I’m at the office of the massage therapist who has started by placing me face down on the table and running the heel of her hand like a plow-blade around the edges of the two kite-shaped ‘angel wings’ we call the scapulae. And in fact I do feel like a patch of plowed-up earth, the way she digs into me, but finally she stops. “There!” she finally says with satisfaction. “NOW your shoulders are up on your back again where they belong!”
I’m calling today’s post ‘The Hunch’, for what we’ve been doing to our poor bodies ever since we first stood upright and began sashaying around on two legs.
Once our ancestors spent their days running across open spaces and handing themselves along among the tree branches. Every day they reached high above their heads, shoulders back and chests open. Today by contrast, at work and in leisure-time both, we spend our days hunched over screens and devices. Our arms in front. Our shoulders rolled forward. Our backs, quite noticeably, hunched. Right?
And our bodies pay the price, as I am learning on this table.Twenty minutes in, with my dorsal side ironed flat, the therapist flips me like a pancake so I’m now face up. Then, coming in from the side, she begins working her way through the filo-dough of tissues under my left arm to address that strong rubber band of a muscle known as Teres Minor.
She presses. I leap like a fish. It’s worse than electrolysis. Worse than getting your mustache snatched off. Worse even than that time in childhood when, on a dare, you popped a wad of tinfoil in your mouth and bit down, just to see how it felt on your fillings.
While a person generally signs up for that last experiment only once, with massage therapy you’re there as often as you can scrape together the dough, the ‘vividness’ of the experience notwithstanding.
Deep work on little Teres Minor can be tough to receive, sure, but really? It’s worth the pain. As with the other three muscles of the rotator cuff, it lets us circle and swing our arms, while still keeping them attached to our bodies – and a good thing too, because how would it be if people were all accidentally flinging their arms off every time you turned around?
“Ah now, this is good,” the therapist is now saying in her calm soothing voice. “This way when you reach for that vase high on the shelf, you can just shoot an arm up without the rest of your body having to come too.” Then she works on my neck a while, so that I won’t have to turn my whole torso to look behind me before pulling out into traffic.
And by gosh, it all works. When, with the session over, I pull out of my parking space, I can keep my body facing forward while I turn my head practically clear around.
I feel like an owl. A happy owl at that. Then once home, I try that other thing: I reach a vase down from its place on the shelf using one of my newly mobilized, strangely longer arms while the rest of my torso, earthbound, taking things easy down below.
In fact I’m looking at that vase as I dot these last i’s here, because as soon as I’m done I believe I’ll fill it with flowers and run it over to her office. Then, on the way back to my car, shoulders back, and head high, I may even reach up to those pretty trees lining the sidewalk and swing from some low-hanging branches myself.