Guest post by Lucie Crouch. Lucie is a freelance journo by day, and shoe lover and sceptic by night. You can follow her on Twitter @LadyLucieCrouch
Physiotherapy is something that most people just assume is going to work because it’s recommended by your GP and you have to have a degree (technically) to practice it. What a lot of people don’t know is that it’s just as full of charlatans who don’t necessarily have the knowledge or experience to help you.
I slipped a disk in my back this summer, and after repeatedly visiting my doctor, desperately in need of help my doctor referred me to a physiotherapist. Two in fact. The first lady I went to charged me through the nose, but in fairness to her, she really helped me and sorted a lot of my back pain out. The second girl most certainly did not.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not poo-pooing the whole industry, all I’m saying is that you need to choose your therapist really carefully because a lot of what they recommend is not only ridiculous but really doesn’t have an effect.
My first therapist was really well trained and could tell just from the way I sat and walked what and where the problem was. She basically told me that she could massage my back as much as I wanted, but the healing would come from building the strength back up in the muscles in my back again. It took a couple of months but I was off pain killers completely after she had treated me, and she recommended a lower back support which would give me a bit of extra help on the way. She explained that my back took a lot of strain, but as long as I built up the muscle strength with good, focussed exercise I’d be fine. Happy days.
So returning to college I thought I’d be fine, until I fell over in a pair of heels on a night out. The disk in my back twanged out, and I knew I would need a bit of help again.
So, being 500 kilometres away from the last therapist I decided to branch out and came across a young lady recommended by the local health authority. To put it simply, she really didn’t know what she was doing. When you slip a disk, it’s basically dislocating your back, it’s seriously painful and you usually can’t walk, sleep or do anything for days. And you’ll be on some serious opiate-based pain killers. The first session was basically her taking notes of my condition, and softly touching my back here and my left leg there. I’m personally not a fan of the soft approach, I’d rather not beat about the bush and just get the problem fixed. So going to my second session, I expected a little bit more, and how wrong I was. Basically, what this charlatan told me to do, was raise my left leg, three inches in the air, move it left and right, then set it down again. I was told to do this ten times a day (if I was up to it?!) and then come back after two weeks and see how I felt.
No my sceptical bone was kicking in right now. This sort of problem needs serious help and even though I wasn’t trained I knew that. So honestly I tried doing the exercises without sending me into a complete rage, then went back to her after two weeks and told her (animatedly) that there was no difference she had another look at my back and said “Oh I’m so sorry I think I’ve diagnosed you wrongly, you’ve been exercising the wrong leg”.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could she have gotten the wrong leg? This person supposedly has a medical degree and made such an error. Also I told her I was pretty sure I was aware of the pain being in my left leg, the diagnosed leg, and I’d told her it was that leg, so how could she have gotten it wrong? She sort of faffed about and booked me in for another appointment, which unsurprisingly I turned down.
I’d still been using my back support belt which had gotten me through pretty well, and I’d been doing my exercises the previous therapist had recommended.
I re-visited my previous therapist and she was rightly appalled by this, and couldn’t believe the amateur hadn’t harmed me further.
I do think physiotherapy can help people a lot, but you need to be really sure you have the right therapist for you so you don’t waste time or do more damage.