For the last several days I’ve been staying off my feet and taking over-the-counter pain medication. When I walk, I generally use a cane (if I haven’t left it somewhere). As a result, my pain level has been greatly reduced. I have no intention of sitting around for the rest of my days, however.
I am still riding but the arrival of winter has nudged me into dialing back the mileage and intensity. On Saturday, I rode Big Nellie in the basement for 80 minutes. It’s a nice change of pace and infinitely preferable to riding while anxiously looking for icy patches on the pavement. Yesterday, I rode the CrossCheck outside. Temperatures declined into the 30s and winds picked up with each passing mile so I cut the ride short at 17 miles.
As I may have said earlier, I quit PT and Feldenkrais, at least until I give the pain doctor a shot (so to speak) at my problem. My friend Julie (a Rolfer, jewelry maker, proud momma, and Alaska backcountry bad ass hiker) said that I should give Structural Integration a try. (This should not be confused with Functional Intergration which is the basis of Feldenkrais.) In my current physical state, I will have to take a pass on her advice; Rolfing (one method of Structural Integration) can involve rather aggressive manipulation of body parts (in contrast to Feldenkrais which more closely resembles Reiki).
Julie’s Rolfing suggestion follows up on part of the conversation we had in Astoria, Oregon at the end of my cross country tour. I mentioned to her that a few years ago I had a problem with sharp pain in my right leg. While having a Thai massage, the therapist hit the problematic nerve in my inner right thigh and I flinched in pain. The therapist decided to skip over that part of my body. Julie said that if it had been her she would have dug right in.
It’s interesting that massage, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, and, for that matter, chiropractic, all profess to address the same body problems. Whether one method works probably depends on the pathology involved. At the moment, I know from x-rays that my back is showing numerous signs of age-related deterioration, complicated by my genetic make up, a previous back surgery, and a whole lot of wear and tear. Hopefully, tonight’s MRI will give an better view of what is causing the specific pain that I’ve been dealing with.
In a few weeks, I may be able to ramp up my activity level without pain.
I met Julie the day after I reached the Pacific coast on my 2018 bucket list cross country bike tour. I was feeling what I called afterglow. I want to feel that way again.
Thanks, Julie, for your suggestion. One of these days I hope to meet again. Come to think of it, I haven’t ridden a bike in Alaska yet.
I have only had one massage in my life. It came at the suggestion of my friend Paul. We had just completed our first century (100 miles) bike rides as part of the 1991 Bike Virginia event. Paul was about 3 weeks removed from breaking his collar bone (yes, Paul is an idgit) and I was amazed that he had done the whole distance. I suppose you would call what we had a sports massage. It only lasted 20 minutes but it felt so good I laughed my ass off for the entire thing. Despite the experience, I have never had a massage of any sort since.
A few years back (2011, I think), my Argentinian friend Florencia approached me in Meridian Hill Park on a lovely summer day. Stress was strewn across her normally cheerful face. She began to tell me of the oppressive weight of her unhappiness. She had a job, an apartment, tons of friends, more interesting activities than any ten people that I know, but she looked exhausted. “John, I am thinking of quitting my job and going to Thailand.” After a half hour of discussion, I could see that she had thought this through. I don’t know that my approval mattered much, but a short time later she was on a plane for Bangkok.
Her first excursion took her, among many places, to the Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai. Once I started reading of her times there, it became obvious that she had made the right choice. During her subsequent travels that year she also learned Reiki in Mumbai.
Ever since, whenever she was in DC, she has offered to give me a Thai massage and Reiki but I declined. Over the past four years I have had so many orthopedic and neurological issues that the thought of someone pressing into my muscles and nerves was a real turn off.
About a month ago, after spending summer in Argentina, she returned and announced that she would be giving Thai massage “with a Latin touch” and Reiki. (Flor knows marketing too.) With my back feeling better than it has in years and only minor other aches and pains, I signed up for a two-hour session.
I met her at her place and after spending 15 minutes inadequately catching up on each others lives (we’d need 15 hours), she went to work. First, we discussed any physical issues that she should be aware of. After reassuring her that I trusted her (not that she needed to hear it), she began. She put on some soothing music and began by gently massaging my face. It felt wonderful. Then she moved to rest of my head. Nice. Then my neck, firmly stroking in up and down along one line then another. We were in Nigel Hufnagle territory now. (On a scale of 1 to 10, the neck massage was an 11.)
She proceeded to work on my arms begining with each finger, gently but firmly pulling each one. Then she worked her way up each arm in a straight line mostly pressing in discrete spots along the line. Once she reached my shoulder she would go back to my hand and start anew on a different line. Eventually, my upper arms and shoulder blades were pushed this way and that. Each of these manipulations was gentle but firm. It was clear to me that she was carefully looking for signs of discomfort and tightness from me. At this point I was a happy camper. My eyes were closed as I just let her do her thing.
She moved to my feet and things got interesting. The bottoms of my feet are extremely sensitive. She pressed against the lines in the bottoms of my feet along the plantar fascia and OW! (This also happened with my acupuncturist so I wasn’t surprised.) She continued but backed off on the pressure. All was good. Next came my notoriously tight calves. Her manipulations and pressings were a bit uncomfortable but nothing too unpleasant. When she reached my thighs she found my true weakness. Each time she pressed it hurt. She later told me she wasn’t pressing hard at all but after tens of thousands of miles of biking and running my thighs are super tight and sensitive.
Along the way some of her manipulations were done with her feet. She would press her foot against the inside of my thigh and pull on my leg with her arms. It felt wonderful. She did a similar manipulation with her foot on my back and pulling on my arms. Ahhh! (I don’t think I would have realized this was what she was doing had I not watched a few videos. This looked scary in the videos but really felt great.)
She turned me over and massaged my back along my spine, kneading my back in small circles and moving from my head to the base of my spine, one line after the next. This felt great except for some minor discomfort when she was working near my old surgery incision (which I neglected to tell her about).
Next she gently laid her hands on my back and stopped just for a minute. By this time I was so mellowed out I don’t remember what came next. I eventually was lying on my back and her hands were gently placed on my forehead, then face, then chest, then stomach. She later told me that this was Reiki. Feeling her warm hands against my face after the Thai massage felt incredibly calming.
I had absolutely no idea how much time had passed. She said she stopped after 90 minutes. She decided that because of the discomfort in my legs that she would forgo some of the leg work that would take up about 30 minutes time. “Better to do too little than too much.” During the massage and Reiki we spoke hardly at all. “Just relax and meditate.”
Given the fact that my body is a bit of a train wreck, I’d say my first experience with Thai massage and Reiki was a resounding success.
I rarely see my friend Flor in a serious setting such as this. The vast majority of our times together have been at picnics and bike rides, casual events. To be honest, I had misgivings about having a friend in my personal space for as long as two hours. Flor put me completely at ease with her calm, caring, professional demeanor. I would recommend her Thai massage and Reiki to anyone.
After the massage, it was time for goodbyes. Flor is off to India in a few days for yoga training. As always, I will miss her, but I look forward to the next chapter in the life of my friend The Impermanent Resident.