Monday, November 10, 2008

Massage Therapist Envy

Before I was ever diagnosed with RA, I started using massage therapy to help deal with my migraine condition. (Newsflash: In case you didn’t know, in addition to my two autoimmune diseases, I also have had a migraine condition since I was 17). Massage therapy isn’t always relaxing, sometimes they beat you up pretty badly, but I’ve found it to be really useful for dealing with the tension and stress related to my migraines.

Recently, I’ve been using some massage therapy to help me deal with the RA. It isn’t good for my joints directly – most of the time I ask the therapists not to even touch my hands or feet – but it is really good at helping me deal with the tension and soreness that develops in the rest of my body because of the way I have been holding my body to deal with the pain in my joints.

I get my massages at a place called Massage Envy, which is a chain that offers low-cost massages to its members. I originally joined when we lived in California and was delighted to discover that there was also one in Boulder. So I get massages as often as I need them (actually, they would probably help more if I got them more often) but I get one at least once a month. Sometimes I request to see the same therapist. Sometimes I let the receptionist assign whoever is working at the time I want to go.

Today I had a massage therapist I had never met before. Before we got started, she asked me what she could help me with today. I told her that I was having some serious pain and soreness in my neck and shoulders and asked if she could primarily work on that. Then, because I needed to tell her to be gentle with my hands and feet, I told her that I had just been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I was fairly shocked when her response was to admit to me that she had rheumatoid arthritis too. She said she had been diagnosed about two years ago and that she controlled it primarily through her diet.

Her honesty invoked about 800 thoughts at once. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my career choice. I’ve been studying and training for years to have a career in environmental policy. Luckily for me, that’s a career that primarily involves thinking and researching. I will certainly have to spend some time in front of a computer, which will be difficult with pain in my hands. But even if the pain never ever goes away I can still find a way to be successful in my field. What if I had been training to be a massage therapist? Or a musician? Or a painter? Someone who depended on their hands for a living? Imagine how much more frustrating that would be!

But then I had the realization that she had RA and was a massage therapist. And she was good!! And that made me feel hopeful for the first time in a long while. It probably wasn’t easy for her when she first got diagnosed either, but two years later she was dependant on her hands to make a living! And she did things with her hands to my back that I couldn’t even remotely consider doing right now. So it gave me hope that it is possible to get your RA under control – really under control. She had hers under control enough to use her hands all day every day!

And then it occurred to me that she said she controlled her RA primarily by changes to her diet. Diet? Really? Must remember to look into that option.

After the massage I thanked her for helping with the tension in my shoulders and neck. And I thanked her for being so honest with me about the RA and giving me hope. She was super nice about it – told me that it can be really scary at the beginning but that it’s possible to get it under control. She also recommended a natural topical cream that she says she uses when her joints act up. She said it was like bengay or icyhot only it was made from natural products and smelled better. So I bought some of that to try too.

She also said that more consistent massage could be useful, especially during this difficult time while I’m trying to adjust. So I think I will try to do that and I think I will request her next time. Because it was really nice to get a massage with some hope on the side.


Rebecca said...

The only thing better than a side order of hope is ... a side order of pie?

Glad to hear an RA success story, especially after all the scary stats you've been telling me (which, I'm sure, are about 1/10 of the scary stats you've read).

Plus, now you sort of have an obligation to get massages. That's rough, kiddo.

A said...

Definitely look into the diet side of that. Our bodies respond so differently to natural foods v processed foods and though I know you eat well (you Cali girl, you), maybe there are specific things that are, by nature, anti-inflammatory, etc. I'm so intrigued. Let me know what you find!

~kelly marie~ said...

I am so glad that your massage therapist gave you hope. I am also glad that massage therapy is giving you some relief and to get it from someone that understands your world - amazing.
As someone who had two careers ripped away from her by an auto-immune disease, it gives me hope to hear this story too. Thank you for posting it, and thank you for seeing the hope in your situation. Inspirational.

~Mariah~ said...

Kelly: When I wrote this post I wasn't thinking about how you actually did loose things you loved to do with your hands. I can't even imagine how hard that must have been for you. I mean, I may not be able to be the diligent law/policy student I want to be right now, but I can still get by as a student. I don't have to give it up completely. I can't even imagine how hard it was for you to move on and come out smiling on the other side. So, while the massage therapist gave me a little extra hope yesterday, I want you to know that you give me hope on a daily basis. ~;o)

~kelly marie~ said...

I know I may be cheesy, but I got teary-eyed reading your response. You are so kind with your words, and I cannot tell you how much reading your blog gives me hope (you're my auto-immune Obama!), an outlet, a way to feel better. Your courage to put this out there is amazing. I know how hard it is to speak about these things that plague us. It is something special to know that there is someone else who feels what I feel, and that we can help each other make it through. I know that you will be a kick ass lawyer, and that I will be a kick ass _________ (insert career here), and that our struggles will only make us better at what we do.

~Mariah~ said...

Auto-immune Obama is the best compliment ever! ~;o)