Most people are familiar with injury. Whether someone has sprained an ankle or gone through significant physical trauma, injury seems a part of existence - especially for those who push their bodies and challenge themselves physically. Many of my clients who are involved in sport or competition know how to push themselves and often do so by ignoring or suppressing pain.
In my experience as an RMT, pain has been a complex part of my work. It seems that sometimes my clients want to escape the pain of their bodies while other times my clients want to experience pain as if that experience might banish it. Pain can become a totem of achievement: one might think that the more pain one experiences, the more benefit one receives. For those who wish to escape pain, techniques to reduce perceived pain may be suggested. For those who wish to experience pain, so often it is not a question of merely experiencing pain (as one can do that without the help of a massage therapist), but also embracing pain.
What do I mean by embracing pain? Well, for those who experience pain on a regular basis and suppress that pain, they often have a very hard time experiencing that same pain on the massage table. It's surprisingly common for someone to present with a symptom picture that is difficult to reproduce on the table because there is so much muscle guarding and bracing protecting the affected area. On these occasions, its prudent to let go and get past the muscle guarding before working on the affected area. Muscles can be stubborn and patterns of guarding that have been established and reinforced can be especially difficult to change.
For many, massage therapy is a treat. For many, massage therapy is just a "sometimes food" - to borrow the cookie monster's message. However, much of what can be learned from receiving a massage can be carried out into how one interacts with one's body on a daily basis. For those who experience pain from performance and suppress that pain in order to continue performing, that pattern requires a great deal of guarding and mental rewiring. Massage therapy, when taken seriously, can be used to reintegrate pain into one's perception. Once one begins to experience the pain of one's injury on the table, that pain can be breathed through, let go, and overcome. Experiencing pain and then embracing pain can be very difficult but worthwhile with long lasting effects in how one perceives a reoccurring or old injury.