The Sacrum is Often the Heart of the Matter

I’ve noticed that people are generally always surprised by how sore the edges of the sacrum are, and how much relief we can bring in easing the area open. A triangular shape framed between the large wings of the hip bones, the sacrum creates the sacroiliac joints by articulating with the ilium on either side, and even demands some attention as an artistic visual with its unique looking shape. This small piece of our skeletal system holds down some important jobs: an outlet for lower spinal nerves, a support holding the upper body’s weight while also helping to transmit it through the lower extremities into the ground, and a base supporting the upper spine. So it makes sense that this funny, knobby-feeling skeletal bone can run from being hypersensitive to the lightest massage pressure, to feeling eased in receiving touch, often truly creating a sigh of relief for people. With its important roles and structure always kept in mind (the nerves present, the lack of muscle density actually passing over the site), massaging the sacroiliac joints need care and consideration, with the pressure level very specific per individual and even different per side of the same individual.

As long as the client has not mentioned to avoid working on their sacrum, once you make contact with it, you’ll start to get a sense fairly quickly for how the area feels to them. A nice way to start is by placing fingertips on the center of the sacrum first, before gliding off the rough formation and into soft tissue near the edge, noticing how different the bony triangle feels compared to the tissue connecting along its sides. Taking these steps with deliberation before beginning to explore the tissue, conveys a solid sense both of your awareness of the area and of your client to said client. This alone can create a calming effect in a generally overstressed spot. Moving next into massaging the tissue, gently use supported fingertips to create circular or parallel friction along the sacral edge, working superior to inferior and noticing subtle differences in each fraction of an inch along the way, lingering with more time in areas of increased density or soreness. Light static pressure can also be relieving if the tissue has hypertonic spots wanting to spasm. However the area allows you in, it can be wonderful to receive this kind of focus here, like the sweet reassurance of a loving hand placed upon slumped shoulders.

I love that kindness, attentiveness, and relief can all be brought to the sacrum if intention is sustained within the massage. There’s a lot of beauty in this: honoring and caring for an area simultaneously strong and sensitive, with the grace and warmth of knowing our client is allowing us to address this space. Thinking about how the sacrum sits just enough out of easy reach on the posterior plane of the lower body, yet also high enough that reaching back with your own hands is awkward, it’s usually lost to our own attempts to calm it. Allowing another to address this central hub of the body becomes a lovely sharing of trust given by one and acknowledged by the other, and that aforementioned sigh of relief from the body becomes palpable to our very fingertips.

 

Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016

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Sensing Digits Return As Tense Fingers Relax

I used to love pulling any kind of lace between my fingers as a child. The sensation of having this type of fabric, with all its possible variations, move across the finger webbing and against the sides of the fingers themselves, was comforting. Another wordless feeling – no reason for it if you had asked me, and no really solid descriptions to give for the feeling itself. Yet in thinking about it now, this is a fairly sensitive area that at the same time is always “sensing,” as our hands are generally the first point of contact with the environment. We usually think of the fingertips or the palm with this; the star players. What of the other, less noted areas of the hands, such as the aforementioned webbing? To give specific attention to detailed areas is wonderful to receive, though frequently overlooked in favor of treating larger muscle groups.

Gently compressing the finger webbing, pinching it between your thumb and another finger, a slow dragging pull from proximal to distal, letting each section of webbing between any two fingers come gently free from your grip. Thin at the end of the pull, denser closer to the hand, sometimes stretchy in quality or sometimes tight, short and shallow or with thicker flesh depending on the person’s hands, the webbing is as individual as the hands themselves. On the dorsal side of the hand the webbing can seem so much like tissue paper, while the palmar side has similarity to the sole of the foot, possibly callused from use in the world and protection against it, same time. The digits should have more lightness in their movement after just one pass of this. Taking it deeper, if you move the starting point of the compression in closer, rocking back and forth into the tissue between the base of the fingers, soreness is usually there waiting to be worked out. The recipient might notice being able to splay their fingers apart much wider; hands ready to engage with the world more fully, range of motion increased, and more alacrity in movement.

Given that our hands do an amazing amount of work ongoing, including in that too much keyboard typing, easing tense hands open is a warm, welcome, yet almost forgotten relief. The wonderful thing here is, even if no deeper work is done, simply doing a gentle pull down the finger webbing, letting the client feel how much sensation exists there, and creates lightness through stiff fingers after this simple palliative touch is given. Almost like shaking someone’s hand, briefly being introduced, then leaving a kindness from the exchange to linger hopefully long after.

 

Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016

Tight Chin in Hand, Tense Thoughts in Head

If touch is connected more with a sense of feeling, how can we apply spoken or written language to describe a world that may have broader boundaries than language allows for? Massage therapy, both an art form and a science, is a perfect example of this disparity. What does it feel like to do bodywork? More specifically, what does it feel like to work on this part of the body, on this particular individual, in any given approach or style or technique, in this given moment?

When I’m thinking, I often rest my hand along my lower jaw. It’s so natural to do – consider Rodin’s stature, “The Thinker.” How often do we rest our chin in hand, putting pressure there, feeling the weight of our head against it? Fairly strong in appearance and to the touch, the jaw bone has a lot of beauty and looks so different per person. With the actual jaw joint displaying hypertonicity in the surrounding musculature to dysfunction in the joint itself,  it can be challenging to approach the curve of the mandible bone without placing undue pressure on that temporomandibular joint. It’s nice to introduce yourself to the area, allowing the recipient to adjust, since jaws often are tight. Land the fingers softly on the underside tip of the chin, curled and just barely resting there, thumbs lightly contacting the front part of the chin. Slowly beginning to compress the tissue against the substance of that mandible bone, feeling its density in contrast to the skin sliding and moving around it. A lovely contrast, the malleability of the skin juxtaposed to the mandible’s solidity.

Is there bracing felt from the client as the technique is applied to the jaw bone? The pressure can be modified continuously, staying in synch with how the recipient is responding, like a wave back and forth of response and reaction. One round of this kind of touch may be more than enough, especially if done with measured intention and awareness; facial massage is often best if brief and palliative since it’s a sensitive area. Pulling and compressing the skin onto and even a little out from the chin tip and into the jaw, there can be a sense of pulling tension out of the whole jaw itself, before even reaching the jaw joint, or after it has already been addressed. It’s a fine balance point working here, honoring how tension may be held or moving in the client’s face. 

Jaw bones can reside in the face with tension from burdens felt, with a kind of thrust forward in defiance against the world, with a slackness from feelings of defeat, and with a tremble holding back grief, and much more. With these few examples in mind, attention given to an area where so much is communicated both in words and wordlessly, can be palpably effective and even reassuring. And if all else is unsure, it still feels quite good both to receive and give this touch.

 

Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016