December 13, 2010

Is It a Muscle or?

Every so often in massage you see someone who you think might be having visceral rather than muscular pain. Since my X-ray vision is on the blink, and my psychic abilities have never worked when picking next week’s lottery numbers, I tell folks who have a symptom that might be something else to go see the doctor.

Come to think of it, I’m sure most therapists have some opinions and probably a few good stories, about when to say “have you had that checked?”

I sent my granite guy to the urgent care for chest pains not because I didn’t think he had pectoral problems from lifting heavy granite all day, but because he hadn’t been to a doctor for 20 years. He was fine, by the way, and his pec’s felt like rock.

Once I felt a little pebble in a client’s foot and sent him off to his doctor. It was some kind of benign but destructive tumor. He had it taken out.

I have no clue to what’s going on when I refer people for diagnostic work, but I do probe enough to at least find out if they have taken their symptom to the doctor at some point, especially if it has happened before.

That said, I’ve wondered sometimes if I’m playing Russian roulette. If someone who has aches and pains and never goes to the doctor okay? What if they’ve been through all that and been pronounced fine. Did they miss something? Who am I to say anything at all?

Plus the idea of mentioning the sawbones might just scare the fiddlesticks out of some clients. Some people don’t do well with the whole medical thing. Rather than scare the stuffing out of a client, I might say “it’s probably nothing, but you will be doing some good for the economy running up a bill.”

I’m careful not to mention what something might be, as that might be taken as diagnostic, which is doctor stuff.

On the other hand, if every time a client came in with a pain you sent the person away, we never get a massage done. There’s a balance somewhere, and I like to think I’m close to it.

A client who been dragged in by his wife said his “friend” told him that “you should never rub a sore muscle,” with a tone that suggested the Ten Commandments. I promptly told him that what I’ve been doing daily for the past 15 years. Massage therapists help people relax and let go of aches and pains. It’s just part of the landscape.

I added that I don’t rub fevers or road rash or hives, or something that looks red or swollen, but with good assessment before starting the massage I’ve managed to avoid killing people.

At the WAY other end of the spectrum referrals can be frustrating. I had a long talk with a client with a deep fear of doctors into taking the lump under her jaw line in to the clinic. She finally went to see a specialist and found out it was a benign salivary tumor. She started taking supplements to get rid of it.

As the tumor grew larger, I suggested that benign doesn’t mean it can’t do bad things by just getting bigger. She felt the tumor was getting smaller and would go away without surgery. Then she stopped getting massages from me. I saw her one day in the market. The tumor was the size of a grapefruit, and she had combed her hair, very unsuccessfully, over it.

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