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04/25/2010

Paying homage

By Rick Madonik, Staff Photographer

Slugging akward weight - in the way of photo gear - about my body for the past 26 years has taken its toll. So, just over a decade ago, I began to do something to alleviate the daily discomfort. It has become a monthly ritual of my work life that can't be ignored. (Actually, it could be ignored, but there would be the daily reminder in the way of pain.) Perhaps, more accurately, its the practitioner of the "need" that needs to be recognized. (For the purposes of this blog, I'll call her by her initial - S!)

A one-time journalist who forsake a media career and reinvented herself as an RMT (registered massage therapist) has had my devote attention for the past 11 years. Even as her places' of employment snaked across the city - one location was not at all convenient with a 60 minute commute each way - I followed her like a lost puppy. S couldn't shake me if she tried. For years I've threatened her with the promise if I ever won a lottery she will enjoy a very comfortable living and an extremely limited client base.

Although I always liked the idea of massage, it was one of those expenses I wasn't willing to endure. Despite the need, as a self employed person it was one of those things I chose to do without. After I was hired at The Star, I began to seek out a therapist. Star employees, in the benefits package, had (at the time) a bit of money (it has since tripled in value) for massage. For me, the time had come to try to correct the chronic and persistent shoulder and lower back pain.

It was an injury (a small fracture at the base of my toe) incurred at work which has convinced me of the merits of massage. Foolishly I did nothing about the injury at the time it happened. I was on contract at The Star and had no benefits, and didn't think it was as bad as it was. It wasn't until 8 months later that it seized up and my ability to walk was basically gone. I remember working New Year's Eve 1999 (remember good old Y2K) and not being able to bear weight on my right foot. I hobbled around all night. By the end of the evening (I covered the main stage for the city's New Year's celebration located behind The Star building) I truely couldn't walk.

This lead me to physical therapy, but I continued to have problems walking. Because the injury is in a critical spot for how the foot pushes off when a step is taken, the injury altered my gait and stride length. This, of course, exacerbated the preexisting issue in my lower back (hip), as well as leading to new problems. S finally talked me into letting her work on my toe since that problem was making everything else worse.

It took years (literally) to restore movement. More importantly, it took a therapist who is willing to perform deep tissue massage. I had seen a number of therapists before finding S, and discovered few willing to exert moderate to heavy pressure. Today, I know, my resistance (unconscious "guarding") didn't help the situation. But once I learned a few breathing techniques and began to "accept" the separation of muscle tissue, the once barely bearable pain is, today, a pleasurable, intense release and restoration.

These days, I go to massage every 4th week. Without it, I know for certain, my back and hips and foot, would be constant reminders of my work history. Thankfully, the vast majority of my days are pain free. Although I took up yoga a few years ago to help combat the daily aches, it is without a doubt, S's talent and technique which is instrumental in keeping this 50 year old limber.

There was one day in particular S was invaluable. Three days before I went to Afghanistan for the first time, I was picking up supplies in a pharmacy. I squatted down in the aisle to check a product when I twisted and felt something strain in the back of my knee. I knew immediately I had done something. The next morning there was some swelling in the back of my knee and it felt restricted. Squatting hurt. I began to panic since going off to war with a knee injury was not a wise thing and we were two days away from a trip in the making for 2 months. I called the clinic and S was able to see me for a 30 minute session (these days I have 90 minute sessions) and was able to get into the back of my knee and release the problem tissue.

Simply said, S plays a huge role in my work life. Her talent and skill have kept me mobile and limber. Because of her help, I'm able to compete my tasks in a relatively comfortable manner. Now, I just have to hope she never wins the lottery and quits working!

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