Being a Patient – It happens to everyone….
Being a patient isn’t always easy, there’s lots to do, lot’s to remember and lots of questions to answer. Those of you who come in to our clinic recently may have heard me mention that i have a chronic shoulder problem, mainly to do with work. Well recently I decided that I had better get it sorted, which meant going to see an osteopath. Sheena and I semi-regularly treat each-other but we find for problems which require a less casual approach it is better to go to someone ‘independent’. I hadn’t been a patient for a while and it reminded me that it seems easy when you are the osteopath, but it’s very different when you are the patient. Here’s a few things that might sound familiar to you if you have been a patient at an osteopathic clinic.
I must have apologised about 10 times to the osteopath at the first visit, everyone does this, mainly that they (the patient) are sorry to trouble you (the osteopath) with their symptoms. If the symptoms were trivial, you wouldn’t be there so it’s fine to trouble us with these things! Also, on your first visit you may have to let your osteopath see the affected area such as your back/legs etc, this means exposing the area. What then happens is more apologising, ‘sorry about by hair/Christmas weight/fungus’ etc. To put your mind at rest, we all have things that we are not happy about with our bodies, your osteopath is more concerned about your symptoms and why you are there (and they’ve seem most things before anyway).
I was amazed at how bad I was at answering questions! ‘Have you injured your shoulder before?’…..’No…..Oh, wait, yes, I’ve torn the rotator cuff twice before’…….For some reason being asked direct and focused questions makes your (my) mind go blank, or just omit stuff. ‘Have you had any operations?’ I had to think about that one……….this is why we ask lots of questions, sometimes the same question in a different way, just to make sure we don’t miss anything.
I haven’t got the data in front of me but I’m pretty sure that lying on a treatment table somehow interferes with your brain’s ability to tell left from right. When asked to lie on my left or right I reckon I got it right about 50% of the time, I also told the osteopath that I had a toe problem on the left, when it’s actually on the right. This happens to everyone, don’t worry, we nearly always treat both sides anyway so we will get there in the end.
Some of the techniques an osteopath uses rely on the patient relaxing so the muscles don’t guard against the applied technique, can I do this? Nope. I must ask people to relax 10-15 times a day so I can perform various techniques so surely I could manage it as a patient, apparently not. When you think about it, it’s not the easiest thing to do, in a strange place, with a new person, with not all your clothes on. everyone feels some nerves, or they don’t quite know what to expect so they may be a bit tense, with good communication from both sides it gets a lot easier, especially when your symptoms begin to subside after a couple of visits.
When you next have an appointment at our clinic we want you to know that we understand that being a patient isn’t easy and that you may be nervous. We have also been patients and we know how it feels, the main thing is that we as osteopaths, and you as the patient, work together towards getting you out of pain and back to living you life to full.