A Bad Massage is Bad

I really struggled with what to write this week, what with the end of the world etc. continuing apace. Yet, here we all are, still opening our emails in the morning, moving our bodies during the day, obtaining the kinds of care and treatment we may need to keep those bodies moving. We need moving and functional bodies to help us fill our lungs with air and yell through our masks “THIS IS TOTAL BULLSHIT” over and over. There is still work to be done.

So, with that in mind, I want to write this cautionary tale about a very bad massage. Actually, there were two very bad massages and this is the hinge on which this story is balanced and why I think it’s important to talk about on a feminist health and fitness sort of blog.

I have a deep love of body work. For me, it is the care and treatment that keeps me going. It is the difference between a “slow and steady creep of dysfunction and pain” and a “smooth flowing access to movement that lets me keep going and even improving”. When I have an ache, I do not go to my doctor. My first stop is some sort of body worker. Almost every time, I am relieved of my ache or ailment in a profound way and I reengage with the things. . .calling bullshit, riding my bike, calling more bullshit, holding some planks. . .you get the picture. There was that one time that I thought I put out a rib and went to my Chiropractor. He sent me to the hospital because it was pneumonia. He was good at his job.

Currently, I am really into Osteopathy with a side of Acupuncture. My Osteopath is brilliant, intuitive, skilled. . .everything you would ever want in a body worker. I feel one million times better after I leave and I stay feeling better until I do something over the top, like too many glute-bridge walkouts, or too many canoes on my head for too long. He is like a wise mechanic who knows how to keep that ancient and beloved car humming smoothly. I know I’m not exactly ancient yet but there’s well over a metaphorical 200,000 km on me and I need maintenance, people. The Acupuncturist in that clinic is also great. She can do specific muscle work or deal with my peri-menopausal rage, whatever I need and both if we book an hour. There used to be an amazing massage therapist there too. But then she left.

I had access to some benefits and they didn’t cover Osteopathy. I liked booking massage at the clinic I go to on weeks I couldn’t get an Osteopath appointment or just because it was complimentary for what we were working on. When she left, I cast about for a replacement. My first mistake was to be more focussed on convenience than quality. Why?


I put so much energy into my fitness. . .so much MONEY into it. . .why did I go to a franchise? Why did I sign up for a subscription so that I’m locked in there for one treatment a month for a year? Why didn’t I read the fine print? I thought at least it would be cheaper, but it isn’t. It is the SAME PRICE AS THE HIGH QUALITY CLINIC. Even as I made all these mistakes, got myself deeper and deeper in, I was still not paying attention. I went to my first treatment with the only female therapist available at this location. She was sweet and chatty. But she was chatty about things that didn’t belong in the room, personal stories I didn’t care about. Okay, her manner wasn’t that great but she’s a registered professional and I believed it would be fine.

It wasn’t.

After that treatment, I felt terrible. I felt beat up, not relieved. There was no perceivable benefit. In fact, there was a perception of harm. The effect faded over the next few days. I complained out loud to a few friends and then promptly forgot about it. I put it out of my mind. I minimized the experience and told myself it wasn’t as bad as I perceived it was. I had an obligation to this clinic. I didn’t want to be mean. There were so many reasons I didn’t do anything about it, the least of which would have been cancel my appointments with that woman going forward. I didn’t. I went back. It was not any better. In fact, I think it was worse. She was fixated on adhesions but careless in how she beat them up. She’d ask me if it was okay but with a tone of voice that indicated she didn’t really have a sense of what the heck was happening and thought she was giving me a benefit. Like. . .she didn’t know what she was doing, I know this. I know enough about this work and my body and yet still I DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A FUSS.

As I write this, I’m aware this sounds like some kind of non-consent event. It wasn’t. I gave my consent. I shouldn’t have. I should have withdrawn it. I should have listened to what I know about the experience of my body and protected it. I should have told her to back off but I didn’t want to offend her.

This is why this story belongs in a feminist fitness and wellness sort of blog. Our bodies are our precious containers of living and moving. When we submit to body work, they should be treated as such and we need to always always ALWAYS value that experience above money, credentials, propriety, manners or not wanting to hurt a simple, terrible RMT’s feelings. I’m actually aware of the shame I feel, right now, sitting here with my reactive muscle spasms knowing that I let this happen to me. I will be okay.

I cancelled the appointments and switched it to something more benign and relaxing with someone who is not this person who, for lack of skill, hurt me today. I’m still not willing to make a huge fuss there. It’s not worth the blowback. How many times have you said that in your life? Not Worth the Fuss.

The world is on fire. I’m calling bullshit. I’m never going back to that woman again and I will maybe try to get out of the subscription. I won’t make it okay in my mind. It wasn’t. It isn’t. That’s a start anyway.

A line drawing of a 19th century gentleman standing with one dress shoe clad food on the sacrum of another 19th century gentleman while  pulling up on that patient's left ankle. Very serious business this treatment of impotence.
OMT technique for the treatment of impotence in the 1898 Osteopathy Complete manual. I found this here. My Osteopath wouldn’t do this to me, but I feel like that RMT did.

4 thoughts on “A Bad Massage is Bad

  1. I’m sorry you experienced all of that horridness. I’m so glad you shared your experience though. It’s so important to remind ourselves of the big picture/priority stuff. Gentle (((((Hugs)))) to you friend.

  2. I am yearning for a massage. So agree about their essential wellness role. And your piece reminds me of bad ones I’ve had, that I allowed to continue and then berated myself afterward for enduring. Sigh. I used to go to a massage therapist who was great … except, as you describe in your case, she talked nonstop nonstop. I finally had to stop going, because I could sense she thought it was rude to ask her to stop talking. It shouldn’t be so complicated to ask for what we want, but somehow it is.Wishing you wonderfully healing and relaxing massages to come!

  3. Thank you for sharing this important and hard story to tell. It’s so very hard to say what we want and what we don’t want! And even harder to keep saying it in light of so much experience of getting what we don’t want. You are worth all the fuss. We all are. Such important words to say. Take care!

  4. In my state osteopathic medicine is insured at the same rate as “regular” M.D. visits. I have a wonderful sports medicine osteopath who has helped me through every joint of my 73 year old body so that I can continue to exercise without pain. As for bad massages–I have had them before I knew any better.

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