Generally, massages are booked ahead of time, but as a massage therapist, you have to anticipate the random individual who finds themselves in agonizing pain to pop up wherever you happen to find yourself. I’ve had to employ some Hail Mary massage moves for folks in compromising positions at the supermarket, coffee house, auto repair shop and most recently, at my daughter’s elementary school.
A dad I’d never met before was told by a parent he should see me for his ailing knee. It was clear to see that he could barely put any weight on one of his legs and painstakingly hobbled over to me. He said he was forced to take two weeks off of work because of it.
I found the nearest bench and sat him down. It didn’t take me long to find the source of his pain in his MCL ligament and posterior knee muscles. I knew if I had thirty minutes with him he’d be significantly better. I gave him my number and told him to contact me so we could connect.
I heard from him soon after and offered to stop by his place on my way back home from teaching a class. He was surprised by my immediate availability to which I expressed my sincere hope that he would be able to return to work soon if I could just see him once. He eagerly agreed.
There wasn’t much space in his apartment for my table, but I managed to wedge it between the bed, couch and TV showing cartoons for his kids. I had him walk up and down a few of the steps of the three flights of stairs he had to climb outside of his apartment to test the level of pain and limitation. Let’s just say he wasn’t at his most ballerina-like state at the moment.
In situations where pain alters a person's ability to work, the warming up/make you feel good strokes are shelved for more direct “get you back on your feet” ones. After every five minutes of massaging, I had him retest the function of his knee by walking up and down the same steps.
By the fifth or sixth time, it was 80% better and he could put most all of his weight on the leg! When he asked how much he owed me, I said I’d love some tamales in exchange instead, knowing his wife was more than likely a good cook. He was caught off guard by my request and after I refused any money, he said his wife made the best pupusas. You know what? He was right!
People in dire need of bodywork can materialize without warning. No one ever told me massages were limited to comfortable rooms with soft music playing in the background and no kids running around. My massage “space” can be an ever morphing and migrating situation given what’s presented to me and where it happens to present itself.