I winced from the pain, as the attendant momentarily stopped and dug his thumb into a particular spot on my foot. He looked up at me.
"You have neck pain."
It was a statement, not a question. Actually, at this very moment I had severe foot pain, caused by his thumb. With clenched teeth, I nodded, while trying to regain some facade of toughness. Yes, I've had issues with my neck. About four years ago a CT scan confirmed that the C6-C7 disks in my neck were bulging, causing me much discomfort and shoulder pain at the time. How did he know? To my relief he released the pressure, and moved along in his routine to another area of the foot.
"You have much stress"
I wasn't sure how this could be true. Since leaving my management job four years ago, people have told me I look "more relaxed". But, he nailed the neck thing, so maybe he was right about this too.
This past Christmas Elaine presented me with gift certificates for a local massage studio in Vivo City, our neighborhood shopping mall. I've never had a massage before (other than as part of physical therapy for the neck thing)-- I've always thought of them as a bit narcissistic. I probably sound a bit sexist, but many women seem to accept them as necessary part of life. I've never had a manicure either.
After a vigorous exercise workout a couple of weeks ago, I thought a massage would be relaxing, and good relief for some sore, (underused) muscles. Besides, we needed to use the certificates before they expired. So I suggested to Elaine that we both go spend a certificate for a massage-- 10 minutes for S$10 each.
That didn't turn out quite like I imagined. The masseuse found interesting ways to impart pressure on my back, not much of it relaxing. I thought he was attempting to drive his elbow through my back and out my chest. I was pretty sure I heard pieces of flesh coming loose internally. Ten minutes was probably enough.
The foot massage I thought would be different. Not so much. The thirty minute procedure started with a nice hot foot bath, followed by several minutes of foot abuse.
A sharp pain returned to my foot, this time in a different spot. The masseuse again looked up at me.
"You have problem with your gut."
Well yes, perhaps correct again. We had some food court dinner the day before, which hadn't been all that great, and a bit spicy. I was finding this all a little disquieting. What other personal information was this man discovering about me, betrayed to him by my feet? I had been hacked, through my feet!
"You have many years of tension built up. I cannot remove that in 30 minutes. It take two or three one hour sessions, at least. It get better and not hurt so much after a while"
From his look, I can tell that he is politely informing me that my body is a difficult case for him. Should I continue in his care, my massage therapy will likely become a case study for masseuse academics. I need to consider this, and determine if I can face regular visits to get me beyond the "a while". Why is it that these things that are supposed to be "good" for you-- exercise, massage all involve pain? Isn't that the signal mechanism from the body to the brain for Bad?
Massage is popular in Singapore-- there are massage salons everywhere, and perhaps Singaporeans really do believe they are a necessary part of life. Foot Reflexology is an ancient Asian and Middle Eastern practice that ties the health of many parts of the body through the nerves in the feet. It has been practiced for many centuries.
"You hate dogs, and didn't get along with your mother."
OK, I made that part up, the masseuse didn't say that. But perhaps a visit to the foot masseuse can be as productive as a visit to the GP or even the shrink. It is something that can augment Western medicine. After all, he disclosed all those things about me in only a few minutes of pummeling my feet. And the fee was considerably less money than the CT scan cost.
Admittedly, after completing the procedure on only one foot, it was noticeably more relaxed, and the joints more loose, than the other. In thirty minutes, I had two flexible feet, and diagnosis of other ailments. I am now out of certificates, but if my feet are willing, who knows what another session might discover about me?
Along the feet theme is another ancient Asian practice, the fish pedicure, also available here. Patrons sit with their feet immersed in an aquarium tank, and allow small fish (carp) to nibble away the dead skin. Hmmm... maybe NEXT week.