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When Clients Spasm - A Massage Crisis
 massage - (glowing_rd_eyes)
 
12:22pm 01/06/2008
 
 
glowing_rd_eyes posting in massage
This happened at my studio a few weeks ago, and I just forgot to post about it here until now.

One of the therapists who works the same shift as me was working on a woman for the first time. She has performed a very light touch massage because the woman had told her that she (the client) had a very low pain threshold. At the end of the massage, the client had gotten dressed and was ready to leave, when all of a sudden she was incapacitated by a pain that shot across her lower back, affecting both left and right sides of the lumbar region (roughly L4-L5). She leaned forward and laid on the massage table from the waist up and was unable to move without excruciating pain. The therapist pulled the other male therapist in to try to help her. At this point, I went into my 90-minute massage and treated my client. 90 minutes later, the woman was still laying on the floor, crying, unable to move without unbearable pain in her lower back. I got a hot stone pack from the supply room and laid it (through towels, of course) under her back to alleviate some of the pain.

Keep in mind that at this point she had been in this pain for around two hours. Her boyfriend was at work and not reachable for whatever reason, and although she lived very nearby she could not stand to walk home. Sitting upright was equally impossible for her. Laying on her back was the only thing she could do.

The therapist who had worked on her, a woman who has only been working in the field for about 18 months if I remember correctly, was just losing it. She thought that she had broken this woman's back or otherwise paralyzed her from the waist down, and was crying and shaken. Her confidence was absolutely shot, and she told the receptionist at the studio that she couldn't do any more massages that day. After roughly 45 more minutes (so approaching three hours, total time), the client finally agreed to let us call an ambulance to transport her to the E.R. The other male therapist and I cleared the walkway (our studio is on the 2nd floor of a building with no elevator or handicap access) and moved the cars out back to give the paramedics direct access with no obstructions. After that, I spent about fifteen minutes talking to the therapist who had worked on this poor woman, assuring her that a massage as light as she had performed could not have done extensive damage to the woman's back, and that at worst what had happened was that she had a slipped or herniated disc, and that she would get help at the hospital. Eventually, she stopped crying. She still had to go home, though.

The paramedics showed up, and tried loading the woman onto this chair type contraption, but to no avail as she still could not sit upright without unbearable pain. She was eventually strapped to the backboard and carried out.

Now, it turned out to be a severe muscle spasm, and she's fine now. But the reason I recount this story here for you is that if there are any of you reading this community who are relatively new to the profession, you need to know that if you stay in the job long enough, something like this will happen to you. Maybe not to your client, but you will see it or be working when it happens. Hell, the client I worked on right after this was over had a back spasm that, while much less severe, impacted her to the point where she had to stay on the table for a few minutes to allow the spasm to pass.

There is nothing that we can do to prevent the unknowns from happening in this line of work. But when things like this do occur, the most important thing is to remain calm. Take a deep breath (or ten), get help if you are able to, and use your training to help the client into a non-painful position. If you freak out, it only makes the client freak out more and can worsen the situation. If this happens during an outcall with a private client, your first response after trying to get them into a non-painful position is to call whomever they ask you to, and offer to call an ambulance. If you work at a studio, go to the receptionist and get them to offer to call.

Some of us can go our entire careers without seeing anything like this. Just don't assume that you'll be one of those fortunate few.
 
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 manifestress
 
07:55pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Karlita - stepping into my true self
I have actually PERSONALLY experienced this as a client.

Two different times, because of the position I was lying in (face down, then face up with not enough support under my knees), I was in tremendous spasm after the session, and it took me quite a while to get up (rolled over to my side, "hanging" off the table with my upper body) to get relaxed. And I'm an LMT who has been in practice since 1987.

Each time, it took me about half the day to gently work on myself through stretching, etc. to get my lower back to release.

This is one of the reasons that I use the Body Support System for my clients - because it does not over extend the lumbar spine.
 
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 masdevallia
 
10:42pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Masdevallia: massage
I completely agree the body cushions rock! I also find that some clients need to move a few times rather than lie in one position for very long. For example they couldn't lie prone for 30 minutes without spasming when turning. So we flip often for some of my clients. And I also just had a client have a severe spasm two weeks ago and she's still recovering. She tried to "help" during massage with the bolsters and spasmed as a result. I saw the spasm happen. argh. I told her to not help and relax but the damage was done. sigh. She's beginning to feel a little better, and she's really not irritated at me she's bummed her back can tweak so easily.

