The simple act of swallowing is something that most people do many times throughout the day without even thinking about it. But for Jeanne Beacham, swallowing isn’t simple. And her inability to swallow without difficulty has her doctors at a loss for the condition’s cause.
The only relief that Jeanne’s experienced from a swallowing condition that has left her choking twice and needing the Heimlich maneuver to clear her pathway is from receiving monthly therapeutic massage treatments from Bonnie Vaniea, massage therapist at Elements Wilsonville.
“My doctors have tried different medical things such as surgical procedures to widen my throat, medications and even physical therapy,” explains Jeanne. “Before I tried massage, I could hardly back up a car since my neck was so stiff because of my restrictive swallowing. Getting massages from Bonnie has made a world of difference.”
When Jeanne began having difficulty swallowing, she started losing her voice and even experienced permanent voice change. At first, she thought the condition was the result of a shoulder or neck issue. But now doctors think that the cause could be the result of her trachea closing or the narrowing of her throat. Either way, Jeanne hasn’t been given a clear diagnosis and is limited by the type of foods and drinks that she can consume.
After seeing many doctors, getting medical procedures done such as having a tube inserted to try to expand her throat and trying different medications, Jeanne decided to try getting a massage to get some sort of relief after receiving a recommendation from her physical therapist. For the past six months, Jeanne has received monthly massages from Elements and she’s been pleasantly surprised by the results.
“The next day after a massage, I always feel so much better. I can swallow better, turn my head better and I have improved range of motion," says Jeanne.
"The massage does a great job loosening the muscles around my neck that can cause tightness in my throat. Bonnie is amazing at figuring out what works and what doesn’t. She has just made such a huge difference in my life.”
During Jeanne’s massage therapy sessions, Bonnie begins by focusing on relieving the tension and tightness on the front of the neck. When these neck muscles get too tight, then it can become more difficult for Jeanne to swallow, Bonnie says.
Jeanne’s neck work also includes massaging the muscles on the back and side of the neck to help increase Jeanne’s range of motion and overall relief. Bonnie then finishes the massage therapy session by addressing any other tight or tense areas in Jeanne’s body that may have developed from working at a computer or traveling a lot for her job.
“When Jeanne comes in for a massage, her neck and throat area are always really tight,” explains Bonnie. “Jeanne has a high stress job and a Type A personality, which can play into her muscles tightening and carrying tension in her neck and shoulder area. We focus our sessions on releasing the tension and stress in both her mind and body.”
As a busy executive who runs a company with four divisions and 150 employees, Jeanne lives an always-on-the-go lifestyle that includes a lot of traveling around the world and juggling the responsibilities of her career and family. In addition to the physical benefits that Jeanne has experienced with massage, she also values the relaxation component that’s associated with her massage therapy sessions.
“Getting Jeanne to relax and take a break is a big part of her massage experience as well,” shares Bonnie. “There isn’t a lot she can do when she’s getting a massage except relax and take a break. When she’s on the massage table, I’m there to help with her neck and throat area, as well as help her unwind and relax.”
Jeanne agrees that the relaxation component of receiving massage is as beneficial as the physical relief she experiences on her neck after a session. Jeanne schedules 80-minute sessions so that Bonnie can do 45 minutes of focused work on her neck and then finish with more relaxing work as Bonnie navigates the tight muscles throughout Jeanne’s hips, legs, shoulders and back.
“I am hooked on Elements,” says Jeanne. “I’ve had massages all over the world and I trust Bonnie the most with my neck. I enjoy the relaxation part of the massage and being able to unplug as I lay on the table. It’s nice to have time to just focus on your well-being.”
Going forward, Jeanne plans to continue receiving massages once or twice a month to keep the tension in her throat from going to extremes and to keep her stress in check. Massage has become an important component to Jeanne’s approach to improving her ability to swallow, while also enhancing her overall health and well-being.