This happens sometimes. I was doing alternating sets, going between the hack sled and the Only Good Leg Curl Machine Left (they’re on opposite sides of the gym) when a small commotion occurred off to my right. Someone seemed to want my attention and at first, hearing something about a hurt back, I thought someone was suggesting I whip out my business card, but no, some guy was supine on the bench of the long pulley rowing machine whose look I have never quite liked and it was clear he was not going to vacate it quickly.
“I went too heavy, I was just letting it go back and OW OW omigod OW OW,” he was saying, repeating the last bits with some variation as he held his head in mid-air (the bench was not long enough) and flexed his knees to keep his feet level with his hips.
Chris, who is ripped and tattooed, was on his other side — the victim was a pretty buff medium-brown fella from the islands, judging by his accent — and we offered to help ease him onto the floor if he thought he could make it. The answer was a definitive No. People kept looking at me like I was supposed to do something. This was not like the greensticked metatarsal I was around for a few years ago, when I could help the sufferer hobble out to his truck. Pain this disabling can come from a lumbar spasm, which it very likely was, but you cannot rule out an acute herniated disk by eyeballing it, and if you toss someone around too much you can make it worse. The only thing I was in a position to do was support the guy’s head, which I did. In the nick of time the Minotaur who manages the place showed up carrying a bench to replace my hands and advising us that the rescue squad had been called.
People were still looking at me like I was Dr. McCoy. Dammit, Jim, I’m a massage therapist, not an EMT I got down behind the bench and put my fingertips under the guy’s occiput. This is where the contact points are for cranial work. I don’t do cranial work, but I’ve gotten a good deal of it. The one thing about it is that it can’t do any damage. “Okay, I’m going to try to help back this off a little till the medics get here,” I said. “I fix this kind of stuff for a living, just not usually when it’s this fresh, but we can do this. You’ll feel a very tiny traction on your skin, that’s all. This affects the deep tissues in your spine and reduces tension in the soft tissue.” He kept moaning and saying omigod, except, son of a bitch, it got quieter, and after a while it was more a sigh than a moan, the kind you hear when something eases up. I could feel a little warm pulse under my hands, the way you’re supposed to. It may have only been coincidental and I probably could never do this again, but I think it was worth something just to keep contact.
I went around to his other end and supported his legs since the guy I had asked to do it couldn’t seem to get the idea and had sloped off somewhere. Island Man was resting a bit easier, and I leaned back against the lethal apparatus and rapped my best about the muscles he’d been using, the structures he’d probably strained, the likelihood that he was suffering a muscle spasm rather than a blown disc, how they slide you onto the back board and belt you to the gurney, and the most likely drugs he would get to enjoy when he got on the medic unit. It kept him focused on something besides the pain, at least.
“You think they’ll give him morphine?” asked Chris when they’d carried him out. “Oxytcontin?” suggested his training partner. I opined that a little Valium, a muscle relaxant first and foremost, was probably going to turn the trick, since it looked as if he’d flexed his spine while contracting his lats eccentrically, a slam-dunk way to make your lumbar paraspinals lock up like a Chinese finger trap.
“Or Tramadol,” said Chris. “I might take some of that tonight myself.”
No wonder the bastard can do giant sets on the glute-ham, the deadlift rack and the leg curl. I wouldn’t even know my leg had ever been dislocated if I were keeping shit like that around the house.