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What happens when osteopaths can't help?


Pain relief: quarterzone

Credit: istock

Our job is to help people who come to us with a particular problem, usually being in pain, lack of flexibility, or poor function.

Some physical ailments will recover quickly, others will take more time and effort, depending on the nature and cause of the complaint.

Most of the time, we can help. We can improve function, reduce pain, get you back to what you want to be doing.

But sometimes we can’t.

This is something that I personally really struggle with. Osteopaths usually have quite a lot of time with their patients, and build a rapport. I personally LOVE it when a patient comes in and has improved – that’s why I do my job!

But sometimes people don’t get better. Sometimes we can work out why, other times we can’t.

When someone comes in and hasn’t improved, or has gotten worse, questions need to be asked. Was my diagnosis correct? Has the patient been compliant with their exercises? Has their work been negatively affecting their condition? Has the patient changed anything such as desk setup, gym routine or stress?

If I can’t understand why the patient isn’t getting better, if it just doesn’t make sense, then I’m not the right person to be seeing that patient.

Recently, I was treating a young guy who was presenting with hip and back pain. We poked, prodded, needled, stretched, exercised, discussed stress, discussed rest, tested bloods, got MRIs … but nothing.

At this point, I referred him on to a sports medicine doctor so as to see if there were other interventions that we could try. I didn’t heard from him, so called him up to see how he was going.

If I can’t understand why the patient isn’t getting better, if it just doesn’t make sense, then I’m not the right person to be seeing that patient.

He is one of the most grateful patients I think I have ever worked with. Although my treatment wasn’t successful in getting rid of his pain, the sports medicine doctor had prescribed the appropriate medication and used a medical intervention via injection, and he has had NO pain since.

While the sports med doctor agreed that this kind of intervention should only be used when conservative measures have been exhausted, it worked wonders for this patient.

While I had felt unsuccessful with this patient, his experience was that the referral I had made to the appropriate colleague had been the breakthrough he was looking for.

Additionally to this, even when I definitively know WHY the patient hasn’t achieved optimal results with osteopathic treatment alone, I refer to another healthcare professional who would be better suited to that patient and get them better results, faster. This may or may not happen concurrently with osteopathic treatments.

The kind of professionals I would often refer to or involve in a “team care” approach would be GPs, sports medicine doctors, exercise physiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychologists, Pilates instructors and personal trainers.

I can’t speak on behalf of every practitioner however the majority of my osteopathic colleagues are very much in agreement about the need for a proper and swift referral when necessary.

We’re not here to lead you down the Garden path. What happens if we can’t help? We tell you exactly who can.

Until next time,
Claire