An Agent of Change

     Ruth had been seeing doctors for a few years for an "undiagnosed neurological disorder."  (She found out a few weeks after we began working together that it was Parkinson's disease.)  For our first session, I took my massage table to her house, and we chatted a bit about her experience.  Ruth told me that she had weakness and poor balance in her legs, often falling, and stiff muscles in many parts of the body.  She had trouble eating and sleeping, and difficulty concentrating and dressing.  In fact, she had become so disabled that her main focus every day was to make it from room to room in her house without falling.  

    I told Ruth that we would work in an exploratory way, doing shiatsu with her clothes on, to find work that may be beneficial and also completely comfortable, and I asked her to please let me know if anything was uncomfortable in any way, because pain is not relaxing or therapeutic.  She told me that she couldn't lie comfortably face down, and that she would become dizzy if I moved her head.  So Ruth laid on the table on her back, and I began to make gentle contact with her, holding, slowly stretching and rocking the body, using my hands and thumbs to press on acupressure points. 

    I had asked Ruth to tell me if anything was uncomfortable, and she has so much sensitivity in her body that she spoke up many, many times, telling me that the pressure was painful.  In fact, I was using pressure that was lighter than light, barely engaging muscle.  Ruth could hardly tolerate any stretching either.  We worked for about sixty minutes, and I ended up mostly just cradling the body and doing laying on of hands, because anything else produced too much discomfort.

    When the session ended, I asked Ruth how she was feeling, and she said, I feel better, more relaxed.  Can you come back next week?  Ruth asked.  I agreed to return, and asked her if she had ever tried acupuncture.  She said that she had the name of a local acupuncturist but hadn't tried it yet.  I suggested that acupuncture might be beneficial if we were going to continue shiatsu, because acupuncture works in a similar way and may boost the effectiveness of our shiatsu treatments.

     I returned eight days later, and asked Ruth how she had been feeling.  Better, she said, she was eating and sleeping more easily and felt more comfortable in general.  (Her husband told me later that she had been feeling so much better that she had seen her doctor that week and had her dosage of pain medication reduced.)  She also mentioned that she had her first acupuncture treatment yesterday.  Did you feel any effects from that? I asked.  No, not really, she replied.  I set up the massage table, and Ruth laid face up and told me, I think you should start with my feet.  So I began holding the feet, then gently squeezing, then stretching and rotating toes, then using thumb pressure on the soles of the feet.  Ruth laid quietly, not saying a word, her face calm and relaxed.  I rotated ankles, stretched the legs, did acupressure on energy meridians that run the length of the legs, with light-to-medium pressure.  Still no discomfort.  I rolled the hip up to stretch the lower back, worked on the abdomen, pressed on acupressure points the whole length of the arms, worked with the hands and fingers, tractioned the shoulders in several positions.  I worked thoroughly with the neck, stretching, rotating, squeezing muscles.  I ended with acupressure all over the face and scalp.  I did a very normal shiatsu session and Ruth never said a word, she laid quietly with her eyes closed.

     When we finished, Ruth opened her eyes.  How are you doing? I asked.  Fine, Ruth said.  Was all of that comfortable for you?  Yes, she replied.  Was anything that I did uncomfortable for you in any way?  No, she said nonchalantly.  I am used to seeing significant improvements in chronic pain conditions from a single shiatsu session, but this rather blew my mind!  I said, Ruth, I think that acupuncture treatment had a big effect, because all of the sensitivity you had in your body last week is gone.  Ruth looked at me and said, I think God sent you to me to be an agent of change in my life.  I think so too, I replied.  Can you come back next week?  Ruth asked.