Orthopedic Massage & My Journey to Private Practice

Many ask me what orthopedic massage is and how I came to start my own practice. You will find on my website more formal descriptions of what I do and who I am, but there is room for elaboration. There's an element of structure and simplification that goes into these sections of a website or a brochure, but as always there is a greater underlying story and if you are interested, this is the right place. 

The memories of how I started are nebulous, but I remember in high school my friends asking me for a shoulder massage. My instinctive thought, as I'm sure many have had was, "what do I do to make this person feel good? what is even going on here?" The thought was nagging enough that I went home and started researching massage techniques, the spine, and muscles of the back. I felt self conscious massaging someone knowing nothing. I am a listener and observer and I believe these qualities allow me to perceive a whole world and landscape of data that would otherwise be invisible. I became the go-to person amongst my friends for massage and regularly exchanged mini sessions with a friend. At that time I was heavily into New Agey concepts like crystals, energy, chakras, and everything to do with ancient Eastern healing. I knew nothing of anatomy, even though I did my best to learn. It wasn't until attending school that I began to understand and become passionate about anatomy. Before I had learned about reiki, I was doing energy healing on my friends and myself. People told me that my hands felt different, that there was something charged and healing about them, and the reports I received after "treatments" were fascinating. People reported sleeping better, being able to relax, to let go of anger, even having internal visions while working on them. I was told my presence was relaxing, which genuinely shocked me because I didn't feel relaxed inside. I believe that's what makes me good at what I do. I wanted other people to feel how I wish I could feel. In my journey, I have learned that self care is extremely important, but empathy is too.

After high school, I had to make a choice. My dad wanted me to go to college and I had always planned on being an archaeologist so I studied Anthropology at Umass Boston for a single semester. I felt awful there... like I took a wrong turn. Something didn't feel right. I wrote a long journal entry channeling my revelations about how massage was what I really needed to be doing, typed a period at the end of the last sentence and that immediate second my phone rang and it was the Cortiva Institute, where I had toured, asking me if I was still interested in attending. I will always interpret that as a sign that this is what I was meant to be doing. I enrolled for January 11, 2011 and graduated later that year. One of my teachers who taught musculoskeletal anatomy and myofascial release, Tom Karis, is one of the most intelligent people I know. He told us he was writing up an orthopedic certification course that would be available the following year and by that point my heart was really pulling me towards the anatomy, so I could work as effectively as possible. To this day Tom is the only person who I will go to with an issue. His treatments feel like magic and people have said the same to me. The orthopedic certification course he taught was broken into upper and lower body and was 100 hours total of additional schooling. You only got certified if you passed the test and understood the information.

Orthopedic Massage. What is it? What does that mean? How is your training different? It is the treatment of specific condition, injury, and pain. There are a number of conditions that may be obscure to people until it happens to you. They are listed on my treatments tab. There is pain that people walk around with and can't figure out. The training involved studying the musculoskeletal and nerve system in depth, covering each condition and specifically how one would approach each one, and being able to assess deviations from neutral anatomical position (in other words, where you are naturally supposed to be). We are all walking tensegrity systems. In English: we are held up by bones, which are inanimate, by muscles and connective tissues that connect to them and each pull in a such a way that we are able to remain erect. Think about it... how we stay standing? This system is not always in balance, though. Bones tilt and turn ways they should not-- shoulders elevate, scapulae rotate, pelvises tilt, rotate AND elevate and the tissues that are responsible for doing this need to be addressed. They need to be softened, pulled and teased apart to create slack so that you can return to a neutral alignment. When muscles contract, they sometimes stay that way. I'm borrowing this anecdotal thing from Tom, but if your mother ever said not to frown because your face might stay that way, there is truth to that. Muscle tissue when repetitively contracted (think playing guitar, doing a sport or activity like running) starts to stick. When things stick, they are not mobile. When they are not mobile, they become even more immobile. Mobility is key. So this is the training I received, the premise of my work, and what I look out for.

With all of this understanding, it can still be meaningless if technique is not properly applied. Patients have often thought they knew best and would ask me to go harder. "No pain no gain" has been drilled into our heads. It's only partially true. Treatments are not supposed to be painful. You should not be sore for days. Slightly sore the next day is ok, but no more. People genuinely believe if they have been bruised and beat up, they received a good treatment. I am here to tell you that is unequivocally false and I have two things to back it up-- anecdotal and anatomical evidence. Each muscle has a reflex called the muscle spindle reflex. Similar to how the knee flies up when the doctor hits it, your muscles contract without your permission when they perceive too much force at too quick a speed. This is protective and intelligent on the body's part. It prevents damage from trauma and preserves the internal organs. When a therapist works too roughly, your body does this involuntarily. That means the tissues are not relaxing, not lengthening. Muscle contraction is the equivalent of lacing the fingers of your two hands together. We want to loosen this lace. So one must be gentle and gradual about achieving depth. On the other end of the spectrum is Swedish massage like is offered in a spa. My work is not that, but I would argue is more relaxing. My patients that fall asleep would agree, I think. Because of this nuanced and patient way of working, people often tell me they have never had a massage like it and I've had several patients who couldn't get an issue resolved elsewhere by any other practitioner. Being told this for so long I knew I had something unique to offer and I wanted to put my message and my work out in a way that was my own.

Finally... I started Satya in March, 2016. I have seen many of my clients for years and hope to see many more. I hope you will help me in this journey and that I may help you. I will continue to blog and use this as a platform for my more general philosophical reflections. It is all relevant because body & mind are one.

Thank you

Razelle