It’s been a busy old summer, hasn’t it? Well, happily it was here at Dartmoor Massage. Since autumn hit like a bucket of cold sludge, I’ve been taking stock and the universe has sent me some useful things to consider; mainly about pain. Pain I inflict on people and pain people inflict on themselves.

Sometimes, I admit, my clients wince when I find a particularly tense or tender spot in a muscle, and I always ask them “good pain or bad pain?” Bad pain is there to tell is something is wrong, but hopefully the pain my clients feel is of the “good” variety. Yes, there’s good pain. Such as the pain of an aching, cramping knot of muscle tissue being released. My teacher (the incomparable Anna Maria Mazzieri) called it “exquisite pain” as it’s intense but actually rather pleasing. It’s the pain not of something being wrong, but of something being relieved. So at the risk of starting to sound a little E.L. James we can agree there is good pain and bad pain? The pain the day after a really good work out is good pain, in my opinion. The pain of pulling a muscle is bad pain. Ouch! Something is wrong.

This year I have been lucky in some ways because I haven’t experienced much bad pain. Yes, I’ve had colds and bugs (it’s the toddler in our house – not that I’m calling her a bug) but I haven’t been injured much.  However, I also haven’t experienced much good pain…mainly because I have not had enough massages myself. On Monday I was finally able to meet up with a colleague for a massage exchange and boy, was it worth it. Not only have I got my left shoulder sorted out (a continuing problem) but I have had a reminder of good pain. I’ve had a reminder of what it is like to receive a massage and a timely reminder of what my clients are going through as I attempt to iron out their problems. There is a fine line between the good pain of relieving tension, and the bad pain of working the muscle too hard, and although I’m always aware of the line, it helps to be reminded what it actually feels like to be on the receiving end. My colleague (the wonderful Lola May) and I have pledged to do a massage exchange at least once a month from now all. Let’s call it continual professional development.

On another note I was on the receiving end of bad pain this week as well. Towards the end of a pleasant (honestly) five mile run, I pulled a calf muscle. Like an eejit I kept running, hoping it wasn’t that bad, but I was forced to give up and walk the last couple of hundred metres. I always tell my clients not to run through the pain, and this pulled muscle serves as good reminder of the temptation to just keep going and hope for the best.  Stopping is easier said than done. In the space of a minute all the following thoughts went through my head: “it’ll ease in a sec”, “I’m nearly there”, “it’s not that bad.” It didn’t, I wasn’t, and it was. I limped home sadly.

I also always tell my clients to ice, elevate, and rest an injury, so I dutifully did the same and although my calf feels stiff this morning, it’s not as painful as it was yesterday.  In the coming days I will do some mobilisation, self massage, and in time, strengthening work to build the muscle tissue back up. It’s just a strain, which means a few tiny tears in the muscle fibres, but I don’t want to stress the area and cause a more serious injury.

Hopefully I won’t get more painful reminders of what it’s like to be injured, but this week has been useful from the good and bad pain perspectives.

I’m hoping that next week sends me some lovely reminders of what it’s like to healthy, wealthy, and fabulous. Please.