While I was a student in massage school, I had the great fortune of working with a woman who has hypochondroplasia. Before we began, she could only walk half a block before having to stop and rest a moment. After eight sessions, she could walk two blocks between rests.
Our work also allowed her to climb stairs more easily, lie on her stomach without her toes tingling, and have a much greater feeling of ease (i.e. it felt easier to walk around.)
I was honored to have been able to work with her. My report, originally written as a school project, went on to win the Massage Therapy Foundation’s 2009 student case report contest. I presented both a poster and a talk at the American Massage Therapy Association’s national meeting in September 2009. Here’s the ad our school placed in a trade magazine to celebrate three of their students doing so well in the contest:
It turns out that a lot of what we take for granted in massage is only true for that subset of clients who are average height or tall. Who knew?! Meanwhile, massage offers a lot of fantastic techniques to help improve peoples’ lives in a supportive, non-clinical, and body-neutral environment.
I have found nothing in the scientific literature about the benefits of massage for dwarf clients. I hope my work will encourage more dwarf clients to seek out massage as a way to help improve their mobility and ease, and maybe delay future medical complications. My findings were published as a case report in the April 2010 issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (vol. 14 no. 2). Many thanks to Gary Parker, a professional photographer in San Jose who is working on a dwarfism project and who let me use a few of his photos in my poster.
In my own practice, I welcome clients with all forms of dwarfism. My massage space is wheelchair accessible and I use an electric table that can descend quite low to the ground. If you do not live near me but are thinking about scheduling a massage, here are three questions you can ask before your first massage to determine whether the therapist is willing to slightly change her/his routine to accommodate you. Here also is information about a few different massage techniques and whether they are performed with the client clothed or not, and how much oil is used. Hopefully it’ll help you find a therapist who uses the techniques that match what you need, and what you’re comfortable with.