Stand Straight, Hercules

Hercules Farnese is one of the most recognized statues in history. The Greek original from the 4th century BC has long been lost, but multiple copies exist around the world. There is one at the Louvre Museum in Paris, another at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, several copies in Greek museums, and the open-air one at the Admiralty Park in St. Petersburg, where I used to play as a child.

The statue depicts a muscular but tired Hercules leaning on his club, a weapon he used to achieve the great victories, also known as the Twelve Labours of Hercules. Draped over the club is the skin of the Nemean lion, whose killing was Hercules’s first victory.

Back then, killing a lion was an achievement, which made you a hero. Today you would be castigated as a villain and your image destroyed on the social media. Remember this dentist from Minnesota, who posted some pictures with a dead lion and later had to go into hiding after receiving multiple death threats from around the world?

Yes, the attitudes have changed. What hasn’t changed much is the human anatomy. Then, as now, the armpit continues to be a fairly delicate structure, poorly suited to bear weight.

You see, Hercules had twelve great accomplishments to his credit, but completing the 2,200-hour massage training wasn’t one of them. Otherwise he would have known that a prolonged pressure on the armpit area, leads to the compression of the radial nerve, resulting in the loss of sensation and muscle control in the arm, including the inability to straighten the hand. Can you imagine Hercules, the symbol of manliness, walking around with the limp wrist?

In today’s world we don't lean on clubs and the compression of the radial nerve usually results from either falling asleep while intoxicated with the arm over the back of a chair (known as the Saturday night palsy), or from using a crutch (crutch palsy).

If this happened to you, don’t despair. In many cases the symptoms are mild and the condition resolves by itself. And your massage therapist at the Breathe Spa has training to help you. Go online or call us at 403-457-3060.

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