Volume 2 of Massage and Pain
The second part of this series features a client I’ll call Joe. Joe is an avid athlete- runner, cyclist, and swimmer. Recently he signed up and trained for his first triathalon. He completed this event the day before I saw him. This particular event was not Ironman in parameter. I think it featured a quarter mile swim, 10 miles of biking and a 5K (3.1 miles) run. Still, not Ironman by any means, but still a good test of endurance and perseverance.
People ask me all the time when is it better to get a massage after a hard work out or race: before, after or both. My personal feeling is that it depends on the person. A good massage before an event can help prepare the body by loosening up muscles and may help prevent injury because muscles may be functioning more efficiently. After an event, a massage can help ease the soreness. You don’t what will work best for you until try both before and after a hard gym day or a race.
Joe’s Session After the Race: What I Can Do
Joe came for his late morning session the day after his event. He said the race went well, that he reached his personal goals for the first time out. He was happy overall with the whole experience. We discussed what he wanted from the massage. He was sore in all the usual places one might expect from his activities (legs and back). He was looking to ease the soreness, and speed his recovery by just feeling better.
As he talked I formulated an overall approach for the session which would include mostly lighter pressure than his usual sessions. My intention was not try to “fix” anything that may seem really out of whack with deeper, specific work. There would be no unnecessary probing into unaffected areas. Jostling and other Swedish massage techniques (see post entitled “Swedish Massage in a nutshell” for more info) sounded good to him, and to me. So we proceeded.
Post – Race Care
During the session I asked him about what his post-race recovery and activities were. They included some light stretching, a hot shower, a good solid meal. He mentioned that he was lax in his hydration prior to, during and after the race. The session targeted the desired areas (especially the lower back and hips) with a lighter and quicker touch.
Also during the session I asked what he planned to do proactively to maybe head off the soreness commonly felt about 2 days after any arduous exercise. He mentioned easy walking, Ibuprofen if/when it was needed. More water. I stressed to him the importance of the proactive part, especially the water. I also mentioned that sometimes a client can be sore after any massage, even if the pressure used was not that firm.
At the end of the session he said felt better overall, more relaxed. We parted ways until the next session.
Uh oh: Post Massage Feedback
Later that same afternoon I received a phone call from Joe. He sounded bad. He said that he hurt all over, his joints ached and he felt like he had the flu. Achey, feverish and just plain bad. Well, CRAP! I said to myself. I’m sorry I said to him. Throughout a peppering of questions to him about what he had done when he got home after the massage he mentioned that he had no water since that morning. He expected the aches and soreness but never anticipated this full-on “feel like I’ve been hit by a truck” feeling. ICK. His word.
Feeling horrible for him I explained that the additional aches may have come from the massage. Plus, the lack of water may have concentrated the Ick such that its effects were magnified. I also mentioned that in rare cases that these symptoms can occur after a massage, regardless of the activity level of the client; that they were short-lived (24-48 hours) and can respond well to painkillers and increased hydration. He was understandably unimpressed and unappeased with the ‘might have’s and ‘can have’s at that particular moment. I asked him what he usually did in situations of soreness. His particular remedy was Ibuprofen and a hot shower. I asked him to please drink more water and follow through on his usual routine.
The Next Session: Clarity
His next session came around, about 2 weeks later. I was wondering if he would show up for this session considering what he felt like after the last massage. He did show up for his next session (whew!) and after giving me (an affectionate) hard time about our last session’s consequences, he said that he did as I requested and he began to feel better later that night and into the next day. He was pretty much back to normal 24 hours later. Sigh of relief for all.
Lessons learned from this experience…while massage is great, it does sometimes have unpleasant repercussions. I try, with every client, to educate about these realities, situation by situation.
Lastly, I’m grateful that my clients have enough faith in me and my skills to keep coming back even after an unwelcome consequence of my services.