On my initial visit to Uganda in 2005, I was particularly disturbed by the number of handicapped men, women, and children that I met. I wanted to do something to help the people that society had left behind. Uganda is far from handicap accessible, and though there are many people crippled and in chronic pain, their environment does not allow them much comfort or even rehabilitation.
Returning from that initial trip, I considered the benefit that massage therapy could bring to so many people in pain, and enrolled myself into LMT school. I have now been treating clients in the states for 7 years. But this summer, I was able to do some rehabilitative massage on individuals who have chronic pain. They have lived hard, laborious lives in a culture that does not promote preventative health practices that would preserve joints, bones, or prevent muscle tension. Their daily work consists of chopping firewood, washing clothes by hand (often leaning over from the waist instead of squatting), cooking on an open fire, farming, and carrying loads of produce from their farms (on their heads or back).
For many of Westerners, we have numerous options as to how we cope and deal with our aches and pains--from physical therapy to prescription drugs and even surgery. But here in the 3rd world these coping mechanisms are not available to people. If rehabilitative care is present at all, it is only an option for the wealthy or foreigner.
I have come to learn that massage therapy can help restore function and mobility to aching, aging bodies that have been beaten through hard manual labor and a lack of education in optimum body movement and positioning. I was able to not only give massages to individuals in pain, but also educate them on stretching exercises and different ways to go about their daily tasks that can decrease the strain on their bodies.
I have always been motivated by Jesus and his ability to change someone’s situation through touch. I know that Jesus wasn’t a massage therapist. But I also know that I am more than a massage therapist. I am someone who cares about the holistic health of individuals in pain. My time with them is not just to relieve tension or pain, but also to let them know that they are important, and that there are some steps they can take toward better health.
I believe that God has been using me and the techniques of massage therapy to bring healing and restoration to the people here. Those that I have been working on have received relief from even their very first session. They are seeing that massage therapy is necessary and beneficial for people in Uganda. I hope that the education I left them with (in regards to stretching, how to do chores in less physically strenuous ways, and more) can be beneficial to them in preventing further pain or injury.
Written by Kim Ownby