Along a hellish journey through chronic pain, I've encountered many health providers - western medicine doctors, headshrinkers, alternative practitioners, healing/pain teachers. Following the advice of professionals, I braved many questionable and harmful procedures, addictive medications, pompous speeches, power trips, and expensive snake oil cures. And on the way, I learned a thing or two about healing with health professionals.
Every new provider means new intake forms, rehashing medical history, maladies, complaints, - it can be traumatic to dredge this stuff up again. Why even bother? Those of us with complex issues are searching for clues about what is going on in our bodies and how to make them feel better. Think of every health provider as a stepping stone to better health. The one you've got may provide a clue or a lead to other professionals who are more and more suited to our needs.
Any health care provider worth seeing will fall into one of three camps. The first camp holds excellent diagnosticians, the second are fine technicians, and the third group encompasses providers with a healing presence. A patient who finds a practitioner with even one of these characteristics is lucky. You may be on to a miracle when you meet someone with a healing presence or technical expertise AND the ability to name what you are dealing with in a way that you can grasp.
Excellent diagnosticians draw on one of two propensities. A brilliant physician KNOWS what’s in the medical books. She’s memorized the facts and figures. You provide an inventory of symptoms, and their brilliant brain sifts through it all to churn out useful knowledge. This propensity is developed through years of clinical experience - seeing a bunch of patients and recognizing patterns.
On the other hand, you may not be working with a brilliant provider, but a talented one. A talented medical professional knows when to pop open a medical text and where to find the information s/he needs. For getting well, talent can just be as useful as brilliance, although hardly as spectacular. I have heard that the doctor who can help you is the one who synthesizes the information that you provide and spits it back to you in a way that allows you to absorb it into your being.
Once you have a diagnosis, you still need the skillful technician for improvement. This could be the massage therapist whose knows how to touch someone who hurts, or the acupuncturist who can insert a needle precisely and without a twitch.
Technicians specialize in different modalities. Promising modalities can be identified for different treatment goals. For example, within the field of massage, craniosacral therapy is known calming for the nervous system and used for headaches or pain along the spine, myofascial release eases connective tissue surrounding muscles and is especially helpful in cases of chronic inflammation and pain, lymphatic drainage moves lymph, detoxifying the immune system and is preferred to eliminate toxins and reduce swelling from surgery, trauma and illnesses. Visceral therapy affects the organs . Because all of these modalities are so powerful, contraindications must be observed - this is why you want safe administration by the skillful technician. A good listener (with hands, ears and eyes) can palpate minute tensions and follow as they unwind. Like deciphering a puzzle or peeling an onion.
However, a treatment where you lie flat on the table cannot give the body all the information it needs to sustain permanent change. Active, purposeful movements teach the body where is up, where is down, how to stand or move so that the body doesn’t have to fight just to hold itself up. Mindful exercise leads to alignment, where the joints need to be to function in a position of strength. Yoga can show where the body is resistant and needs to flow. Pilates exercises are focused on the core – especially all things related to the iliopsoas muscle. A good qigong class helps cultivate your inner strength and muscular endurance while you move in a state of ease.
As for healing presence - now what is that?! When you find someone with a real healing presence, you know it. When you get near that practitioner’s body, symptoms just seem to fly away. You feel good in her office. You want to stay in her presence.
No matter how excellent the provider, your participation in the healing process is vital. Even with the most brilliant diagnostician, you still have to give guidance about where to poke and prod. The master technician needs to hear what works and what doesn’t. Even the healer with a curing presence needs you to recognize when you feel better. You have to help the talented and brilliant practitioners locate the information they need to run through their memory banks or healing hands before they can spit out a finding, not to mention a cure. As one healing teachers likes to say, “We are revolutionaries in the making, creating a new model for healthcare. No one besides “us” can take on the mission of “taking care of us”.
Marian Wolfe Dixon
MA, LMT (OR #3902)
NCTMB Approved Provider
Continuing Education for Massage Therapists, CHt, TCMBB.