Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2022

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From "Fix It" to "Learn Something" Models By Douglas Nelson essential skills | TABLE LESSONS THIRDMAN/PEXELS 86 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k m ay/ j u n e 2 0 2 2 "Please tell me you won't give up on me," she implored. I must have looked a bit stunned at her statement. This client had struggled with a very difficult musculoskeletal problem for months before coming to see me. Through that process, she had endured a substantial amount of pain and far too much invalidation from health-care providers and family. Her challenge was revealed in our first session, which was part history, part explanation of the anatomy of her issue, and part hands-on treatment. The results after our first sessions were nothing short of remarkable as she had little to no pain for the next two weeks. Given her long struggle with unrelenting pain, this was astonishing to her. After two weeks with no symptoms, she felt good enough to push the boundaries of physical activity. At the same time, there were some additional life challenges that increased her stress level. The aggregate effect of the increase in stress and increased activity led to an increase in pain, but nothing approximating her previous level. This was, however, understandably disturbing, as she had acclimated to the idea of a pain-free existence. Her reaction mirrors what pain research literature reveals: Losing control of pain that was once effectively managed is far more distressing than struggling with pain that was never under control. Please tell me you won't give up on me kept echoing in my brain. "I'm here for the long run," I responded. "Having done this for decades, I can tell you it is almost never a straight road; there are always twists and turns that are part of the process." "But I was doing so well," she replied. "You absolutely were, but setbacks are to be expected," I said. Since my client was a psychotherapist, I decided to frame the process in her world. "Consider a parallel to your own work," I suggested. "You have a client who struggles with their relationship and feels powerless to change a difficult situation. In the first session, you give them some helpful strategies to manage their emotions and deal with conflict. These tools work marvelously for the next two weeks or so. The client is

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