I've been doing massage in private practice over 14 years, and this stuff still sucks when it happens.
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 moskevyu
 
08:19pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Axey Moskevyu: AnimeMoto
Wow. That's really scary. Thank you for posting it.

I'm a massage student presently. If I encounter a client who mentions she has frequent back spasms, are there any techniques I can use to reduce the likelihood of this? I can't imagine a client taking it well if she goes through a session with me and the next experience she has is screaming intense pain.
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 lisianthia
 
09:25pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
lisianthia
I had something similar happen to me earlier this year. The client was able to drive home after an hour or so though.

Out of curiosity, was this client charged for her session? I ended up not charging the woman when it happened to me. That probably wasn't the "right" thing to do, but I just couldn't accept money considering she was in such bad shape when she left.
 
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 glowing_rd_eyes
 
09:37pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
glowing_rd_eyes
No, she wasn't. It just didn't seem right to run after the ambulance shouting, "Wait! You forgot to pay!"
 
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 tressiejane
 
09:28pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
tressiejane
thank you for posting this. my question is, how did the client react to spasming so severely after the massage? does she blame the massage (not that it's to blame), or is she aware there may be other factors at work?
 
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 glowing_rd_eyes
 
09:38pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
glowing_rd_eyes
She had apparently had a smaller spasm earlier in the day, and did not blame the therapist or the massage for what happened.
 
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 manifestress
 
10:04pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
Karlita - stepping into my true self: Healer's Mark
One other thing - when I've had clients who have had spasms (like when they've turned over, etc.) or had foot cramps, etc. - this is what I have done -

In the event of a foot cramp, I've gently and firmly flexed the foot - and held it - while talking to them, telling them it's not uncommon for this to happen - that the body can get very relaxed, yet part of it can go, "ooohhh - what's happening?!?!" and spasm. That gets their mind off of it a bit, plus I'm holding the flex position - and then as I very gently let go, the spasm goes away, or else I repeat the move until it does.

I've had clients that have had lumbar spasms, and I will slide one hand under their body, confirm that I'm right on the spot, and once again, hold that spot while I gently talk to them - I've had very good luck with this - and each time they are surprised that the spasm goes away.

Sometimes "taking over" and taking the person's attention elsewhere for a moment is the trick!
picword: Healer's Mark
 
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 glowing_rd_eyes
 
10:19pm 01/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
glowing_rd_eyes
Agreed, and when I've had that happen to me during a massage that's what I've done too. Especially with foot and/or leg craps that's definitely the trick. It's a safe, simple, therapeutic technique.

But when the client is dressed and ready to leave, and the cramp is so severe that simply touching it is agonizing, it's best to not touch it.
 
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 tx_raven
 
03:49am 02/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
tx_raven
i recently had a client report to another therapist at my spa that after a massage, the client was urinating blood for several days. the massage was only a medium pressure. so the massage, as far as i know, can't have caused the situation unless there was some underlying medical issue that the therapist wasn't informed about. so the unforseen is just something we all have to deal with at one point or another.
 
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 new_shit
 
05:13pm 02/06/2008 (UTC)
 
 
This is the new shit.
Unless the therapist was massaging the client's kidneys or bladder very roughly, I can't imagine how massage could cause that!
 
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 acertainflower
 
10:52pm 23/08/2008 (UTC)
 
 
ari: ...and her cat
I just found this post after doing a search, and having a horrible massage experience today at Massage Envy. My only other massage experience was a couple of years ago, done by a friend (which was very good).

When the guy did my back, I had terrible spasms the entire time, and he felt I should see a doctor and that I may have Fibromyalgia. He also said the spasms were coming from between vertebrae in my back. I only came in because of some knots in my shoulder, and I don't normally have back spasms or pain, just tension. I thought the knot in my shoulder might be causing some slight scalp tenderness in one spot (that I've had for about a week), and mentioned this to him. The spasms went away once I got up, I feel fine now!

The only time I ever have spasms in my back are from long yoga sessions (45 min+), and otherwise, only very rarely. I know poses that relieve it right there and then... haha. I need to get back to my yoga routine- I haven't done yoga consistently in a couple of years...

I will definitely be seeing a doctor soon, but was wondering what you might think. Perhaps he was going too deep? I asked for somewhere inbetween firm and light... but there were times it hurt and I had to say something...
picword: ...and her cat
 
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 apgallag1
 
10:12pm 25/09/2011 (UTC)
 
 
I treated a client on Wed for upper back problems caused by disc trouble. On Friday her neck went into spasm. Has anyone else experienced this or know why this might happen?
 
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