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of pain and can't go flying around on pain killers, much as I might like to, because I have things to do. So my doctor suggested I find out if massage could give me some relief.
I can't say that I really enjoyed the massage per se; it was painful, but the relief I felt was indescribable. And yet, I'm going to try to describe it.
The setting: The office is nothing special, just wood and black leather and short carpet. The waiting area is very green. Manly forest green. The office is up about a half a flight upstairs, and I always feel better upstairs. I grew up upstairs.
I met Ollie, and I had that feeling of recognition you sometimes feel with someone new whom you can't possibly recognize. It's usually a good feeling for me. So I liked her right off. She took me into a dim and quiet room with a comfy padded table and a soft rolled pillow to put under my knees. A boombox on a chair softly played a repetitive loop of music, and I found that calming.
Ollie applied some sort of warmish lotion to my skin, and this allowed her to stick her strong fingers completely through my skin and into the heart of my muscles to wake up whatever was in there. Really. I felt as though I were having a psychic surgery. And I mean this in the best possible way.
I was comfortable the whole time because Ollie spoke quietly during the process, telling me what to expect, warning me of pain. I don't know about you, but I'd rather know what's coming than be surprised. And there were only a couple of times when I found the pain intense. Most of the time it was less than the pain I have in my neck when I get up in the morning.
The first thing she did was push her arms under my shoulders and press her fingers into my back muscles (imagine me on my back the way the woman is in the photo above) while she pulled her hands up toward my neck. She had me at that moment, but then she did a thing that I would pay for every day: the pillow of heaven.
This pillow of heaven wasn't that pleasant of itself. In fact, I wanted at first to resist. I was on the edge of pain. Ollie pressed her fingers at the base of my skull and held my head up a bit on her fingers. But what was nearly unbelievable was that I physically felt tension releasing from my muscles. It felt as though a thick liquid was running out of the muscles, down and off the table. Like a magic trick. Within a few seconds. Heaven. Pillow. O.M.G.
I really can't describe the rest of the process. I just gave in to that wave of relaxation. Even when Ollie said, "This'll probably burn like fire" - and it did! - I didn't care. I just shut my eyes and listened to her voice and felt wave after wave of relaxation as she worked on various muscles that have hurt for years. In a few minutes I could move my neck much further to the right than I've been able to do for a year or more. I was amazed. She massaged my scalp and I felt the tension break into a million cold splinters.
I think I saw angels flying around the room. No, I think it was butterflies, honeybees, and hummingbirds. Or maybe it was just the glittering behind my eyes. I kept my eyes closed and leaned into the pain until I felt that release. Blessed release.
When the session was finished, I made another appointment. This time for an hour. I'm no longer a skeptic.
Here's something I find appalling. If this sort of relief is available to people like me, why won't my insurance pay for it? I'm not going to a day spa. This is really hard work, and the benefits are almost immediate. But according to Ollie, they only last for a few days, so of course I'll want to go back. I'll have to dig into my pocket, but therapeutic massage seems such a healthy, relatively inexpensive, drug-free solution to chronic pain. Why wouldn't it be covered by most insurance plans?
Ah, don't bother to answer that question. I have had dealings with the dicks at several insurance companies.
Which of the massages would you enjoy? The tinkly powdery crystal woman, or the deep, painful, joy-inducing hands of Ollie? I think it all depends on what you need.
A note about customer service: You know I've been bitching about how I hate the customer service at most of my local stores. They could take lessons from the office staff at Elswick Chiropractic. First, I was given directions over the phone covering every turn between my office and theirs. Easy peasy and I, known for making wrong turns and driving miles out of my way, was there in no time. When there was a mix-up about who was making my next appointment, the professional woman at the desk looked me right in the eyes and apologized for leaving me standing there while she helped a client on the phone. I swear I was standing there for all of four minutes. I really appreciated that acknowledgment, though. It makes me feel happy to go back. Take a note if you own a store: Treat people nicely and you won't have to spend so much money on television ads with dancing scissors and smiley-face - whatever.
I asked for a photo, but Ollie didn't want that. Still, I highly recommend her hands.