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Roisin Gorman’s Open Letter. . . on massage

It took a pain crisis to appreciate that massage can help with anything from mental health issues to menopause mayhem’

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Some like the light touch, while others like a full-on bone crunching session

Some like the light touch, while others like a full-on bone crunching session

Some like the light touch, while others like a full-on bone crunching session

I’M paying someone to hurt me again and it feels great. It’s been two years since I last served myself up on the table for a pre-Covid pummelling and my back has been collecting knots like a supermarket reward scheme. As deprivations go, missing a six-monthly de-knotting wasn’t exactly the biggest pandemic hardship. I’ve also had to do my own nails. But now that magic hands are allowed to touch your skin again, it’s an everyday miracle on a massage table. I’ve got a back made of breeze blocks from sitting badly at a keyboard all day, accumulating stress that hangs out in my neck and shoulders and has me reaching for painkillers at 4am. That’s worth a bit of a rub. Over the years I’ve had a massage therapist, a hyper-caffeinated lady who could have done five clients at once, warn of my repressed anger in my buttocks, and regular warnings that my shoulders are like concrete. For most of those years I did what any normal person would do — took that concrete, built a condo with underground parking on it and completely ignored the aches. It took a pain crisis to appreciate that massage can help with anything from mental health issues to the mayhem of the menopause and chronic pain. The Irish Massage Therapists Association argued its members should be allowed out of lockdown last winter as an essential service and the British Beauty Council co-authored a report earlier this year saying its massage specialists should be considered a part of health care. In Europe and Asia, a stint on the table is considered perfectly normal but we attach a bit of a ‘luxury extra’ label to it. I first dipped a toe in the massage oil with a beauty therapist who gave a rub so insipid it was like a wounded butterfly had limped up my back. And it confirmed whale music should be reserved for whales. My friend loved the light touch of the same therapist and even thanked her for the drool bowl under the facial opening on the table. She was mortified to learn it was full of carefully curated essential oils, and now her drool. An Indian massage with a pummelling from a hot spice ball was a slight improvement and I smelled exotic for days. The penny finally dropped that a more robust approach was needed, which took me to Buttock Woman, who told me about my angry ass. There is no adequate response to the news that your bum is literally the seat of your stress, and I never went back. Like an addict chasing a high, I finally settled on the physio massage which, and there is no way to lie about this, hurts. One particularly chatty therapist bluntly explained that she was chatting for a reason, to distract me from the pain, so we could either listen to me grunt or make serious small talk. I could now do my top 10 Love Island contestants while I’m de-knotted. I asked her if the slight crunching noises were my bones. They were the muscular tangles being combed out like hair that hasn’t been brushed for about two years. My back is Boris Johnson’s hair. The downside of a return to therapy is that I can still feel every massaged muscle 24 hours later. The upside is that tomorrow I’ll be moving like a normal person, ditching the painkillers, and I suspect my buttocks are no longer livid.

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