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Blind men and an elephant

Blind men and an elephant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my previous post, I wrote that I would be seeing a massage therapist qualified in myofascial release, and hope that he could give me some pain relief without my using prescription drugs. I recently experienced some very bad side effects from medication formulated and promoted for fibromyalgia. I will not take them again. I truly believe that if you can get enough pain relief through this and other means, you may be able to get off pain meds. There are several reasons why this is a very good idea.

(1) Long-term pain meds, though often necessary, only mask the pain; they do not get to the cause of the pain and therefore do not cure anything.

(2) Pain medication, or any drug for that matter, always has side effects, often debilitating enough to make it impossible for a patient to take them, or they create the need to take other medications to treat the side effects, creating a vicious circle.

(3) Prescription drugs are expensive. Even if they are covered by insurance, we are all paying for them.

(4) If doctors can make you feel better through drugs, they can ignore the real illness and other symptoms you may have. As my previous Primary Care Physician told me, “If this works to help your pain, then I won’t have to make a diagnosis.” Never mind that a correct diagnosis would enable doctors to treat the whole person and be the healers they are sworn to be. I am not saying that everyone will be helped by these methods; and I am not advocating that everyone give up their medications. I would not do that; I am not a physician. But these are things you might want to consider for your better health.

pain management education

pain management education (Photo credit: The Pointe at Kilpatrick)

The massage therapist I mentioned greeted me and gave me a  form to complete, and then I went into the treatment room. When he found that my most serious pain is in my low back from spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease, he wanted to examine that and possibly treat it. However, on that day the pain was significant, and seeing this, he opted not to touch that body region.

What he did then was a surprise to me, but turned out to be significant I believe. He did a cursory visual examination of my posture, front and back. His conclusion was that my body mechanics are all off; my stance is not straight, one hip is higher than the other, and my pelvis is tilted at an unhealthy angle. The remainder of the hour was spent in explaining to me the many aspects of trigger points and referred pain, and that a straight and well-functioning posture is a prime consideration in addressing pain anywhere in the body. He did no massage that day but gave me three homework assignments: a pelvic rotation exercise to do daily; purchase an inexpensive shoe insert that would raise my left hip slightly, the kind you can buy at Walgreen’s; and to sit properly with the correct upright posture and the knees and thighs tilted slightly downward to get the pelvic area sitting at the correct angle. Whew!

I must say that I thought he was brilliant, but also opinionated with regard to the origins of my pain and my total illness. He tactfully suggested that he did not believe I have fibromyalgia, that in the hundreds of fibro patients he has seen, I do not fit the typical description and do not have some of the typical symptoms. He also said, “You do not have the typical fibromyalgic face.”  He meant that most fibro patients are depressed, tired, and anxious, and they exhibit these emotions in their facial expressions and body posture. Here we go again, I thought, someone who does not believe what I tell him. (What, no Type A personalities allowed here?) We discussed this for a few minutes, and we came to a truce, so to speak, that whatever it is called, the symptoms are there. He said mine just come from a different place. I don’t know what that means, since we don’t really know where this illness comes from, and indeed it probably comes from many different “places.” He speaks from the viewpoint of a well-trained professional in the fields of orthopedic medicine and massage therapy. Most brilliant people are opinionated, so I’ll allow him that so that we can move on and together make progress in his area of expertise, myofascial release.

I will not see him for a few weeks because I will have foot surgery in September and won’t be able to get around very well. In the meantime, I have purchased a book for at-home therapy using myofascial release techniques. I’ll let you know about that later on when I have studied and tried their methods.

This interlude reminds me of the ancient fable, The Blind Men and The Elephant, which some of  you may recall from your childhoods. I copy this one version from Wikipedia:
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.
The stories differ primarily in how the elephant’s body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.
In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, they also learn they are blind. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow. Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.

In other words, dear friends, it all depends on one’s perspective. I really don’t care what this therapist calls my illness, as long as he can help eliminate some of the pain. He gave a diagnosis of myofascial pain. To borrow another literary device, I paraphrase from Shakespeare: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”- Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things are.[1]  “Fibro by any other name still hurts.”

ตาบอดคลำช้าง -- Illustrated Proverb: Blind men...

ตาบอดคลำช้าง — Illustrated Proverb: Blind men and the Elephant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)