Massage therapy and athletics are a natural combination. Body maintenance, recovery, rehabilitation and improved performance are just a few reasons why many professional and Olympic athletes have incorporated bodywork as part of their training regimen. But what if an athlete requires special attention, is disabled, or is affected by a myriad of complications? Does the approach alter?
Walking up to this unfamiliar door, Joanie Heart was uncertain her abilities as a massage therapist would make a difference. For one of the only times in her career, intimidation was looming. It was 1997 and behind the door was a 25-year-old man, not so much unlike other massage clients she’d seen in her 14 years of practice, except for one thing — he was a paraplegic.
“I was afraid I couldn’t help him,” said Heart. “I’ve always been very confident in my work, but for a few moments I was uncertain. I was standing in the wilderness with no map of where to go.”
Although individuals with disabilities can greatly benefit from various bodywork modalities, they generally do not avail themselves of these therapies for a variety of reasons. Relying largely on the advice of conventional health care providers who are often skittish about referring for bodywork, those with disabilities often don’t know their “alternative” options. In addition, because many bodywork professionals are unfamiliar with the unique issues associated with disability, there is apprehension when dealing with this population.