Forget Me Knot

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What do all of the following have in common?

Caesarean “C” Section

Breast reduction

Breast implant

Appendectomy

Laparoscopy

Arthroscopy

 

Well that is easy right?  They are all surgeries. But would it surprise you to know that 6 out of 10 women who walk into my office do not consider C- Sections or breast work surgeries? Yes, you did read that correctly.

There is an alarm gong off in my head.  At first it was a small ding and as the years have gone by it has been getting louder and louder. These days it is going off like an air raid siren.  When a new client comes to see me I, as with all health professionals, I have them fill out a medical history intake form. It is very common for people to “forget” about past injuries, illness and yes even a minor surgery.  It has always amazes me none the less, I mean really how does one forget they broke an arm or an ankle?

Here are some of the many conversations/comments that have resulted from the “Please list all surgeries” section on the form:

“Surgery? No..not really… Well…I had a c-section but I do not consider that surgery.” 

“Why is that?”

“Well..it wasn’t  planned it was an emergency.”

 

“No surgery…I just had my breasts done but that doesn’t count.”

 

” I did have my toe chopped off but they sewed it back on and  that was so long ago it doesn’t matter.”

 

No.. No surgeries ..just had some work done on my mouth twice.” 

“Do you mean you had Oral surgery?”

“Yes”

 

“Well I did have my uterus taken out. But they did that through my belly button- barely even see the scar..so no, no surgery.”

During a session I will observe a scar and inquire as to its origin. The client inevitably says “What scar? where?  Oh right?  …That’s from when I wiped out on my motorcycle…yeah I ruptured my spleen and they had to do surgery”  and this one on your leg? “Oh that?  I was dragged by the bike on asphalt pretty narlly huh?!”  

Scar tissue therapy is generally overlooked by health professionals because the extent of physiological effects scars can have on the body have never really been acknowledged. If the Doctors are ignoring the effects then what hope does the patient have of ever understanding the that the slightest restriction, in the elaborate matrix of fascia, can have major repercussions from one end of the body to the other.

During the course of my career I’ve treated many patients whose problems could be traced back to a scar they had forgotten they even had. Almost everyone has a scar. While not every scar presents a problem, often they can.

I never know what amazes me more the body’s ability to respond so quickly to the release of adhered tissues or the shock on the patient’s face when their body is freed from it’s restrictions and pain due to that scar they forgot they even had.  But the one thing I do know is that ignorance is not bliss.  The time has come for the public to be made aware of  effects of scar tissue and adhesions.

Alphabet Soup

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images (3) There was no better lunch when I was a kid than a salami sandwich and a big bowl of alphabet soup. I loved to dunk the sandwich and when I was finished soaking up the soup, I had all the letters to make up stuff with. There was a never ending combination of letters and tons of hysterical laughter as my siblings and I came up with sayings to match the initials. Sometimes they made sense, other times they were just funny. Either way they all came out of the same bowl, tasted the same and helped fill our tummies.

I was recently reminded of those forgotten afternoons. A friend who has been a very successful massage therapist for 25 years attended my Scar Tissue Release course last weekend. He has never joined any of the massage organizations , he rarely attends continuing education courses, preferring to read studies and magazines. However, with the new CEU requirements for New York, he decided to come hangout with me and 47 others for a few days.

The next day he came in for a session and while discussing the course material he thanked me for taking the time during the class to continually explain the multitude of acronyms that were being tossed about by the students. He was both amazed at the sheer number of them and amused that, when explaining them, I would break down the techniques to the origins from which they hailed. He said for a moment there he felt…well, really out of the loop…but then he realized it was all just different version of what he already knew and he felt much better. I just smiled and agreed that there are really no new techniques, everything stems from something else. There are only new points of views and presentations.

Right after that conversation, another massage therapist friend (a continuing education junkie) called asking had I heard of this technique or this one (insert any three letters at random) and what did I think of them. Once again, I found myself breaking down the technique with her and taking it back to the origins of the work. She also told me how arrogant a fellow student was during the class, continually challenging the instructor, not to contribute to the information being shared, but rather to simply prove her wrong. Unfortunately, this is not a very uncommon situation I am sad to say.

A few thoughts came to me after this combination of conversations.

SI, PNMT, EFT, PRT, NFT, MET, PNF, ART, ITS, FMS….ABC…123…

There is obviously a need for coming up with a descriptive name for a technique (or a disease for that matter) and who does not enjoy a good abbreviation these days. However, as professionals, we really need to get into the habit of clarifying what we say for those around us. Using acronyms without explanation alienates us from those we are trying to work with, whether they be clients/patients or fellow professionals. There are only so many combinations of letters, many get used over and over again and have many different meanings.

