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What to do when it really hurts

Adrian Batchelor is the fix-it man at Sydney Dance Company studios. We think we own him, but that’s just because his office is a few limps away from where the Sydney Dance Company dancers and pre-professional students do unreasonable things to their bodies by day, and we do the same by night.

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In fact, the little sign in the corridor opposite Studio 3, that lets us know Adrian is in the house, is not always up for us. Or even the Company. His oldest client is 91. This man and his wife have had a massage every week of their life for many years. We also share Adrian with an entourage of sports people. They’re pretty good at making their bodies hurt too.

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Maybe it’s because he was a dancer for 17 years and knows what’s what, or maybe it’s because he’s about 190 centimetres tall and built like an American brown bear – he’s seriously good at making things stop hurting. He once confessed that he was in the middle of a battle between the will of my muscle to spasm and his strength. That’s what it felt like too. He won the war eventually. It stopped hurting for at least one week – or eight dance classes. A record. My life would work a whole lot better if I could afford one of Adrian’s treatments every Monday.

Apart from his relentless determination to conquer what’s hurting you (if he can’t, he will entice you back for a second go for free or half price, depending on what needs to be done), Adrian is really zen. Except that he doesn’t submit you to the pee-inducing sounds of waves lapping rocks. He has an unfathomable penchant for the miserable music of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Led Zeppelin and Lana del Ray – on the one mixtape.

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So, last week, while I was having the ping taken out of my butt, I asked him about pain - mostly because that was all I could think about at the time.

“From the point of view of dance injuries, my experience is that dancers experience the possibility of injury pretty much anywhere through their bodies. Some sports do have obvious danger areas. Shoulders for swimmers, groin and bowling shoulder for fast bowlers; backs, neck and knee for golfers; knees, ankles and feet for runners. And strangely, upper backs/neck for surfers, if they have a dodgy paddling position.

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“Most of us have inherited weaknesses that will make us more vulnerable, and the repetitive nature of dance or training vocabulary, and the exhausting nature of a dancer’s or sportsperson’s day, create a beast that is an extraordinary athlete but pretty much always managing some issues,” he said. 

“Massage, gua sha (skin scraping), needling, are effective tools to remedy or allay problems.  

“No needling,” I stated for the umpteenth time. (He did once sneak some acupuncture needles into my body while I was focusing on Nick Cave killing some girl. Ok, it worked. But don’t try it again, Adrian) 

“People these days take their training pretty seriously. Standards are very high, for amateurs as well as professionals, as are personal expectations. No one wants to "go off". Professionals can’t afford to.

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“So getting an understanding about good training is good advice, because there is plenty of the other on offer.

“Most pains and small injuries go away and most of us learn to ignore/work around/wait for it to go away. But most injuries leave a legacy in the body which can come back to haunt. And pretty much all of us experience losses in range of motion as the body ages. 

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“Grrr, Adrian, I haven’t,” I thought. I was going to say it, but Adrian and I have had the argument before about why I want to stay able to bend myself in half like the cool kids. 

Besides, that’s undoubtedly how I had pinged my bum and this wasn’t the first time.

“If you break your leg, or are having a heart attack I wouldn't be calling a massage therapist. But in a life that can afford the time and money to have that deep, invigorating, opening, releasing, circulation (all the circulations) encouraging therapy most often called massage (there are other more pretentious names) do yourself a favour!”