By Jackie Jones ’12
When I was younger, I thought pain was just pain: you fell, you got cuts and bruises. But now, and especially since I became a massage therapist, I see that physical pain and emotional pain are tied together.
A lot of people talk to me during massage. I’ve had some people cry talking to me about their issues growing up. Sometimes people have a headache for, you know, no reason, and then you find out they’ve just lost a friend or family member.
I guess I always knew I wanted to be in the health field. But beyond that, I never really had an idea like, This is what I’m going to do. I thought about becoming a nurse like my mom. I also thought about being a PE teacher. I didn’t even know what a massage therapist was.
I found out I was good at massage because of my dad’s accident in 2002. Not long after my grandfather, his father, passed away, Dad took a fall that really could have killed him. He’s a big guy and fast, and he caught the football we were throwing before he slammed his head on the pavement. I was 15, and it was so strange for my younger brothers and sister and me to see him taken away in an ambulance.
When he came home from the ICU at Los Robles, he was wearing a robe and looked different. He could hardly walk. My mom, a nurse, had to help him up the stairs. We’d go to school and come home, and he’d still be in bed. Every day we’d think, maybe he’ll get up. I could hear him moaning in pain, and I felt so bad. I didn’t know what to do.
One day, I just went in there and massaged his neck. It seemed to relax him, so I just kept doing it. Later on, I’d watch TV with him, just kind of hang out. His eyes were closed a lot. I’d massage all through his upper neck, some nights for two hours.
I don’t really remember when he started to come back to being himself. He started walking to the bathroom. Eventually, he would walk down the stairs. It was really a slow process.
Massage was not the only thing that helped him, but it was one of the few things he had then. He was out of work for three months and had the loss of Grandpa Wayne on his mind. He didn’t eat that much because he’d lost his sense of taste and smell. One difference I see now is that he likes to eat more sweet food.
Later, at Cal Lutheran, I discovered how much I loved seeing the results of the work I was doing as a student athletic trainer. I would massage athletes who were injured, and I built confidence watching them get better. Even though I knew it wasn’t all because of me, their backs got better (softball, swimming), or their knees and shins (track) or calf muscles (basketball), or their rotator cuffs (baseball pitchers), necks and shoulders (football). I learned a lot from Kecia Davis, the head athletic trainer, who was always telling me something new about the body, and assistant trainer Cody Owens ’05, M.S. ’08.
Now I have a few athletes as clients and a lot of Baby Boomers. I love listening to them tell how they got to where they are today. I like being a people person and a friend. That ties in really well with massage, and that’s why a lot of people like coming back.
Jackie Jones is a massage therapist at Elite Fitness Plus in Westlake Village.