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A Sweet Gift Became a Painful Experience

My husband gave me the most thoughtful gift for my birthday this year. He gave me money for a massage. He said he didn’t buy a gift certificate because he wanted me to be able to choose where to go. He had heard me talking about finding a new massage therapist over the past few months.

I saw the same massage therapist every two weeks for quite a while. She did a great job, and I felt pretty good while I was seeing her regularly. When she chose a different career path, I never found another another therapist. I relied on my chiropractor and my husband to keep my pain manageable.

I live with chronic shoulder pain due to a car accident I had when I was a young woman. The problem was exacerbated by a couple of falls on the ice during typical Missouri winters. As I age, my shoulder pain becomes more pronounced. In fact, lately my entire back has been bothering me.

That’s why Jim’s gift was so sweet and thoughtful. I chose an evening when he wouldn’t be home and went in for my much-anticipated massage. I chose a place that a friend of mine has used. He said they did a good job for him, and that was good enough for me.

I was surprised to find what appeared to be an empty business. I studied the board outside the shop listing all of the services and strolled in once I had narrowed down my choices to two options. What happened next can only be described as an omen.

I walked up to the counter and looked around for an employee. A man entered from a curtained area and said, “Yes?”

I asked him to explain the difference between the two options I was considering.

His reply was, “20 minutes.” He motioned to the couch in the corner and said, “Please sit.”

I was perplexed, but sat on the small couch and scrolled through Facebook while he returned to the curtained area. He came to stand in front of me roughly half an hour later and motioned for me to follow him. He pointed to a tub next to the kneeling chairs and then pointed to my purse and phone, which I put in the tub. He pointed to my glasses, so I put them on top of my purse. He pointed to a kneeling chair and grunted, so I knelt on the chair.

He dug his knuckles into my good shoulder and I couldn’t hold back my gasp. He kept on going. Most of the massages I’ve had have included some discomfort and my bad shoulder always hurts during a massage, but this degree of pain was new.

When he started in on my bad shoulder, I told the therapist that it hurt like crazy. He said, “Okay.” He moved on to another area. It hurt, too. Everything I said was met with “Okay.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my therapist spoke woefully little English, which is the only language I speak. I endured 30 minutes of what must have been deep tissue massage because I understand the concept of “No pain, no gain.” I thought perhaps that might be the case with this experience. Unfortunately, my shoulder hurt worse than it had in years for a solid week.

I went to my chiropractor and explained what happened. She asked a few questions, and I told her I thought the main problem was the language barrier. She adjusted my shoulder and manipulated some pressure points. Then she gently advised me not to return to that particular massage establishment again.

The worst part was telling my husband about my experience. He gave me a thoughtful gift, and I ended up nearly incapacitated as a result of where I chose to use my gift. He felt bad. I felt bad. All because I made a poor choice.

Massages are supposed to be healthy and relaxing. I haven’t given up. I have an appointment with a new massage therapist in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been assured this person speaks fluent English. I think that’s the key for anyone to have a good experience. Communication is a must.

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