Child’s Play

X marks the spot
Follow the dotted line
Two more steps, and squeeze!

-popular children’s rhyme

One of my regular clients saw me last week for a Swedish massage. The session was about one-third over, and I briefly worked on his head and neck to transition to the other side of his back. His voice blissful, he joked, “Someday I’d like to have my scalp worked on the entire time.” I suggested that we devote more time to scalp work during that session. With the excitement of a child sleeping over at a friend’s house, he requested 30 additional minutes on his posterior scalp and neck.

For a glancing moment, I wondered if I had enough in my newish repertoire to complete 30 minutes on his scalp. Beyond Swedish moves and my creativity, I only have shallow knowledge of the meridians of Eastern-based bodywork; it could have been a targeted session had I known more. But this client had made it clear in the past that he loved scalp work, plain and simple. So I riffed on what I’d done before, and then it became child’s play. Success! He soon fell asleep.

Amidst my client’s peaceful snoring and with my task well underway, I found myself drifting into memories of games I’d play as a little girl with my friends and neighbors, like when we’d pretend to crack eggs on the top of each other’s heads by using our pinched-together and spreading-apart fingers and exaggerated sound effects.

Wow. We were “cracking” on a major pressure point (found in modalities like acupressure and shiatsu), I then realized. I learned in massage school that applying firm, steady pressure to Governing Vessel (GV) 20 is like hitting a reset button on the nervous system. It is believed that depressive symptoms can be lessened with compression there, and there are numerous other reported benefits. EFT/tapping also focuses on that spot to help break through emotional holding patterns and much more.

So, that little trick we’d play was a potentially powerful healer. 

We goofy kids were on to something.

Come to think of it, a lot of little games and tricks we’d play on each other involved touch. Remember giving each other “Indian burn”? (Sorry, I’m not sure there’s a PC term for that.) We’d place both hands on a friend’s (frenemy’s?) forearm and repeatedly wring in opposite directions, causing redness, an alarming amout of heat and an indignant protest from the unsuspecting victim. It was myofascial release that we were doing (albeit a very painful version of it), “melting” the connective tissue on their forearm with friction and the warmth of our hands.

A similar principle could be applied to the “rose garden” we’d plant on each other’s forearms. Digging, plucking, raking and other irritating actions done with our hands and nails evoked the red “roses,” AKA inflammation and vasodilation. And maybe “noogies” also apply. (Yipes, in retrospect, we were a bunch of mean kids!) Little did we know we were performing actions that are connected to powerful healing modalities.

Considering that ouchy “garden” and that sore, scrubbed scalp now leads my mind to deep-tissue frictioning and even Graston Technique®, a series of quick, forceful little strokes with a hard plastic or metal device to break up scar tissue, induce inflammation and promote healing — although probably not applied to the top of one’s head. (I don’t practice GT, as I’d have to be certified. But I’ve had it done to eliminate plantar fasciitis. In a word, OWIE. But it worked!)

Oh! Remember this?

Crisscross, applesauce
Spiders crawling up your back
Tight squeeze
Cool breeze
Now you’ve got the chills!

That little poem was accompanied by a flourish of thumps, X’s, squiggles and squeezes performed on the friend’s back and shoulders. Barring the awful “breeze” (blowing on the friend’s ear), we were giving our first chair massage, incorporating basic Swedish techniques like tapotement, effleurage and petrissage.

I’m sure there are other little tricks we’d play that are buried in my memory. (If you can think of any, feel free to comment; maybe we can figure out health benefits together!)

That young age, around 7-10, was a time of discovery, including learning the effects certain stimuli have on our skin. It was ok to touch each other back then as part of play. It makes me sad that in the media touch is often associated with sex or violence. As mammals we crave touch, we need it…so humans pay for massage and bodywork. If only we adults could remember those discoveries made in our formative years…despite even our cruelest intentions, we made amazing massage therapists.


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