by Nick Lakoff, CMT
A few years ago I had a new client (I’ll call her Karen) come in that was in considerable pain due to tendinitis in both elbows. She told me during our initial interview that she was an avid kayaker but could no longer participate in her favorite pastime. She had gone to see her doctor who prescribed the standard fare – anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medications. It did lessen the pain for a time but the minute she started to kayak again the pain returned as intense as ever. She was very distraught at the thought of having to give up her favorite physical activity and asked me in a desperate tone if I could do anything to help her.
As a massage therapist I’ve always shied away in asserting that I can cure, heal or fix any type of condition since there are no guarantees. However, I do believe that as a society we tend to want instant gratification, therefore instant relief of our aches and pains. A pill tends to do that but it doesn’t solve the underlying issue that is causing the pain. In some specific therapeutic cases several sessions are required even months of treatments in order to get results. This is only normal and logical if you think that it took months even years for the onset of symptoms to occur. When I have such a case before me I always tell my clients that whatever method they choose to deal with their condition, whether its massage therapy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic care or physiotherapy, they must stick to it for as much time as necessary in order for it to get better. There is no better example for this than a case of tendinitis.
Tendinitis is a condition where tendons, tough rope like tissues connecting muscle to bone, become inflamed due to over use. More accurately, when muscles become tense they shorten causing tendons to be more taught. If these tendons cross over an articulation like the elbow for example it causes friction and over time and thousands of movements a day cause the tendon to get highly inflamed. Once at an advanced stage the tissue is so irritated that it takes a lot of time for things to get back to normal. I usually tell my clients that any condition that ends in “tis” (tendinitis, bursitis and capsulitis) takes 6, 12 and even 18 months to heal completely. When they hear this I can tell that they are not happy and some are thinking of the cost of so many treatments. It has never been my intention to sell sessions simply for the sake of making money. I am straight with my clients and it’s up to them to decide if they want to really recuperate from their condition or simply put a band aid on. That being said with clients who have committed to treating the cause rather than the symptoms, I have had great success in shorter periods of time.
With Karen I did what I normaly do and gave her all the information I mentioned above. She was in so much pain that she said that she was willing to try anything. So together we settled on a regular schedule of visits, once a week where I would concentrate exclusively on her arms with specific work on her arms, forearms and elbows. For the next three months I would spend an hour a week, 30 minutes on each arm, working on her. Once in a while we would do a complete massage session just so she didn’t feel she was just coming in for her problem and to help her relax from the stresses of her everyday life. After three months, she was symptom free and was able to start kayaking again with a caveat from me that she should come for a massage every once in a while (I always recommend once a month) as regular maintenance to ensure that the tendinitis didn’t return. She was very grateful and I was very satisfied that she had seen it through and that the results were so spectacular. Massage therapy has many advantages such as being a non-invasive, relatively low-impact therapy for injuries and trauma but it does take time to for it to help the body help itself.
Nick Lakoff is a certified practitioner in the following disciplines: Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Reflexology, Acupressure, Myo-Fascial Release, Massage for Pregnancy, Swedish Chair Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Reiki.