If you find yourself using an acronym during a conversation, which we are all want to do, take two seconds to clarify what they stand for and to make sure the person(s) you are speaking with is familiar with the therapy/technique/disease you are referring to. Spouting off a series of letters and big words does not make you seem educated and professional, more likely you will come off arrogant and full of yourself. Instead, take the time to acknowledge the possibility that not everyone is in the know and have the where with all to clearly define and explain what those snappy letters stand for. This my friends, is not only proof of your intelligence and competence but of your consideration and compassion for others.

I know better than you….

It is very popular for professionals to disparage other professions. Doctors & Physical Therapists look down on Massage Therapists. Massage Therapists complain about Physical Therapists. Massage Therapists & Physical Therapists alike criticize Doctors and so and so on. It is bad enough that the health professions are divided and not working together for the benefit of the client/patient, now it seems we are often condescending towards the various styles of practice within our own professions.

We should all be banding together to support the needs of our clients/patients by learning and understanding other therapies/techniques and what they have to offer. Whether or not you agree with another style of massage or another therapy, as a professional, you should never belittle or denigrate it to an inquiring client or colleague. As a professional, you should be capable of explaining the premise behind the therapy/technique, what it seeks to achieve and how it is administered. After stating the basics, then you can explain from your point of view, how it differs from your approach. This leaves the client/patient or colleague with the ability to make an informed decision of their own as to whether or not to pursue it further. The clients/patients needs vary depending on the individual and the moment in time of the need. There is no one end – all -be-all therapy and more often than not it takes a cocktail mixed to each person’s particular needs.

Time to change the menu…

Throughout my classes I encourage my students to contribute information on their specialties. I discuss a variety of therapies, their merits and when they can be used in conjunction and when one is more preferable then another. I encourage my students to seek out training in specialties that may call to them such as Oncology Massage or Visceral Manipulation. I recommend other courses from Instructors I respect such as Tracey Walton and Marty Ryan. I have even asked them and others to help round out my students knowledge with one page handouts sheets (i.e the top ten facts about massage & cancer) including their promotional information.

I will also ways love Alphabet soup, but lately I find myself more in the mood for Stone soup. It is not a meal one makes on their own, rather it is a community effort, all contributing their own special ingredient, combining all together to share with each other for the betterment of all. I have the pot and have tossed in the first few stones and there is a seat for all who wish to join in at the table.
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Understanding is Relative

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The following story was circulating on Facebook:
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs a better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on but remains silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: ” Look she has finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” Replies the husband, ” I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”

And so with life…What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

This story so hit home with me. I was brought up in a very judgmental household. I never realized how much I used to presume and judge others and situations until one day my husband (then boyfriend), thankfully, pointed it out to me (yes, I still married him!)

We often make monumental mistakes when we judge other people and their actions. We see the world through “life experience” tinted glasses. Before we move to judgment we should always take a step back and examine how and why we came to a conclusion or, at the very least, understand that we may not have a clear view (all the facts). We need to stay open to the possibility that there is information we are missing. i.e. Is the woman on line holding everyone up because she is being inconsiderate or is she having a bad day and forgot her wallet? Is that really obese person lazy and gross or is he doing battle with a disorder/disease? Until you know the whole picture and, even then, unless you are personally going through the exact same thing, you can never fully understand what it going on with another individual. Emoting good wishes instead of hurtling daggers of judgment benefits everyone. You will be amazed how pleasurable life is when you openly look for and begin to perceive a broader view of the world.

Another point in the story above which is often overlooked is that the husband let the wife continue misjudging her neighbor for a month. I can tell you that not only was I shocked by the realization that I was acting like a true member of my family (something I strive to avoid) I was also grateful to be shown the error of my ways. However, to be honest, I was also annoyed with my husband for taking so long to tell me. If you hear someone being judgmental or simply misjudging, then tell them. They may not appreciate it but then again you never know unless you try.

Understanding that we all view the world from our own perspectives is one of the most important lessons one can learn as a Healthcare Provider. While waiting for a movie to start I was channel surfacing and came across a hospital drama (could not tell you which one, sorry). A young female doctor was frustrated because she could not convince her professional model patient, suffering from a rare cancer of the jaw, to have the surgery which would save her life by removing a large piece of her mandible (Jaw bone). The model wanted to look into alternative methods before having her face permanently altered. The Doctor, presuming it was all about the model’s vanity, asked her supervisor for advice and the supervisor’s reply was “stop judging your patient”. Totally not what the she expected to hear. It forced her to take a step back and examine her own perceptions. She realized that she was in fact looking at the situation through her own personal references, a person who’s identity revolved around her intelligence not her appearance. What proceeded was a very open and honest conversation between Doctor and Patient, which I might add started with the Doctor apologizing. Taking the time to try and understand exactly where our clients are coming from should be the first step in every treatment.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew