Sometimes I feel as though I am falling apart. Like a broken Barbie doll. With tangled hair, neck bent backwards, one leg twisted sideways while the ankle dangles limply, AND in a naked heap at the bottom of the toy box. Steve often compares me to a doll made in China that is cute on the outside but poorly constructed. Perhaps not diplomatically correct, but a fitting analogy nonetheless. I do in fact have chronic neck and shoulder pain caused from a bad disc, as well as a history other tendon injuries. When they start acting up in unison, I miss my Dee. Terribly.
Who is Dee? Technically speaking she is a competent massage therapist who came to my home once a week for almost 10 years to deal mostly with my back and kept me mentally centered while I juggled work, motherhood and the Diplomatic wife commute. Personally speaking, she is a friend whom I miss very much, and who I will also elevate to the category of “healer”. She is blessed with the perfect combination of physio-knowledge, strength and this quantum-touch energy that allows her to give a killer massage that is somehow both effective and extremely relaxing.
Since moving to Prague 5 months ago, I decided that I could forgo this weekly indulgence. I didn’t want to cheat on Dee. Bad decision. Chronic neck & shoulder pain are creating nerve pain in unwanted places (as if there were any good place) as well as disrupting my sleep. Recently, I gave in and tried 2 different therapists — one was too soft, and one was too hard. In fact, neither was quite right at all. Like Goldilocks on a mission, I was determined to find a solution; especially with a ski trip on the horizon that was going to to require functioning body parts.
Someone from the Embassy recommended a place by the name of Wellness Roosevelta which is conveniently located in the residential neighborhood in which I will soon be moving. They have a great website and many services to choose from, but none sounded like the therapeutic deep-tissue that I was looking for. Fortunately when I called, there was a receptionist who spoke passible English. A 90 minute Thai massage was recommended with Kanlaya.
I arrived to find a very large, clean and attractive facility; however, I realized almost immediately that a traditional Thai massage meant fully clothed while laying face down on a mat on the floor. That was not going to bode well with my neck which at this point could not turn to the left at all. “I need a traditional massage table” I said and repeated a need for an unclothed deep tissue-esque massage. “Can Kanlaya do this?”, I asked with me being the naked one in question. “Yes”, she responded and suggested an Oriental aromatic massage that involves pressure, but promotes relaxation. Perfect!
Once this was graciously sorted out, and having settled into another room with my head in a proper neck-cradle, I felt encouraged that perhaps I had made a good choice. Five minutes in I was not so sure.
Kanlaya can only be described as a lithe, pretty Thai woman who is just under 5 feet tall and weighing no more than 100 lbs soaking wet. Yet straddling my back while digging her elbows and thumbs into me created visions of a metamorphosed, Medusa-like creature with multiple tentacles attacking me from behind. “Your neck is a mess!”, she said as she jammed her elbow into a trigger point on my back. “We are gonna have to work on the hard tissue first to get to the soft tissue”. I was suddenly scared. While she continuously worked on my back and neck for at least 45 minutes, I re-activated my Lamaze breathing skills which I have not tapped into since giving birth 20 years ago. So that no pocket of tissue was left untouched, she located and forcefully massaged a very teenie, tiny, tight, little muscle that I did not know existed. Until now. Intercostal muscle between my ribs maybe? I nearly flew off the table backwards.
Just about when I was about to use my “safe word”, she moved down my body for a brief reprieve. Then she found the insertion point of my hamstring. “You are very tight here too m’am”. Oh lord! To fix the hamstring problem she surgically located a knotted area on my CALF to focus her torture. “Nerves here connect to the hamstring. This is your problem”, she politely pointed out. Right about now I was desperately trying to find my happy place by focusing on the music, but realized almost immediately that it had shifted from a lovely harmony to what can be only described as a funeral home aria. My next conscious thought: “I AM GOING TO DIE HERE from a lactic acid overdose!” All the while I could hear the devil inside of me screaming, “You idiot! — Couldn’t you have just stuck with the calm massage???”
Over the noise on my head I managed to hear Kanlaya say, “You are going have to take some pain medicine. You are going to be sore tomorrow”. No kidding sister. I suspect she was referring to Advil or Tylenol, but I was fantasizing about NARCOTICS.
Mercifully, she then flipped me over to massage the front of my body. Finally done with my back – or so I thought. After massaging my face & head, she sat me upright, got behind me and with all of her weight, and forced my upper body down over my stretched out legs. My nose was reacquainted with my kneecaps for the 1st time since 8th grade gymnastics, and I actually broke a sweat getting a massage. When she was finished she said, “I went easy on you since I don’t know your body yet. It will be firmer next time”. Holy smokes. Goldilocks met the Mama bear of massage.
Now you are probably thinking why I had not stopped her at some point. I figured it had to ease up (which it didn’t) or at the very least that this Far East form of masochistic torture would somehow help me physically if I didn’t die first. My instincts must have been right because when I finally got up from the table I actually could move my neck in a way that I hadn’t been able in days. Not only that, but during my long walk home with Barbie-like disheveled hair, I suddenly felt like I was standing a bit straighter. In fact, I slept very deeply and feel a whole lot better physically once the soreness wore off. In addition, there were no marks or bruises the next day. Shockingly. Did I need some pain medicine? Yes indeed. Did I schedule another session? Of course I did.
Kanlaya really was lovely and obviously very, technically adept. While she may never be “just right” and certainly never replace my Dee, perhaps she will keep me aligned and be my surrogate healer while in Prague.