Men prefer to get lost rather than ask for instructions right? Transfer that attitude to an osteopath’s clinic, and you discover that men don’t seek help for pain until they are in so much pain they can hardly walk straight.
One such man zig zagged into my clinic one day complaining of stabbing head pains, hardly able to see though his half opened eyes. The difference here was that he had actually sought the advice of a Doctor, over a 2 year period – MRI scans, CAT scans, and a whole list of investigations later resulted in him landing on my treatment couch without a diagnosis. He was unresponsive to all headache and migraine medication and his pain was getting worse. Great. Welcome to the life of an osteopath!
A familiar experience for an osteopath is that people in extreme pain rock up to us as their last choice of treatment – ask any osteopath and they will tell you that this is the case. This makes our life very easy, because with zero expectation, anything that osteopathy achieves is seen as a bonus. What I don’t understand though, is why after repeated, consistant & effective resolution of pain conditions, it remains the last choice of treatment.
I actually like ‘hopeless’ cases like this, because there is absolutely no expectation of me whatsoever. I am literally allowed to say “Ok – I’ll have a look, poke around and see if I can do anything to help”…and if I achieve nothing, nobody minds. Happy days. Also, it is in these ‘hopeless’ undiagnosed cases that osteopathy and exercise prescription tend to excel because the cause is very often musculoskeletal which is why the patient fails all tests. I often say to my patients that turn up with a story of extensive investifgation and no resultant diagnosis that this is the very best diagnosis in itself – because you have ruled out all ‘serious’ causes of pain, leaving you with mechanical, which is resolveable.
What I love about osteopathy is that we treat what we find. We don’t assume a particular pain is being caused by a particular structure – because it rarely is what you expect. You have to assume the role of detective, and approach the problem with no expectations or assumptions of what is causing the pain. You just assess body, assess past history, assess current occupation and lifestyle, and piece all the information together like a jigsaw.
This particular patient – I’ll call him John – loved his job – he was a camera man with ITV down the road. He was 42 years old with an active outdoor pursuits lifestyle – so he was fit, relaxed, and happy. Not the usual picture for headaches. Getting random stabbing agonizing head pains was starting to affect his ability to do his job.
After a complete osteopathic assessment, with a completely clear medical history (no operations, no falls, no whiplash, no hits to the head, no anxiety) – I could find only one thing that warranted treatment – tight neck muscles. When I say tight though, I mean ‘bounce-your-basketball-off-them’ tight. There were little balls of muscle tension along his neck muscles (we call these trigger points) that would actually re-create the stabbing head pains when I touched them. The muscle tension was double on the side that he held his camera.
Surely it couldn’t be this simple – it was too simple to be true. Migraine level head pains being caused by tight neck muscles?
We are trained to only treat that which needs treating – if it ‘aint broke, don’t touch it. And in this case, even though John was in so much pain, his body was fit and healthy. So I reluctantly, feeling a little embarrassed, told him that the only thing I could find ‘wrong’ was this elevation of tension in his neck muscles.
I released his neck muscles with osteopathic techniques, and gave him a program of yoga exercise to stretch out his neck muscles, strengthen his neck muscles, and re-establish core stability in his neck.
3 treatments later, his head pains were completely, gone.
The cause? Bending his neck to look through the camera for 20 years.