Off and on, I struggle with stiff feet and ankles when I run. I call them my “franken-ankles” because I feel like I’m running like Frankenstein’s monster. I often see Tiffany or Teresa for massage to help increase my ankle mobility and range of motion and with my last visit with Tiffany, a flood of memories surfaced.
She was working deeply on the muscles and ligaments of my foot as I was drifting when I was startled awake by a very vivid flashback of the time when I was 15 and one of the bones in my foot snapped in a freak accident on the day my mom was scheduled to have a major surgery. Because of the timing with my family, the doctors postponed casting me and my foot took a very long time to heal. It doesn’t consciously give me any issues now and I truthfully wouldn’t even remember to write that injury down on a health history, but the moment Tiffany worked around that area, I was instantly transformed 20 years back in time to that day like it was happening right then.
Our bodies hold on to tension and stress in ways we can’t consciously comprehend. Many times, a client has felt a rush of emotion as their shoulders loosened up or their jaw relaxed during a massage as the stress from from a tense argument at work, or the death of a loved one starts to escape. Clients might perk up with an “a-ha!” moment when a muscle releases, revealing an old sports injury or childhood fall. We have even experienced clients having an anxiety attack on the table as a muscle releases. Even if our minds aren’t consciously aware of all of your memories and emotions, you can be sure that your muscles are.
If you happen to experience an “emotional release” during a massage, don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, your therapist has witnessed several, and many therapists have received enough massage through their schooling and self-care that they may have even experienced one themselves. If you wish to have a moment alone, that is fine. Your therapist can also offer you a tissue and a safe space to talk, laugh, or cry while they continue with the massage. They will take their cues from you. If you remember an old injury, do share! It is certainly possible it could be contributing to new pain.
If you get massage all the time but never experience a rush of emotion, you are also perfectly normal! We have had clients over the years try to “force” a release, thinking hard on old traumas or forcibly breathing deeply during work because another therapist or a friend told them that it is the only way to heal, but that isn’t true! Your body knows what it needs and whatever your response to massage, you are a-ok!
The article “The Body Remembers” and the sources used in the article are good reads for anyone who is curious about this topic or who may have had their own instance of “remembering” a physical or emotional trauma that their body was holding on to.