A few weeks ago I had the chance to watch a master piano technician work on a beautiful Steinway baby grand. I grew up with a Baldwin baby grand that my brother used to pound out the works of Rachmaninoff, Chopin, and Liszt. The first piano tuner I ever remember coming to our house was a very large man (both tall and wide) who sort of grunted hello and then sat down and proceeded to whip the piano bench around under his body weight with such vigor that it made squealing noises on the new hardwood floors.
A few years ago, my brother decided he wanted to tune his own piano, so he bought his set of tools, read a couple of books and had at it. The next week when I asked how the tuning had gone he said, “Actually, the tuner is here right now fixing everything I messed up.” Apparently, my brother had “tuned” it into unplayability. I know it’s a frustration to my brother that he is one of the few instrumentalists on earth who can’t tune his own instrument. And I think this is often the case with our bodies as well.
When we get “out of tune” it can be very hard to know how to approach the healing process. And no one ever sits us down at the age of 15 and says, “Ok, here is how the musculoskeletal system works: 1. You have bone, muscle, and connective tissue (fascia, tendon, ligament, blood); 2. These things are layered in the body; 3. A problem in one layer can affect all of the other layers, though not necessarily; 4. If something hurts, press on it, rub it, move it, don’t ignore it; 5. Drink water and stay active.”
And because no one gave us even that basic introduction, when something goes wrong in the body it’s easy to feel kind of helpless and unsure of what is going to help the problem. Most of us have never been taught how to “tune” our bodies in spite of the fact that we live in them and use them every minute of every day. That’s crazy, right?
Also, this whole ramble makes me think of the amount of responsibility I have as a practitioner to not step in, grunt hello, and drag the bench around, upsetting things that weren’t previously upset as I do my work to help get people back in tune.
When I started watching the “master” tuner work I was interested, but the more I saw the intricacies of the work, the subtle listening and even subtler adjustments needed to really make the piano sing, the more I felt a deep parallel between our work. I think it’s probably like this with almost any profession, any work that someone has done long enough to be able to feel it rather than to just do it. This is very interesting to me.
(As a piece of randomness, here is the piano tuner I observed recently. Not the bench dragger, the inspiring one.)
- Isabel Spradlin is a Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and abdominal adhesion specialist in Portland, OR. She specializes in educating people about manual treatment (massage) for abdominal pain and dysfunction, especially when it is adhesion related. Please see the "Programs" page to see her offerings.