To cut or not to cut? That is the question. With apologies to William Shakespeare (or at the very least Hamlet), I pose the particular question in this modern age where it appears that all of our ailments and pains can be treated, fixed, cured with sometimes simple sometimes not so simple surgeries and procedures. For instance, don’t like the nose you were born with? Rhinoplasty can take care of that. How about those extra holiday pounds you are trying to shed? Liposuction, Gastric Bypass, Lap band anyone? Granted, western medical practices definitely have their uses I am not using the LegitMassage blog to disavow any of the remarkable achievements that western medicine has accomplished. Knowing many cancer survivors, I can attest to the fact that sometimes intervention and even invasive procedures are not only necessary but life sustaining. Therefore, I do not wish to go on a tangent about some western medical procedures but instead point to the greater attributes of alternative or traditional eastern practices that encompass the body, mind and soul to successfully treat the same ailments and pains. Because many times surgery is presented as an option and is mistakenly understood as the only option and therefore a disservice to the patient who innocently only wants the pain to end.
Surgery as the end- all-be all to pain does not always work and in some cases has even made problems worse. There are documented cases where the wrong appendage was operated on and even cases where limbs were lost as a result of negligence. Western doctors are very smart and they undergo rigorous training over many years to earn the right and license to not only diagnose problems but also to treat those same problems. But they can and do make mistakes. I have written in the past how easy Thoracic Outlet Syndrome symptoms can easily be mistaken for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If an overzealous doctor or surgeon recommends surgery, then after the costly procedure and rehabilitation occurs, the symptoms may continue to present themselves because the root of the matter was not investigated. If the root of the problem is in the upper body, then surgery at the wrist is not going to help and may only make matters worse.
I have known many of the elderly who in their later years opted for complete replacements of their knees and hips as use and overuse over time contributed to complete degeneration and most of the time debilitating pain. I have also known younger patients who underwent such replacements as a result of accidents and direct traumas. Those surgeries were necessary and consequential. Hence I do not disparage but in the same breath want to wag my finger at the traditional western medicine treatment model in the illness/wellness continuum. Traditionally, the western model of treatment has been to identify signs and symptoms that point towards illness or disability and treat with surgery or prescription drugs or sadly indifference. Whereas the eastern model that is thousands of years older and has been as effective in the treatment of many of the same ailments instead point to awareness and education to promote growth and steer the individual to what is termed in the Polarity Wellness Model as high level wellness. Please see chart below.
Early Disability Symptoms Signs← │ →Awareness Education Growth High Level
Death │ Wellness
Western Treatment Model │ Eastern Treatment Model
High Level Wellness is an integration of the body, mind and spirit, that who you are, what you feel, and what you think matters and has an enormous impact on your health. In looking at the eastern model that uses awareness and education to attain growth and long lasting high level awareness, it is plain to see that the direction towards wellness is a forward facing procedure; as in the process we take in our everyday lives to always be moving towards better health. On the other hand, the western model points toward illness and death and incorporates mostly body while the other two vital functions of mind and spirit are largely ignored. And that is precisely why as a massage therapist I question the validity of optional surgery to treat pain.
I have seen too many times how beneficial complimentary alternative medicine and therapies, chiefly massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractor practice, acupuncture and cranio-sacral therapy have been utilized as an effective means to treating pain and making it go away all together. Sure, it is not uncommon to have some next day soreness but it does not require weeks sometimes months of rehabilitation and is much safer than undergoing anesthesia and much less invasive to the body’s connective tissues than surgery. As author of Surgery Sucks! And Rolfer Richard Rossiter of the Rossiter System™ states, “Pain is information. It’s your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, BUT it’s not a call for surgery and painkillers.” So keep looking forward, keep growing toward high level wellness that utilizes body, mind, and spirit to learn from your pain and safely and effectively treat it. Allow me to pose one more question…Have you booked your massage yet?
Kip Yates, LMT was trained at the Swedish Institute in New York City and is New York State and Texas State licensed. He is owner and operator of Massage Refresh in New York City where he provides Swedish wellness and recuperative Deep Tissue massage that encompasses myofascial release and trigger point therapy. Kip lives in Brooklyn with his wife and three children and also practices at Physiofitness Physical Therapy in Soho.