Friday, September 12, 2014

Therapeutic massage

Caution: this post runs the risk of crossing the line into TMI.

I have never been a fan of massages. Receiving them, that is. It's just not the way I like to relax. So when the chiropractor told me that I really needed an hour of therapeutic massage on my psoas (pronounced SO-AZ) muscle, I was less excited than resigned. But I have been fighting a nasty case of hip pain lately, and I'm about desperate for anything that will allow me to walk normally instead of gimping around like my left foot has exploded.

Let me tell you a little about the psoas muscle. I had never heard of it until recently. Apparently you have two of them, one on either side. In the small of your back, the psoas attaches to your spine. It then runs down through the inside of your pelvis, right along the inside of your hip joint, and attaches to the upper inside of your femur (the big leg bone), right along the inside of your thigh. It's also attached to a bunch of other muscles that run down the inside of your leg to the knee.

This is all important information because a therapeutic massage to your psoas muscle involves the therapist reaching down inside your pelvic bones somewhere behind your kidney to access the muscle. Then the massage starts, which involves pushing down even farther and displacing even more of your internal organs. If your psoas is at all tender, the discomfort grows even greater. (NOTE FOR THE UNWARY: In medical parlance, "discomfort" means you should have remembered the breathing techniques they taught your wife when she was anticipating labor without meds.)

In my therapist's words, "it's a crazy muscle." She also said somewhere along the way, "I basically get paid to beat people up."

So for an hour, the massage therapist worked inside and outside my skeleton to get at this pesky muscle that seems to be causing me so much trouble. Just for fun, she also worked on a few knots in some of the associated muscles. None of this was in any way enjoyable.

During the inquisition, I started thinking about the word "therapeutic." It comes from the Greek word "therapeuo" which means "to heal." Being healed is not necessarily a fun, relaxing process. Being healed often involves a great deal of pain as old wounds get dealt with.

So often when we ask God to heal us, we think we're asking him to take the pain away. In reality, we may be asking that he would intensify the pain, cut us off from our own comfort, drive us into agony so that he can bring us to a state of wholeness that was not possible while we lived in our original wounded state.

This may be one reason why suffering is so important in the New Testament.

It's also why Jesus asks what I think is one of the most important questions in the New Testament, in the beginning of John 5. Speaking to a man who has been paralyzed for years, Jesus asks, "Do you want to be made well?"

Seems like a stupid question, but notice -- the man never answers it. He simply offers Jesus excuses why he can't get into the pool where healing was supposed to happen. Jesus heals him, and it quickly becomes apparent that this guy is a bit of a weasel. He rats Jesus out to the Jewish leaders. He tattles. It's easy to think maybe he didn't really want to be made well in the first place.

How bad do you want to be whole? Are you willing to dive into some pain to find wholeness? Are you willing to let Jesus take you through suffering if that's how he wants to bring you healing?

While you think about that, I'm going to drink some more water and admire the bruises that are starting to develop all through the surfaces that allow "easy" access to my psoas muscles. Ouch.


  1. After your description, I had to do a google search of that muscle. I found an interesting video at:
    I have got to believe that this is NOT an enjoyable massage. When I think massage, I think back rub, which I do enjoy.

    Your point about allowing God to "work" (painfully, at times) was well taken. Thank you.

  2. Wow! I had to chuckle at this -- my massage therapist was not nearly that cautious, though I'm quite certain she knew what she was doing. Very instructive! Great to hear from you, Bruce!