Different perspectives on injury
Since deciding to enter the medical profession, I have found myself analyzing the personal interactions I have with health care providers. I keep a running list in my head of ways in which I would like to emulate them, or ways in which they leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. I tend to dwell on the latter, asking myself: "What is it about that interaction that left me feeling so empty? So unheard?"
I recently injured myself while coughing - of all things - and after several frustrating weeks of practicing through the pain, I re-injured my muscle worse than it had originally been. After about a week of giving up practice to allow it to heal, I found myself back at the studio and impatient for its resolution. It didn’t seem to be getting better so I made an appointment with a sports medicine MD and an acupuncturist/massage therapist, while also soliciting guidance from my Ashtanga teacher (the health care provider I see most regularly!!). Each one left me with a completely different impression.
1. The MD: My visit was less than 15 minutes, and she examined me for less than two of those. Her diagnosis?
"It is probably a just pulled muscle. I am not going to have you go through range of motion or strength testing because these chest wall injuries are difficult to tease apart anyway."
She told me to take off completely (not even stretching) for 6-8 weeks and take nine ibuprofen a day (3 tabs three times daily).
2. The Acupuncturist: My visit lasted an hour. Of that, he spent about 20 minutes examining my side, rib alignment, and range of motion. His conclusion?
"I think you will respond better to acupuncture than massage. I suspect you pulled an intercostal muscle because your pain tracks along the rib, however I am also concerned that you injured your rib because there is a painful ridge in it near your spine, and it is tender from its origin to insertion. I would like to you see me at least three times over the next three weeks, and I believe that it will improve greatly in that time."
3. My Ashtanga teacher: Our discussion lasted about 10-15 minutes after I finished my practice. His advice?
1) Continue coming to practice daily.
2) "Listen to your body- it is your instrument for exploration; observe and respect it. Do not force it to do something that is painful, otherwise it will not heal."
3) "You likely pulled a muscle. Try not to get too frustrated, and remember that this is not permanent."
4) "Sometimes an injury like this is the body's way of slowing us down. Perhaps you were asking too much of it in the first place, moving too fast. Now is the time to take it slow and reconnect with your body."
Our interactions with people can be so different while trying to accomplish the same goal. I am disappointed that my appointment with the MD was time wasted, I am optimistic that the acupuncturist will help my side heal faster, and I am inspired by my teacher to focus less on the physical poses (asanas), and more on being present in my daily practice.