When Jason’s neurologist suggested he get massages as part of the treatment for his tension headaches, he had thought the man was insane. How could someone rubbing his shoulders help a headache?
“Tension headaches are caused by tension,” Dr. Malati said in a tone indicating Jason should know that. “Massage works out the tension in your muscles.”
“The pain is in my head, not my muscles,” Jason had protested. Malati had smiled at him tolerantly.
“You get stressed and tense up. The tension in your muscles radiates up through your nervous system and creates the headache. Pretty much every patient I’ve had with tension headaches that I’ve prescribed massages for has thanked me afterwards. Just give it a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
So here Jason was, sitting at a chair in a dimly lit waiting room, a water sculpture bubbling pleasantly on the wall, soft music playing, waiting for his name to be called. The fact he was there was creating tension across his back and shoulders.
He heard his name called and looked towards the doorway. A short young woman in a dark green short sleeved polo shirt, navy blue Capri pants and sneakers smiled at him. Her hair was dark brown and pulled back into a pony tail and she had glasses. She asked him to follow her and he did, reluctantly.
She led him to a door and opened it to reveal a small room with a white draped bed and two chairs, one on the wall and one beside the head of the bed. This room was also dimly lit and had the soft music piped into it as well.
“My name is Amanda,” she told him in a soft voice. “I’m a physical therapist that specializes in massage therapy. I understand you have tension headaches?” Jason nodded. “Have you ever had any broken bones?” He nodded and told her which ones. At his frown, she smiled again. “I need to know so I don’t put too much pressure on those areas. Have you had any surgeries?” He nodded again and told her, beginning to wonder what she was thinking of it, but she just nodded back at him. “Please undress to your underwear and lay on the bed on your stomach, placing your face here.” She pointed at the horseshoe shaped protrusion at the head on the bed. “Cover yourself with the blanket. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Once she’d closed the door behind her, Jason stripped down to his boxers and got onto the bed, surprised to find it heated. He lay down on his stomach and managed to pull the blanket, which had been warmed by the bed, up. He placed his face into the horseshoe shaped opening lined with cushion and took a deep breath, blowing it out.
He had to admit the warmth was soothing, the soft music, a combination of gentle guitar chords and the sounds of surf in the background, nice. He closed his eyes and tried to tell himself this was supposed to help him.
A few moments later, there was soft knock at the door and after a moment of hesitation, it opened. He had a moment of fear: with his head down, he couldn’t see who had come in. He rose up enough to turn his head to look.
Amanda smiled reassuringly. “Your first massage?” she asked.
“A little nervous?” Jason swallowed and nodded a little sheepishly. “I promise you’ll leave here feeling better than you did when you came in.” She walked over to a shelf on the wall above the head of the bed. “Do you prefer oil or lotion?”
“I…don’t know,” he had to admit.
“When you go to the beach, do you use oil or lotion?” she asked.
“Then lotion it is.” She picked up one of the bottles on the shelf.
Jason put his face back into the horseshoe.
A moment later, she asked him to raise his feet and she placed a cushion of some type under his leg at the ankles. Jason wasn’t sure why she did it, but it didn’t make a difference to him one way or another.
Then she pulled the blanket down to his waist and he could hear her rubbing her hands together. She began to kneed and massage his left shoulder, the lotion on her hands covering his skin. She worked on it for several minutes. It actually hurt at first and she commented he was really tense and suggested he try to relax.
He sighed and closed his eyes, turning his attention to the music. He loved the beach: the warm sand, the waves. He listened to the cresting surf and imagined himself there in the warm sun.
Amanda moved to his right shoulder. That one hurt at first, too, but for not as long.
When she took her hands away, he heard the squeal of wheels as she rolled the chair to his head. The seat squeaked as she sat down. He felt her hands on his neck and she pressed her thumbs against his spine and pulled up from his shoulder to his head. He thought it would hurt too, but it didn’t. Each time she did it, she stretched his neck. She did it several times, and then added pressing her thumbs into the base of his skull and outward towards his ears. It actually felt good.
Next, she worked on his arms and hands. By this point, he was finally starting to relax.
Done with his arms and hands, her hands pressed down on his back, moving up from his hips to his shoulders and down again. She rolled her hands out along his lower back to his sides, stopping just before he had a ticklish response.
“Some people like to have their buttocks massaged, but it feels too sexual for others. It’s up to you.” She didn’t pause as she worked on his back.
“I’ll pass,” Jason mumbled, the idea alone getting a response from his body that made him both unhappy and uncomfortable at the same time. He hoped he wouldn’t have to turn over for a few minutes.
After that, she pulled the blanket back up then took the blanket off his left leg. She massaged the back of his thigh and moved down to the calf. Then she lifted his leg up by his foot, leaving his knee on the bed and flexed his foot and toes. Jason was almost embarrassed to admit to himself how good it felt.
She put his leg back down and covered it, then moved to the right and did the same thing.
“Everything all right?” she asked when she was done. Jason had to rouse himself from a stupor to answer with a yes. She asked him to lift his feet and she pulled the cushion there out. “You can roll over now,” she instructed. “Scoot down so your head is on the bed.”
She pulled the blanket up just enough to give him easy movement to roll over. At least he wasn’t going to embarrass himself. Once he was settled, she removed the horseshoe pillow moved down to his feet. “Lift your legs,” she said and he did. She put another cushion under his knees. Then she sat his head again.
She started working on his shoulders again, followed by his neck, this time gently twisted his head to the right and then to the left after each massage. Then his arms, thighs, calves and feet again. By the time she was done, he was almost asleep.
“We’re done,” she said and Jason opened his eyes, becoming aware of the music again, of the nice warmth of the heated bed. “How do you feel?”
“Great.” He slowly sat up, an amazed smile on his face. “You were right.”
“So, you feel better now than you did when you came in?” she asked. He nodded. “Good. I’ll let you get dressed and I’ll be in the hall with a glass of water for you.”
She left the room and closed the door. Jason reluctantly got off the bed and dressed. He still felt sleepy and rolled his shoulders, liking how relaxed he felt. She met him outside the door with the promised glass of water.
“Drink it all,” she ordered as he took the glass. “Staying hydrated is important. Your muscles can tense up when you’re dehydrated.”
“Thanks.” Jason put the glass to his lips and drank the whole thing before giving it back to her.
“You were prescribed ten visits. Same time next week?” she asked. Jason nodded.
“See you then, Amanda. And thanks again.” Jason nodded and turned to leave.Dr. Malati had been right. Jason was going to have to thank him the next time he saw him.