Spondylosis Encounter



I finally checked the meaning of the word. Spondylosis. I had two clients in five day who told me that their Doctor suggested that that was their condition. Does anyone know why it is that Doctors are allowed to speak Greek and Latin to the English-speaking population? The Bureau of Standards dictates that importers and manufacturers ensure products are labeled in English, yet Doctors are allowed to speak to clients as if they are in Latin America, or Italy, or Greece. Given the number of years some of these Doctors have been practicing they should have long translated those words so that they can speak in English to their client so that the client is not stuck with ambiguous interpretation of their condition, which then makes it difficult for them to clearly say to their Therapist what is wrong with them without shrugging their shoulders or gesticulating like a deaf mute.

True, each word has its root buried somewhere, but when the symptoms of supposedly varied conditions are interrelated how differently is a Therapist supposed to treat Spondylosis to Arthritis, or Osteoarthritis, or Degenerative Disc Disease, and others? The Medical folks need to make up their minds because the longer they hop from one foot to the next, it is felt that they are Mixologists and we are the human shakers, full of prescription drugs that are shaken up in us to create the perfect cocktail…that lacks only a few drops of Angostura Bitters. They medicate us for one Latin condition today, then two weeks after the same condition assumes a Greek name and we have a different medication, and they keep this up until we respond to the drugs as they anticipate, then the final label for our condition is slapped on. Based on the initial symptoms we treated your condition as Latin, but the three drugs prescribed did not work as expected. But we have good news. After we decided to treat you for Greek, you showed remarkable progress (only because one of the three new drugs worked) so it is safe to assume that your condition is Greek. For that matter, you are now officially diagnosed as having Greek. By this time your system is totally corrupted and now requires detoxification. Excellent.

Isn’t this an insult to the average man’s intelligence? And, apart from those supposedly philanthropic institutions, isn’t it the average man’s taxes that pay to send some of these Doctors (who were speaking English before they left) on scholarships so that they could return to talk to us speaking the language of Gods and treating us with indifference? The elderly are in a good position to deal with them then blame it on Alzheimer’s. So if you are over 60, the next time you visit the Doctor and he starts talking gibberish, behave as if you are offended. Reach across his desk and whack him with your umbrella or walking stick, and say: Don’t be disrespectful boy! Yuh mother know you using bad word? Speak to me properly, you hear? Eh-eh! You turn big man and feel you could use obscene language. Well not on me! Telling me ‘bout Spondylosis. Spondylosis my foot! Aaaah…sorry ma’am, not your foot, your back, responds the Doctor. Then you get to softly say: Yea sonny boy…my back real hurting boy. Wuh is that fancy name you call it? He’d dare not say that word again less he gets another clout. He will speak English.

Anyway, a pretty lady came to have a massage who said the Doctor told her that she was suffering from Cervical Spondylosis. I was immediately sympathetic. Then I told myself it is okay as she already has children, so she doesn’t have to worry about pelvic problems that would make childbearing a nightmare, or impossible. So when she explained that she felt as if she had stiff-neck, and her arm presented frozen-shoulder symptoms, and there was pain halfway down her back, I was confused for a moment. Then it clicked. Lord have mercy! Look how I was giving the woman a problem she didn’t have. My mind tends to associate cervical with cervix which made me think that the problem was around the pelvic area. But to be confused and to look confused are two different things, so hopefully, I did not look the part.

She also advised me that one of the medications prescribed for the condition was usually given to persons suffering from seizures, is addictive, and is better left out of her mouth. This was told to her by someone other than the Doctor. Could it be that somewhere between the Greek and Latin that the Doctor forgot to mention that, or is it that he did want to burden her with such information? What is the insecurity with Doctors that they don’t seem to think it is best for patients make informed decisions? Anyway, after working with her the whole Spondylosis term still did not register to my brain. I did not see what was different in my treatment of her as against my client who had Degenerated Disc Disease around C3-C5, or my mother with frozen shoulder that had her elbow locked to her side and made getting off her back a horror movie.

The other client was male and in his sixties. I was advised that the Doctor said he had a Stroke. He was treated for that for (too long) a period, before the Doctor changed his mind and decided that he has Parkinson’s Disease which mimics the symptoms of a Stroke. Exciting. So he was treated for that. Now, it is official, he has Spondylosis. I went over to the Home where he is supposed to be ‘convalescing’ at the invitation of his son. He sat there in a wheelchair. The right side was less active than the left, and both hands had the fingers grasping at the palms. After our introductions he told me he converted to Islam some years ago and preferred to but called by his Arabic name. Very well, Sir. So I called his Arabic name and told him we needed to go to the bed to do the massage. He made signals to his son who then came over to lift him. The chair was rolled into the bedroom near the bed and his son (whose belt in no way supported his abdomen) lifted his dear Dad onto the bed.

