An Integrative Approach to Massage Therapy
Apr 03, 2017 06:55PM
● By Kelly A. Montgomery
When Paul Milllwood, LMT, was 6 years old, his paternal grandmother, a respected healer in Jamaica, decided he was ready to heal others, too. “My grandmother and mother saw something in me—that I would be able to do healing work,” he recalls. As a fifth-generation healer in the Caribbean tradition, Millwood assesses the dynamic energy of the whole body. “All systems of healing have their own way of assessing, diagnosing, and treating,” he explains. “For specific organs or joints, I feel if it’s strong, jangled, weak or overactive.”
Paul Millwood received his formal training at the Utah College of Massage and has been a massage therapist for 16 years and is a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. He serves now at the Healing Arts Collective, in Philadelphia, and is formally trained in 21 bodywork disciplines, including CranioSacral massage, perinatal massage, myofascial massage and reflexology. Many people that seek Millwood’s services at Healing Arts Collective in South Philadelphia suffer from headaches, joint aches and pains, back and neck problems, emotional and spiritual uneasiness and even fevers.
Athletes and dancers benefit greatly from massage, explains Millwood. He has worked on retired NFL players, Villanova University track and field athletes, Pennsylvania Ballet dancers, and members of the 2002 Olympic U.S. Ski Team. The goal for athletes is to overcome internal restrictions so the body is free, he says. For example, when he worked on Villanova’s track and field athletes, he looked for respiratory restrictions in the distance runners. Massage therapy for dancers, however, is a little different. Because they are “hyper-mobile and hyper-flexible, stretching doesn’t work as well as manual work,” he states. “They can do splits first thing in the morning!”
Millwood experienced a miracle in his own life as an infant. His survival was doubtful because the soft spot on the crown of his head was not closed, and his brain was hanging out of his skull. “It scared all the men and they voted that I should be left at the hospital to die in peace,” he explains. “My grandmother said, ‘I'll take him.’ Since she was the matriarch, no one could overrule her.” After he was weaned from his mother’s breast, his grandmother took him. He, his parents, his brothers and his grandmother all lived on the same property. “But I belonged to my grandmother,” he says.
The most important thing Millwood learned from his grandmother was touch. Long before massaging professional athletes and dancers, Millwood cleaned the wounds of animals and treated their burns. As a boy growing up in Jamaica, it was common for families to have farm animals. It also was common for leftover boiling water—mainly used for cooking—to be tossed out the window. Unfortunately, the hot water could fall on unsuspecting animals grazing under the window.
Millwood’s talent as a bodyworker, which he says came from his family’s healing tradition and his mother’s milk, got the attention of one of his clients. The woman, a biologist and researcher, asked him to assist her with a study she was conducting about Canavan disease, a genetic neurological disorder in which the lack of an essential enzyme causes deterioration of myelin in the brain that prevents the proper transmission of nerve signals. One of the participants in the study, a 3-month-old boy, was also blind and deaf. She asked Millwood to work on the infant.
During the session, Millwood flooded the baby boy’s body with sensation. He held him, tickled him, talked to him, made sounds with his lips and put his feet on the cold window. “I essentially played with the child,” says Millwood. Months later, he learned through the boys’ parents that their child could hear and follow objects across the room. “The body heals itself,” he states. His role is to assess.
The Healing Arts Collective is located at 519 S. 9th St., in Philadelphia. For more information, call 267-229-7323 or visit HealingArtsCollective-pa.com.
Kelly A. Montgomery is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer and editor.