Massaging My Mom After Surgery

A couple weeks ago, my mom had a partial gastrectomy. This surgery removed the lower part of her stomach. It is becoming a more widely used weight loss intervention. While the surgery went well, there was obviously a lot of discomfort. My mom had a hard time getting comfortable and having a full night’s rest. She was often woken up in the middle of the night from all of the pain she was experiencing.
I stopped by to see how she was feeling, and she told me about the discomfort and lack of sleep. She asked me to rub her back. Now, my mom, rarely asks for massages, and when she does, she only wants the lightest pressure ever. She’s the most sensitive client I’ve ever had…and I’ve had plenty over the years! The slightest bit of pressure, and she’s jumping off the table. So, I knew if she was asking me for a massage, she must’ve been in a lot of pain. Without hesitation, I gently rubbed her back in the area that was hurting. Because she can’t lay flat yet, I massaged her while she was sitting in a chair. The massage was less than 5 minutes but it made a world of difference.
The next day, on Facebook, she posted,
“Happiness is having a daughter that is the best massage therapist there for you when you need her most. Thank you Vanessa Hazzard.  I slept like a baby last night and no pain medication. Love you to the moon.”
While I love helping all of my clients become pain free, it’s nothing like helping out those closest to you. Not only is my mom the person that introduced me to anatomy and kinesiology when I was 10 years old, she is the backbone (pun intended) of our family. To be able to help the person that has helped countless others, both professionally and personally, is an honor. She’s since told me that she is counting down the days until the doctor gives her the okay to get deeper massage work on her back. Because of this, I’ve been doing my research!
I’d like to share some of it with you, in case you also end up working with post-surgical partial gastrectomy clients:

  • According to a study at Chungnam National University Hospital, the degree of pain [after the partial gastrectomy] was significantly reduced according to post operation day and quality of sleep was significantly increased (Asian Oncology Nursing 2012).
  • Complications such as postoperative bleeding, delayed gastric emptying, early satiety, and nutritional deficiencies may occur in some patients.
  • Abdominal massage can help with hypertrophic scarring (adhesions)
  • In most cases, after 6 weeks post-surgery, clients are able to receive massage. Any time before then, request a doctor’s note.
  • Once client is cleared for massage, depending on sensitivity to pressure, they may need to be worked on side-lying. (They may be able to sleep on their stomach, but sleeping and having pressure applied while laying prone, are two different sensations. Always check in with them, and adjust accordingly.)

I’d like to hear about any experiences you’ve had working with post -surgical clients. Tell me about it in the comments section!
Asian Oncol Nurs. 2012 Feb;12(1):69-76. Korean.

I Gave My 8-Year-Old a Deep Tissue Massage

My son, Phoenix, and I were coming up the stairs after grocery shopping. When we get inside our apartment, he says, “Ah, I hurt my back mommy! I need a massage immediately!” Now, my son is a bit dramatic…and by a bit, I mean extremely. You would think the sky was falling…all day, every day! That being said, he’s never asked for a massage for pain relief before. In fact, I didn’t even think he knew that massage could do that!

 Phoenix falls asleep ANYWHERE!

Most parents massage their kids when they are little. Being that Phoenix has a massage therapist for a mom, he is no different, except maybe in the way I use massage. Phoenix was never the kid that needed a relaxing massage to go to sleep. This kid never had a problem sleeping! He’s been sleeping through the night ever since he was a few weeks old. I know, I was super lucky! In fact, if I tried to cuddle or massage him when he was falling asleep, he’d get agitated. When I do massage Phoenix, it’s after he showers. I use really thick oils and creams for his incredibly dry skin and eczema, so the massage is somewhat vigorous.  He’s also used to receiving Thai massage on occasion (which I’ll talk about in a later blog). Those are the only two contexts he knows massage…so I thought.
Given all this, I was kind of shocked when he ask for a massage because his back hurt. When he flung the bag of groceries on the floor, he did so in a way that hurt his right rhomboid. I sat him on my lap, and brought his arm across his body. I pressed his right pec backward while manipulating his scapula, then I massaged his right rhomboid and levator scapula from that position. He let me know when I found the spots that hurt, and then breathed a sigh of relief once the pain was gone.  While massaging Phoenix, I realized that I’ve never done deep work on a body his size before. I was surprised to feel how tense his little muscles were. The whole process was quite intuitive though…and kind of fun!

silly phoenix

Phoenix getting ready to take over the world!

There’s a lot of myths about deep tissue massage (again, the subject of a later blog), one of which I’ve heard is that you shouldn’t do that particular kind of massage on minors, or smaller people. I’m not sure how that myth got started. Working on my son, who is both small, and a minor, I can tell you that idea is erroneous. There was no way I could’ve given Phoenix a fluffy “spa massage” and still alleviated his pain. The dude needed the works!
Even though the massages Phoenix received in the past weren’t aimed at pain relief, the fact that he had decreased pain as
a side effect, prompted him to ask for a massage when he was in pain. I’m glad that he instinctively knew what to do to take care of himself.