For some years now, I’ve had tendinitis flare ups in both of my ankles, which is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon. I’m not a doctor but I tend to believe this recurring tendinitis is due to the large amount of time I wasted in my youth attempting to become a professional basketball player. In my experience, basketball was mostly just dribbling the ball, passing the ball, shooting the ball, and rolling your ankles. The tendinitis flareups are very painful and make it extremely difficult to walk.

My most recent bout with tendinitis forced me to cancel one of my most favorite gigs: calling bingo in Market Square Park every third Thursday. I was hobbled to be sure and in pain. This is the first time this annoying condition has infringed on my fucking bingo game. And by god, it’ll be the last.

Seriously, I decided then that continuing to do nothing about my recurring ankle injuries was simply foolish and I needed to seek some type of treatment.

Massage has repeatedly been recommended to me by others who have had rough outings with tendinitis. And through them all, I remained skeptical. This time, however, I liked the idea. It didn’t require me to go see a doctor, which I also really liked (doctors make me nervous, just walking around those halls with bad news).

It had been about two weeks since I missed my bingo game and a colleague suggested I go see Joy Chuleeponn at Palm Healing Massage. Without second guessing, I booked an appointment that day. The Palm Healing Massage studio is across the street from a Whole Foods off of a sliver of Holcombe Dr. wherein you’re not quite sure if you’re in Bellaire or West University. Either way, it’s a nice area.

As I pulled up, it finally dawned on me that I could be walking into one of those massage parlors that doesn’t exactly specialize in massage. As I sat in my car, the stigma of massage parlors and the sex and human trafficking implications and the kidnapping and all of it flooded my mental and emotional state. I was assured by the recommend-er that this operation was purely on the up and up. And I had no reason to doubt them. And truthfully, I don’t like the idea of Houstonians running a legitimate business but always suffering in some way at the hands of a dark stigma.

So, with a deep breath and an open mind, I exited my car and walked in. Joy was waiting at the front desk. I introduced myself, she smiled and motioned me to follow her. I thought we were heading right to one of the six studios. Nope. She led me to the very near waiting area. We sat down on the couch and she asked me what was wrong. We had definitely crossed over into the patient/therapist relationship unexpectedly and rather quickly as well. I explained my ankle injuries and Joy nodded along in a confirming manner. She then replied with a robust plan to heal my ankles that included sport massage and Thai massage. I would liken the experience to buying weed at a posh dispensary in Colorado but you have to purchase whatever the cashier suggests.

Joy asked if I had any questions before we began. If she had not been so comforting and disarming, I probably would have passed up the opportunity. And I’m glad I didn’t because we sat there for a few minutes talking about the studio and neighborhood and stuff. Joy moved to the U.S. nine years ago from Thailand. First to Wichita Falls and then Houston, where she opened the massage studio 15 months ago. Glancing briefly at a brochure near the register revealed to me that there a great many types of massage, as it were. Some even include hot stones. Thai, Swedish, Sport… Depp Tissue… Hot Stone Therapy. “Cool menu,” I muttered.

Joy eventually led me to one of the studios and went to work healing my broke ass, swollen ankles.

I must admit, the panic about the massage parlor stigma crept in every once in a while but the more that my ankles relaxed and started to loosen up, the less it seem to apply to Palm Healing Massage.

My left ankle (the more painful of the two) felt shiny and brand new after the session. Both of them did. I was immensely grateful and left with a full blown new perspective on the healing powers of massage.

But before I left, I summoned the courage to ask Joy about the stigma of massage parlors and how it affects her business. She looked at me with eyes that said, “I know you’ve been wanting to ask this the whole time.” She explained that even being in a “nice” part of town doesn’t prevent occasional visits from the vice squad. And it definitely doesn’t prevent customers from asking for the rub & tugs, which Joy says she handles by politely explaining that they do not do that at Palm Healing Massage until the person leaves. Apparently, they don’t stick around long after you tell them you won’t jerk them off. They’ll walk on your back and put hot stones on your face (I don’t know) but they will not jerk you off.

I came away from the experience with reinforced old ideas and blossoming new ones. If you can be proactive about a lingering injury or condition, do it. It’s scary sometimes, but it works out. Not all massage studios are whore houses. And finally, I need to research more on the topic of the healing power of massage. Cheers.