It was a moonlit and snowy night high on the Bayfield Peninsula. The wind was blowing the snow into dunes and my shoulders and core were all warmed up from their shoveling workout and I was looking forward to a break when the phone rang. It was a colleague returning a call to talk shop. We like to share stories and anecdotes about things we’ve been working on.
She said she had a new idea for teaching people how to do soft-tissue work on their own muscles and fascia. She was teaching people massage. I was curious.
“What do you mean,” I asked her.
She told me that she gives her participants a bit of hard beeswax at the beginning of her class. The hard beeswax is a bit like our muscles when they’re not getting proper fluid and circulation. If we immediately try to push on or pull the beeswax it resists pressure. You have probably tried it with clay and had it SNAP from being pulled too fast. But if we move slowly and give it gentle pressure, warming it up in our hands first, it becomes softer and more pliable. Soft-tissue is much the same way. To avoid pain and bruising, we try not to work too deeply until the muscles and fascia have been warmed up.
I thought the beeswax was a great analogy and wonderful teaching tool. What a gift. My mind’s eye could see it getting softer as it warmed up and relaxing just like one’s tight muscles do when they are feeling the effect of improved circulation during a massage. I thought about how long of a worm one can roll, or how thin a pancake one can make when the beeswax is completely relaxed. The massage made the beeswax less stiff. As my muscles were cooling off, the impact of my snow shoveling was starting to be felt in my stiffening shoulder muscles and I made a mental note to schedule a massage as soon as possible.
Of course, we all know that our muscles have an optimal resting length which allows us sufficient strength and efficient movement with which to perform our daily activities without weakness or pain. Being a results-oriented gal, if the pain isn’t just general muscle soreness, I like to find out what muscles or muscle groups are too tight or not tracking correctly and work on restoring the muscles to a more normal resting length. My snow shoveling pain was that of a good workout, not necessarily a bad thing.
I started rubbing my ever-stiffening traps, deltoids and biceps. I was going to circulate my delayed onset muscle soreness right outta there. I started to work a little deeper when my muscles warmed up. Lifting, twisting, sifting and separating the muscle fibers like one might card wool.
I got into my low back, finding the trigger points near each the lumbar vertebrae and digging in. “Fresh blood and oxygen to the tissues,” became like a mantra. But I was still on the phone so I didn’t say it out loud. My colleague and I agreed to pick up our conversation in a month. I wished her a fabulous year and went to look for some beeswax to have for my next workshop.
Gina McCafferty is a licensed massage therapist, and heath coach who works with women in their peri and menopausal years who have 30 or more pounds to lose.