Over the last four or five days, I’ve been waking up noticing that my back has been feeling tighter and tighter. Sadly, despite all of the stretching and moving I’ve been doing, I just haven’t been able to loosen up. I think it may have something to do with the hotel bed in which I’m sleeping.
Yesterday I finally decided enough was enough. I emailed Ray, one of the teachers at Dalian Nationalities University, and asked him if he knew of any good massage therapists in the area. I think I freaked him out because he was immediately concerned that I’d hurt myself. After reassuring him that I was fine and simply needed to help loosen up some tight muscles, he chatted with some colleagues and found a nearby massage therapist who specialized in traditional Chinese massage.
I really didn’t think much about what traditional Chinese massage meant.
Anyway, today he picked me up at the hotel and brought me to the massage therapist. While he sat in the waiting room, I began my adventure in what would be the most intense massage I’ve ever experienced. I’m going to try to describe what I experienced, but I’m not sure if I have the words to explain it.
It began when the massage therapist, Dr. Chu, had me lie face down on the massage bed. My face firmly resting in the head hole, I was looking forward to what was to come.
And then it started. I felt her place something – correction, some things – on my back. And with a few pumps of some unseen mechanism, those things were suctioned to me. It was a weird feeling. Not uncomfortable, not painful, just weird. I won’t lie, when she began removing them 5 or 10 minutes later I expected some sort of cathartic release. No such luck. Again, it didn’t hurt, it just felt weird.
And then things got real.
She dug through her box of instruments and pulled out some device that I can only assume was a medieval torture device. I have no idea what it looked like, but it felt like a hand-held version of the roller that runners use to help release tight leg muscles. If you’ve ever used one, you’ll know how painful they are. She proceeded to rub this up and down my back. First the left side, then the right. And then right on top of my spine.
This was intensely painful. Not painful in the sense that I thought she was damaging my spine. But painful because as far as I know there’s no meat on my spine to take the brunt of the massage. And she continued up and down my spine for what seemed like an eternity. I focused on breathing because I really wanted to experience the entire traditional Chinese massage experience.
Once she finished with my spine, she attacked my sides and lower back. Given that this was where I was experiencing much of my tightness, it was also intensely painful – but still a sweet relief compared to what was happening on my spine. And then there were more cups. But this time she mixed the cups with fire. I’m not exactly sure how it worked, but flame was used to create the suction on my back. With cups firmly held in place, she proceeded to find another tool to massage my scalp. I think this could have been almost pleasant, except for the fact that it went on too long.
And so the process continued, but on different parts of my body. Eventually all but my arms, lower legs, stomach, and chest were covered in cups. And everywhere received some form of massage with either the hand-held roller, the head scratching thing, or some other sand-papery like device.
It was beyond a doubt quite an experience.
Anyway, as you can see the result of the massage look absolutely horrific. But fear not – I’m not in any pain other than feeling slightly bruised in various areas. As for the tightness in my back, it’s not completely gone but I do feel much bendier than I did.