It is a bit long but tells my journey of why I became a Massage Therapist. For those who suffer chronic or excruciating pain, I've no doubt you will recognize aspects of this story to be very similar to yours.
While in college I helped get myself through school by driving for the campus bus system. That's right. I was a bus driver. At the time I was rather skinny with not a whole lot of muscle or strength.
I drove various routes around campus and one bus in particular was quite old without power steering assistance. Which meant that when I would need to turn the huge steering wheel it took quite an effort on my part to do so. I discovered by belting myself firmly into the seat with the lap belt (it was an old bus without a shoulder harness) I could get enough oomph to grab ahold of the steering wheel and get it turned to make certain corners that were necessary so I didn't end up in the lake.
After several months of driving in this manner my back began to ache a bit. I didn't pay much attention to it as the discomfort would come and go. Then during my senior year, in the midst of a softball game I bent down to pick up a ball and discovered I could not straighten up or stand up on my own. Two guys had to come over and literally help me stand up straight. Needless to say I was out of the game.
I visited the Campus Health Center and they took a look at me and told me I had strained my back. That I should do some stretches and if the pain persisted I should visit a doctor. Take a couple of aspirin and I would be good to go in a day or two.
I found myself doing a couple of the stretches which helped. Then when the aching stopped I largely forgot about it. Occasionally when I would bend down to pick something up it would start to "catch" but I managed to push myself up again, the muscles would relax and on I would go. I lived this way through graduation and a move to Atlanta, GA for about six months. At some point after I moved my back began to hurt more and the "catching" began to happen more often. Then one day I discovered that when I sat down I was in excruciating pain. Standing up or lying down didn't hurt at all but any time I tried to bend and sit tears would spring to my eyes.
So. I went to the doctor. Well, actually I went to several doctors. All checked me out by asking me questions. A few poked and prodded at my back. They all gave me pain relievers and muscle relaxers. None of them suggested I do any kind of physical therapy or chiropractic or massage. Only one of them suggested I do some stretching. I took the pills they prescribed only to find out they didn't solve the problem and the pain relief was short term.
My brother suggested I visit his chiropractor. I was more than a bit skeptical as like many I had heard horror stories about the "witch doctors" who "adjusted" people's backs. I had heard the horror stories about how perfectly healthy people had walked in to their offices only to have crooked ever-bent gnomes coming out in the end. But honestly, I was in so much pain at that point I didn't care if I became a gnome! I visited Dr. Rudy Scarfallato, D.C. who was incredibly caring and listened to my tale of woe with great interest. He diagnosed me with a rotational injury to my low back that was severe enough to have impacted my tailbone to the point that it had dislocated. That was why I was in so much pain when I sat.
He took a great deal of time to work on me with techniques I had never heard of - one being sacral-occipital technique. He would have me lie face down on the adjusting table and place wedges under my hips in slightly different places which would allow gravity to help my muscles relax and allow for movement in my lower back and hips. He did manual adjusting of my tailbone which has got to be the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life when it was being done!! He also manually adjusted my back once the muscles had softened enough to allow the vertebrae to move.
After a couple of visits my pain started to subside and I could sit more easily however, even all his work didn't eclipse all of the pain I was experiencing on a daily basis. Let me tell you if you've never been in excruciating pain on a daily basis - it messes with your mind. It is fatiguing. It is unbearable. And, all you can think of throughout the day - no matter what else is going on - is I WISH THIS PAIN WOULD GO AWAY!!!
During one appointment, as I was lying on the wedges, I overheard Dr. Scarfallato telling another of his patients about massage therapy and its benefits. When he walked back into the treatment room I asked enough questions about massage that he suggested I visit a newly opening school where he was teaching the anatomy class. They were having an Open House that night to show off the facility. So I went to check out the school. It was a wonderful place! So much care was taken with the various rooms and there was an incredible energy inside the building. Something I had never experienced before. My curiousity was piqued to say the least.
At one point the director had everyone gather in the large classroom to talk with us about the goals of the school. He offered to do a demonstration of NeuroMuscular Therapy (NMT). I about jumped out of my chair and tackled him to be the demo!! Sitting in the chairs had caused my back to start aching ferociously and I desperately needed relief. He called me up to the front of the room and there in front of about 40 people I didn't know he worked on me.
I think back about this moment a lot. He found some very tender places and trigger points which he worked and released. He didn't spend a great deal of time, maybe fifteen minutes tops working on me. It was uncomfortable but never horribly painful. When he was finished I got up off the table and went back to my chair. When I sat down...I realized I was no longer in pain. The entire world simply disappeared as I absorbed the fact that I wasn't in pain - sitting in that chair. I had been just twenty minutes ago and now I wasn't. That. Was. Huge!!! HUGE!!!
I sat there for a few minutes thinking about what he had done. I thought to myself that I could do what he had done. It wasn't difficult. He didn't do anything I couldn't do myself. And what a gift it is to take away someone's pain. I came to realize at that moment how important that is in life. There is no greater gift to give someone than to help take away their pain. I got up, truly oblivious to everyone else in that room and went directly to the office and signed up for classes.
That experience is one of the most singlularly important moments in my life. That night changed my life completely! I believe my own journey of pain and suffering led me to realize and find my calling in life. Through that experience I have been able to help thousands of other people get out of pain and I have met the most incredible people ever.
Zoe and me