One of the most common question I get from my patients is this: Doc, ang dami kong lamig. Ok lang ba magpahilot or magpa-massage? (Doctor, I feel muscle spasm in several areas of my body. Can I have them massaged?)
My answer? It depends.
First, let me educate my non-Filipino readers. The literal translation of lamig means cold, but it may mean more than that in our culture. The closest medical translation is probably “muscle spasm or pulled muscle”. When we, Filipinos, experience pain somewhere in our body, we say we have lamig. This belief has lived since the time of Lapu-Lapu, and has been passed on for generations, especially in the lower socioeconomic classes. In fact, it’s not uncommon that patients get massaged for their “lamig”, before they come and see us medical professionals.
We, orthopedic surgeons, generally sneer at the term “hilot”. But massage is okay. (For this article, we will refer to hilot and massage as one and the same.)
Just like some of you, my wife and I also go to spas and we occasionally call massage therapists to massage us at home. With our fast-paced, stressful lifestyle, having a massage or hilot can be beneficial. With the use of those scented, aromatic oil, massage can relax your muscles, can improve your circulation, and can improve your immune system, BUT not always.
Here’s a body massage story that I’ll never forget.
My wife and I called a massage center where we asked for a home service. The receptionist recommended this person, praising her skill to the highest heavens. She told me this lady will pulverize all my lamig and I will feel better afterwards. With those glowing description, “Alright. Sounds good.” I said. ‘Let’s try that.”
The massage therapist came to our house on time.
As I opened our airconditioner, I glanced at her.
She was probably barely 5 foot. Mid-twenties. Bordering on thin.
Hmmmmm. Pretty harmless, I thought to myself.
My wife pulled out a mattress on the floor of our bedroom and lay down. She wanted to go first.
“Sure, after you, Hon.”
As the lady started massaging her, I sat on a chair a few feet away, opened my laptop and surfed on the internet. I looked on Ludette’s face: She looked so relaxed. After a few minutes, she appeared half-asleep. I got excited. Can’t wait to relax and sleep too.
After an hour, my wife finally stood up and said, “That was great! Hon, now it’s your turn.” Oh finally. I did a little bit of stretching before I lay down.
The lady knelt on my back and started massaging my back.
At least, for the first few seconds.
After that, it was pure torture. Pure, unadulterated, Gen. Palparan torture!
During her massage, I reached levels of pain I thought never existed.
Her thumbs were like Jack Hammers, with my head bouncing up and down. It was like a Sumo Wrestler was massaging me.
As I lay on the mattress being massacred, I mean, being massaged, I wondered if I offended the receptionist who recommended her to me—that this was her way of revenge. And I knew I paid the last time.
In the entire massage, I groaned aray (ouch) the whole time. I wanted to scream, but my neighbours may think I was being raped. So I just bore the pain.
She told me I had several lamig in my body and that may got her obsessed. She went berserk when she found several areas of lamig in my body!
My wife came up to me and with a smile asked, “Are you enjoying it, Hon?”
I whispered to her, “How come you enjoyed this? I feel I’m being run over by a bus.”
She laughed. I added, “Please call the Department of Justice. I think this is Gen. Palparan in disguise. “
After that, I promised not to get that “torturer therapist” anymore.
Take home message
Massage or hilot for lamig, has long been ingrained in our culture. It has possible medical benefits. But not all massage therapists are the same. It is important that during the time of the massage, you should not let the therapist “torture” you if you feel you are not feeling good about it. You have to inform the therapist to change her style or just have the process stopped if it is causing you more pain than relaxation.
Good luck on your massage!