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Five things that I’ve learnt from my patients

I am a true believer that the person in front of you knows something that you don’t. Since moving up to Glasgow, I have been lucky enough to see a variety of different people and every person has taught me something different about myself but also as an osteopath. This keeps my job interesting trying to assist someone in a way that is meaningful to them. I’ve summarised a few lessons that I found to be the most significant to me!

They often already know what’s wrong with them

One question we ask at the first appointment is “how would you describe this pain?” This leads to answers such as “this one is different to the one before” or “this feels more muscular/or “nervy”. This is extremely important as often how the patient is experiencing the pain tells us the answer to what it is.

However, everybody has a filter or an interpretation for what their pain means. This can dial the pain levels up or down. For example, the belief that pain means you’ve damaged something – this isn’t always the case (especially in long term cases). Pain is weird in that the levels of pain experienced do not always relate to the amount of damage present (Latremoliere & Woolf, 2009).

My role in the first session is to rule out the nasty stuff (cancer, infection, fractures – things that may need your GP rather than your osteopath). Once ruled out, I will explain why it’s not serious, what you’re feeling in terms of the current known science, and what we can do about it!

People want to learn about their bodies

Nine times out of ten, when I re-enter the treatment room I find the person looking at my anatomy poster trying to work out what it is that hurts. This always puts a smile on my face as this means the person has an interest in their own body. This interest also tends to result in a greater engagement in their own care with better improvements. After performing my examination, I will tell you what I believe to be the cause and will do this by explaining the anatomy, how this will affect you, and what other influences maybe involved.

For example, if I believe “Levator scapula” to be the muscle causing the pain, I will tell you this. Then in the future if you experience pain just like before, hopefully the next series of events is what follows…

“Hmm it looks like it’s my Levator Scapula that might be the issue”

*googles Levator Scapulae stretches and exercises* (note my fellow osteopath Angus has a really good stretch on his Instagram page at ag_osteopathy)

*does them, feels better*

BOOM that’s what we want!

When you understand your own body and how it works, you’re able to help yourself most of the time. However, sometimes your own treatment just doesn’t work. This may be due to other factors and you may need a helping hand getting to the spots that self-stretches aren’t quite hitting.

My party trick tends to be being able to find bits of the body that hurt when I press on them (probably why I don’t get invited to many parties…)

What feels good!

People come to see us to feel better. This is done through many different ways: reassurance, exercises, but most often through the hands-on techniques we do (massage, mobilisation, and manipulation). Sometimes I find that when I perform a certain technique. several people note how good it feels. I ALWAYS look to do the thing that feels best to you. What feels good to one person, may feel good to another. So let me know if somethings making you feel better, as it will definitely go on to help others!

Alternatively, tell me what doesn’t feel good! Or the stretch I’m doing/showing them doesn’t quite work on the area you need. We’re a team – so if you tell me this, I can change the stretch/ exercise/technique to be the most effective. An increase in symptoms such as pain, pins and needles or numbness isn’t what we’re looking for, and whilst this isn’t always detrimental to the treatment’s effectiveness, we don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.

The MOST important lessons

As an osteopath, you get to meet a variety of different people and I have learnt something from all of them!

Some include:

  • Places to visit
  • Glasgow bar and restaurant recommendations
  • Recipes
  • Different meditation techniques
  • “Bikepacking”
  • Improving my golf swing
  • The best current TV series
  • Game of Thrones theories

Thank the people that help you

This blog was inspired by Ramit Sethi, so first off thank you Ramit!

“Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re lucky to be in a profession where we get to help a variety of people and there’s no better feeling than seeing somebody go from being in a lot of pain to walking around with more mobility, less pain, and a bigger smile on their face.

This feeling has motivated me to say thank you to those that have helped me. As you can see from above, every person has taught or helped me in some way and I wanted to thank every single person!

So, THANK YOU!

Harry

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REFERENCES

Latremoliere, A., & Woolf, C. J. (2009). Central sensitization: a generator of pain hypersensitivity by central neural plasticity. The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society, 10(9), 895-926.

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