As I began the massage he closed his eyes. I inquired why. He said it helps him to shut out the pain as he is able to go elsewhere. Oh! So I was doing a massage for an Astral Traveler? I am so fortunate. I asked him to stay with me, feel what I am doing, and tell me what he is feeling. There was pain in the all the joints of the arms, but with time, I got the fingers to straighten out. He kept them that way for a while then they began curling in again. I asked why he was closing his hand. He said he felt as he was holding someone’s hand. Each time I had him open his hands, he had to let go of the person’s hand. And the Doctor calls this Spondylosis? In his mind he just has difficulty walking. Apart from that, he is fine as he spends the day astral traveling while holding someone’s hand. The guy feels safe…held. Why would a Doctor, or Massage Therapist, who has not spent the day holding anyone’s hand, deprive this goodly gentleman of doing such? It’s unfair.

I continued working with his feet. He asked if I knew what hallucinations were. Yes. He said that he could not tell if it was the medication, but he prefers what goes on behind his eyelashes that what’s before them. There was no pain in his legs. I told him that means he should try to stand so that the Nurses could assist him in moving around. No. He was fine. I told him that his son (who sat through the session) would not be there to lift him each day, so he would have to make some effort. He said the Nurses will do it. I asked what the Koran said about women. He said his Koran I covered in dust as he can no longer see well enough to read it. Okay. I told him that Allah does not approve of women being treated unkindly, and even if two Nurses were to lift him in and out of bed, that would be unkind to their structures, so he needs to co-operate. He promised that he will.

Yesterday I visited him again. He reported that he did not sleep well the night before. Pain kept you up? Not really. They bring in a new guy and he bawl whole night. I couldn’t sleep. Understood. I got the massage going and he related that, generally, he felt better since our first session. Good to hear. Anything else? His left arm…stabbing pain in the shoulder blade. Okay. What about your neck? Negligible in the neck and back. Before I came on the scene he said he used to wear a neck brace as he had significant pain in the neck then. It was removed as, to him, there was no reduction in the pain, which eventually subsided…maybe due to the painkillers. And the arm? Pain at the joints, depending on the position. The right hand showed signs of edema and there was pain in the elbow and shoulder, the needles and pins version. I asked him to tell me something about himself as I worked. He is 5ft 9” and usually weights about 150lbs, but these days he is around 120lbs. (You don’t want to imagine that). He has been conscious about his diet for as long as he could recall and after converting to Islam, he engaged in fasting annually. I asked if he planned to fast for Ramadan this year. All the tablets they give me…I have to eat. He judges that at the rate of his progress he will still be laid up at that time. I reminded him that no condition is permanent, whether good or bad, so I don’t want him to resign himself to his current state as being ‘it’ for him. Each day offers hope. It is always good for us Therapists to encourage our clients. It’s not false hope, it’s the understanding that optimism aids in the reduction of pain; though temporary, the degree of the reduction can be significant.

He understands the need to be hopeful, but said that waking up doesn’t make him very hopeful. It is not easy being here you know. Not all the Nurses, but some… The sponge down is a rough up. Pain… You talk about pain? I suggested that they are probably using an aggressive method to shock his system back into functioning. He blinked his eyes at me. What else could I say? Bad service, he said. So after his morning rough-up he has been waiting for his massage to get some good feelings again. I’m happy to participate. I wanted to know if he ever went to Mecca. No. Not physically. He explained that Islam has five pillars (does that make it one of the ‘mansions’ in Jesus’ Father’s House?) and a visit to Mecca is one of them, but if you cannot go due to stipulated conditions, you are allowed to do so in your mind and it would be accepted. I asked if he has gone in his mind. Many times. I told him that I met a lady who took the physical trip, and she said that she never entered the Temple to walk around the Kebab, for as she was in the crowd outside, she saw one of the wives of the Prophet walking ahead of her then she disappeared. The realization shocked her whole body and she immediately became ill. She said that the persons with whom she was staying had to take her home and put her in a bathtub of ice in an attempt to reduce the roasting fever.

