When in Doubt Ask!

question2-724662The movie “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is best remembered for the hysterical Deli Orgasm scene. Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, was showing Billy Crystal’s character, Harry, that men have no idea when women are faking it. Men just trust/assume that all is going as it should. The other unique quirk in Sally’s personality was her constant questioning of everything in her life. She could not order a meal unless she knew every detail and gave specific instructions on how she would like it prepared and served. Now most people would find this an annoying quality in their friends and family. But, truth be told, Sally’s questioning always got her exactly what she wanted or needed (at least in the daily necessities of life).

Asking questions, for some reason, is very difficult for most people. The problem is either we do not feel we have the right to question, or we are afraid to appear stupid. (By the way no question is ever stupid if you truly want to know the answer.) And some times we simply do not know what to ask. Researching and asking questions is a habit we all need to develop and become efficient at, especially when it comes to our health.

For example, when deciding to hire a personal trainer at your gym, do you take the word of the 20 something girl behind the counter “Oh he/she is the best trainer in the gym”, or do you ask specifically what his/her qualifications are? i.e.

• “How long has the trainer been training?” “How long at this facility?”
• “Is the trainer certified and if so, by what organization?”
• “What are the specific certifications held by the trainer? ”
• “What is the trainer’s style of training…Boot Camp/Army Sergeant or gentle encouragement?” in other words is it the right one for you?
• “May I speak to some of his/her clients?” (for this there is whole other set of questions)
• What questions, if any, did the trainer ask you?

You are basically planning to turn over your body to this person. Don’t you think it is worth a ten minute interview? Yet most are more concerned about the cost and trust/assume that the gym would not be employing unqualified trainers. I had a client who was the “top trainer” in a local gym and upon explaining which hamstring I was stretching I received a blank look. When I questioned the trainer ” Do know how many different hamstrings there are in your leg?” her answer was ” of course…two” (The answer, if you did not know, is actually three.)

Even scarier to me is that we almost never question Doctors, Surgeons, or Therapists (Physical/Massage etc). In my last blog I mentioned that Surgeon’s are not required to take training in or be certification to perform new procedures. I was somewhat surprised at how quickly people defended the Doctors and stated that it was OK as they are qualified professionals. Really? How do we know this? Is every surgeon or doctor out there the best at what they do? In every profession there are those at the top (most qualified) which means there is also a middle of the road (somewhat knowledgeable or skilled) and a bottom (a health risk!) . How do you know which one you have unless you ask?

Taking some time to research on line about a disease, injury, surgery and formulating questions can mean the difference between a full, speedy, successful recovery and long, lengthy, painful not so much recovery.

• “Please explain the disease, injury, surgery to me?” If the Doctor does not take the time to answer your questions in the manner in which you understand the answers, is this the Doctor for you?
• “Does the doctor specialize in this disease, injury, surgery?”
• ” How often has he/she dealt with or performed this disease, injury, surgery?”
• “What is the doctor’s success rate?”
• “Realistically how long is the recovery from the surgery?”
• “What types of medicine will I be on before /during/after and what are the short/long term side effects?”
• “Will I need physical therapy? Are there alternative therapies I can try first?”
• What questions, if any, did the doctor ask you?
(these same questions can be used for any therapist, Physical, Massage, Occupational etc)

These seem like basic questions everyone would ask but time and time again I have clients walk in the door without a clue as what were the specific effects of their illness/injury. What was done (or why for that matter) to them during a surgery. What the effects of the procedure or medication was having on them? Is the rehab being done correctly? I have a client who suffered an open fracture of the elbow. Her physical therapy was “torture”. When she questioned the Doctor about it he replied “It is supposed to be torture and she would just have to put up with it.” It turned out that the Doctor forgot tell the PT that her forearm was fused and could not perform rotation. Something the PT was trying to force her arm to do. She knew that something was wrong but did as she was told for another 5 months until she could no longer take it.

People go to the Doctor/Therapist because they are in pain and do what the authority figure tells them to do because they are told it will take the pain away. They never think to question the doctor/therapist or research alternatives (i.e. other more qualified doctors, alternative treatments) until it is too late and the damage is done.
Blindly trusting someone because they presumably know more about something then you do is dangerous. We allow electricians, mechanics, plumbers to take advantage because they have knowledge we do not. In the end we complain about being over charged and shoddy work. We can end up in dangerous situations in our homes (leaks and structural issue) and when we drive ours cars (believing the brakes work and the fuel filter is clear).

This is bad enough but what is even more terrifying to me is that we do the same with our health. We choose to trust and hope rather than taking the time to gather the information and ask questions in order to make the best decisions. This is the information age. There is no excuse for not thoroughly researching and understanding something when it comes to one’s personal health & well being and that of our families. As a Therapist I always take the time to make sure my clients understand the treatments they will receive from me and that they are armed with the proper questions and information when seeing their doctors. Fear should not be a factor when making a decision, trust should be earned not automatically given. The only way to know if someone is faking is to ask. The results are mutual satisfaction for all parties concerned.

2 thoughts on “When in Doubt Ask!

  1. I’m recovering from abdominal surgery. One of the reasons I’m grateful for the surgeon I ended up with (this started with a trip to the ER so I “ended up” with this surgeon) is that he takes all the time I need to explain what’s happening and answer any questions I have. He has also been very responsive every time I’ve called his office and said “something’s not right”. He *listens* to me. How very refreshing.

    I have very long intakes. Other MTs think I’m wasting my time. I could be turning clients around faster and seeing more of them and making more money! But I ask a lot of questions and I encourage people to really talk to me, to tell me the whole story. It’s not uncommon for something to come out after 5 or 10 minutes of talking that changes how we approach the session, even subtly.

    It wouldn’t have come up if I’d just done the standard “mmm hmmm, mmmm hmmmm, anything I should know that isn’t on the health history form? No, then jump up on the table” intake that I see too many MTs doing.

    I’m gobsmacked by how many MTs don’t even sit down for the intake. They don’t “need” to because their “intake” lasts maybe 10 or 20 seconds!

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