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For the hand of a Princess

The socio-political causes of a carpal-tunnel syndrome.

For 6 consecutive years in Greece I was working the spa of a beautiful resort right on the Aegean Sea. I had a great time. You can’t beat jumping for a swim between two massage sessions.

The resort was alternatively oriented and we were a perfect match.

Because of the uniqueness of the Functional Muscle Manipulation, the technique I created and practice for 30 years now, I would get 5 or 6 invitations every Summer to different cities of the world, by clients that thought they needed some more therapy at their home.

That summer, an Egyptian client asked me if I would fly to Saudi Arabia for someone he knew that might be needing me. I said that if some prerequisites are covered, I would be glad to.

The following October, he called me. He told me that the person was interested, she had an extreme carpal tunnel syndrome, and she was desperate. The visa was issued in just a week instead of after 3-4 months. From that I guessed that I wasn’t going to treat some ordinary person.

He asked me on behalf of the Princess how long would I need to figure out if my therapy was having results or not. Would a week do? I said 4 days will be enough, and we could extend after that.

In November 2009 I arrived in Riyadh, S. Arabia. My official Greek name is Georgios. The people at the airport waiting for me were holding a sign saying “Mr Gorgeous Rodafinos”. I did not complain about it, and I kept that document as a souvenir. Finally someone could see my inner beauty.

The Princess was about desperate. She hadn’t slept a night for the past few years, since her problem would get worse during the night. She became a day sleeper.

She hadn’t gone out to dinner for the last 6 months because every time she tried she would end up in a crisis and would be forced to leave her guests and return to suffer home.

She had a doctor from Egypt living there and treating her for the past 7 years, whose job had come down to administering pain killers. The increasingly strong drugs didn’t really calm the pain any more.

Before me she had invited 5 big-names already, doctors from all over the world. All had suggested wrist surgery.

When I palpated her wrists, elbows and shoulders, it was obvious that the whole brachial nerve was in intense inflammation as she was very sensitive to the slightest touch. I asked: So, what are they gonna do? Remove the whole nerve?

Her doctor took me out shopping for a massage table and we set it up and I started treating her.

It was a two and a half hour session. She was in so much pain that she was restless on the massage table. I was going very slowly and caringly, focused on relaxing her sympathetic nervous system most of the time.

Another factor that made the sessions difficult was that we were working in the living room, which didn’t have a door to separate us. Her servants would enter every 10 minutes to check in on her. At some point I realized that their worry was that, being touched by a man who was not her husband was putting her soul in danger.

One of the ladies living there that she introduced me to was an aunt. She never smiled or was polite. She never gave me anything but dirty looks. I misunderstood her role. I thought she was a mean auntie that the Princess was hosting there and was putting up with her because she was family. She was more.

The morning of the third day, the Princess wasn’t there waiting for me. They told me that she is sleeping and they didn’t want to wake her up because for the first time in a long while, she slept in the night.

She was better and very hopeful. We agreed to extend my stay to a week.

During that session I told her my theory. Conventional medicine named carpal tunnel syndrome ‘the typist’s disease’ and they said it’s from wear and tear due to hard work. But the Princess hadn’t worked a day in her life. More recently, medicine added ‘but it can be also be a result of stress’.

I told her that often, there is something in one’s life that -to survive it- one needs to constantly struggle. Our sympathetic nervous system, which we don’t consciously control, incorporates that struggle in a chronic defensive reaction of holding our breath (shallow breathing) and contracting a number of muscles.

That contraction becomes constant, and eventually painful. It could have affected the brachial nerve in her case, that runs from the neck all the way to the tips of the fingers, and developed a chronic inflammation that she mostly felt in her wrists and which was only getting worse.

I left her a moment to contemplate what might that be in her life.

She opened up, with emotion.

Her status had allowed her the decision not to marry. “I didn’t want to be a slave to my husband” she told me. Because of that decision she could never be intimate with a man in all her life, and apparently she wasn’t at peace with her predicament. She was crying.

I helped her see one more factor, that might have to do with her getting worse when out to dinner.

Being a Princess she was allowed to wear “western clothes”. Being “exposed” to men’s eyes in public spaces where all other women were completely covered and looked like a black thing, was not easy. She was a self-aware and sensitive woman, being stared at and possibly talked behind her back by some assertive and entitled men in the strictest patriachic environment in the world. In a part of the world where “western” magazines were forbidden because they might depict women wearing a skirt or a dress, hungry eyes could be unbearable. She was probably breathing shallow and contracting her back muscles even more when out.

It was a difficult realization to go through and difficult emotions to process. The pain came back shooting down the whole nerve, intensely. I helped her turn on her back and lifted the back of the massage table. She was covered with the sheet, sitting back, crying. I was holding her hand and consoling her, softly massaging her fingers and palm, trying to ease her pain. I was telling her a joke and she moved from crying to soft laughter and started feeling relief.

At that moment, her aunt barged in. She started yelling at her for about 10 minutes. When she stared at me I was glad looks can’t kill.

“You don’t know what she was telling me” the Princess started, shaken. “She told me that my soul is already in the claws of the devil and there’s no salvation, I’m doomed. Half naked with a man, who is holding my hand and we both are laughing”.

I think I laughed about it, and helped her ease up again. But I missed how important that event was.

The next day the Princess asked me to stay for good. She felt even better and she thought that only my therapy can heal her. She also told me that she talked to a top-ranking person and they wanted to meet me. Apparently my financial future would be taken care of if I stayed for some months, let alone years.

I asked her if there was another space we could work in so that we wouldn’t be interrupted. We moved the sessions to her bedroom.

Her traps and neck didn’t feel like cement any more and there was some mobility.

After that session we discussed with her doctor and he lowered her medication because now it felt too much.

My last morning there she told me she was feeling about 30% better. She asked me to stay for good, and she was intense and emotional.

I had thought about it those past few days. I felt that I couldn’t. No matter how much I needed the money and how much I wanted to help her, I felt I was already suffocating there. The idea that I might spend -not years, like her doctor- but months, there, was unbearable.

I felt her feelings. I felt what those objectified women in the restaurants felt.

I also would have to be isolated, without an intimate relationship myself, because they were very vigilantly enforcing the separation of the genders unless married.

How would I survive all that, given also that I’m vocal when I see things I consider wrong, and would have to keep my mouth shut?

It wasn’t an easy decision, but I came up with a suggestion: What if you let me go for a couple weeks, back to my patients in Greece that need me too. What if you use this time to find someone local for me to train. You can bring me back. I’ll stay till I train them so that you will have someone here permanently, to take care of you whenever needed. But till they’re ready, I can guarantee that you will be without symptoms!

She reluctantly agreed. I felt her fear that something may go wrong.

She was right.

From what I understand now, the aunt was ‘religious police’. She probably blocked my way back. They never called me back.

There appears to be progress on issues in that country. It may take long.

Wars, dictatorships, strict religious convictions, sexual oppression, class warfare, a difficult childhood, are trauma. They all leave “scars” in the physical body too.

You can’t address those without understanding the body’s mechanisms of incorporating them to survive them.

Chiropractic, most massage techniques and other therapies fail in that understanding and can’t go into those deeper layers or they can’t touch the sympathetic contraction the right way, to allow space and create trust to let go.

The Functional Muscle Manipulation bridges the gap between psychotherapy and the physical manifestations of emotional pain and trauma. It also works well in tandem with deep psychotherapy and trauma therapy.

I wish it would somehow also be allowed to work in conjunction with a socio-political reform.

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