My dear client doubted that it was the wife of the Prophet. Why couldn’t it be one of the wives? He said the lady had no way of knowing what the wife looked like exactly, and if she did, the wife was walking ahead of her, how would she tell exactly? Aha! I asked him what about direct knowing, knowing with the heart, the bearing of witness by Spirit to spirit? He heard me, but was still not sure of the lady’s story. I asked him to tell me what he knew of the wives. He said that they had knowledge of the Prophet. And what do you know of the Prophet? He had knowledge of God. Very good. Was it not possible for the Knowledge of God to be transferred to the wives through the Prophet? Of course! Very well. So in seeing one of the wives, the lady immediately had access to some of the knowledge of God that she embodied. And you know what knowledge does? It brings change, and change does not have to be interpreted by our definition of positive. The realization was so strong for that woman that her body had to find a way to process the new knowledge, so flu-like symptoms with fever resulted. And while she felt disappointed at not entering the Temple, she got the blessing she went for. He wanted to know what happened to her afterwards. Well, she returned home here, and lives her life, which includes a few massages from me to keep the body going. She said that she was told (long after the experience) that there were ‘things’ that she was supposed to do having gotten that revelation, but the persons she was with did not seem to know anything about that, so she was edified after the fact. He wanted to know what ‘things’ she had to do. Ha! So he does not believe the lady’s story to be true, but now he wants in on the action that allows access. I told him I had no clue. Doubting Thomas is not limited to Christianity.

I brought the conversation back to him. Let’s talk about you. What did you do this week? He recounted having a ball in his hand and how it fell to the side of the bed and he was trying to retrieve it. All his efforts were in vain as his hand was unable to move. Why? He said that his hand looked like sponge. It was his hand, but not flesh and bones. And the sponge just lay there refusing to respond to his brain. It was only after he aggressively threw his hand off the side of the bed that it changed back to flesh and bones. Did anyone see what was going on? He laughed. He was the only one who saw. Had anyone been looking, they would have seen that there was never a ball in his hand, let alone for it to fall off the bed for him to try to retrieve it. And so it is with most things. He sees himself holding his cup drinking tea, but his fingers are shut tight, and he sees himself walking, but he’s in bed with his feet up on a pillow. And while everyone complains that he is not making any effort, he is puzzled because he is doing as they ask, but they are the ones not seeing it. And he rather suspects that the medication for the Parkinson’s Disease is causing this. And I rather suspect that it might be a similar medication my pretty client was given for seizure. Maybe seizure does not refer to shaking/fits, as neither has such, but rather immobility…like a rusty door hinge that prevents the door from moving. But here again, the Doctor could have explained. And I imagine that had the lady gulped her pills her students would have had a field-day with her antics in front of the class as she would have been in hallucination mode.

With him being engrossed in our conversation, I was able to massage his body with little resistance and do some mobilization techniques, especially to the arms. When I told him that I was finished for the day and will see him next week, he asked how it is that the session was so short today. There is no way that our hour together would have been considered short had he been focused on the pain. As I packed up I asked him to move his right arm, the weaker one. He asked if I could see the movement. No. I told him to try again. This time I could see the muscles in the lower arm contracting, but the fingers did not budge. I told him what I saw and asked that he try again. One finger moved. By this time he was exhausted. I told him that was enough and that he needs to put some effort into it each day and the image he has of his arm moving will eventually coincide with actual physical movement. Before leaving I took the ball he had in the chest of drawers and placed it in his hand. The ball is actually in your hand now. Please don’t let it fall to the side of the bed.

The young lady, who is a Teacher, may have gotten Spondylosis due to Repetitive Strain Injury from writing on the chalk/white board, facing the board and looking back or sideways to responds to questions by students, lifting piles of text books, lifting her children or groceries with one arm more than the other. These things are always open to speculation. As for the gentleman, his may have occurred as a result of degeneration due to age. The needles and pins feeling may come from nerve entrapment or a sign that the nerves are coming alive again in the arm. If nerves are entrapped, we can consider that blood vessels might also be, resulting in poor circulation to the hand…leading to eventual numbness. The thing I consider most is that more and more it seems that we need a Degree in Medical Terminology to practice Massage Therapy. The strangeness of these terms register fear in clients and their condition is exacerbated by the stress created. While we are eager to help clients de-stress, in the absence of permission and clarification from their Doctor we too might slip into fear-mode worrying whether the client who rolled over in bed with a stiff neck, or the one with pain in the rotator cuff, or the one with chronic lumbago might all have a version Spondylosis and insist that the client bring a medical. Irritating. Let us use wisdom and make professional decisions in the moment, rather than play into the uncertainty of Medical Practitioners, which will certainly destabilize our profession.