Osteo touching woman's back

Part 4: Hope and healing at the osteo

I’m waiting in reception at the osteopaths. There are glass cabinets filled with familiar-looking supplements. The same ones “Bruce” – the fatigue specialist I saw – had prescribed. Okay, so either this place is full of charlatans too, or there’s something in it.

With Bruce sorting my fatigue, I’m here to focus more on the rusty mechanics of my body: sore neck and shoulders, and a lower back pain I can only describe as ‘crunchy’. 

The osteo, Anna, immediately gave off a more professional vibe (no paper chaos or chakras here). I shared my scepticism about the guy I’d seen, and she offered to review any of the supplements he’d given me – explain the science. Now that sounded more like it.

Photo by Ken Tomita on Pexels.com

She took the time to listen to me, and managed to not even roll her eyes as I brought out my list to check I’d covered everything (“Did I mention my allergies?”). I feel like half of my recovery lies in someone listening to me sympathetically, then giving me some hope for change.

As we got talking, we found we’d lived close to each other in South London – between Elephant and Castle and Kennington. She asked which osteopath I’d seen there. (“Osteopathy is a small world”). Lo and behold, Anna had actually been trained by my brilliant osteopath in London. The arrow on my mental trust-o-meter swings up a few notches.

Andrea Rippe (centre) – Credit: Kennington Osteopaths & Physiotherapy

Though I’m here for my upper body pain, Anna immediately spots an old knee issue, tracking the impact through my thigh, hips, and up to my lower back. As though I’m the Old Queen in the story, testing the princess by placing a single pea under twenty mattresses, Anna has proved herself a true gem. I allow myself to relax, putting my recently shaken faith in her.

Although I’ve asked for help with my back, neck and shoulders, Anna focuses on my temporomandibular joint disorder (that’s the decades-long pain and movement problems in my jaw) – which is radiating down to my neck and shoulders, and my knee – which is having a knock-on impact for my lower back. 

I had actually planned to deal with the jaw pain as a separate issue. My dentist had recommended buccal massage, where they put their fingers inside your mouth to massage the masseter muscles ($165 for 30 minutes). I’d joined a waiting list for treatment (apparently since J-Lo and Meghan Markle are fans, it’s in hot demand).

But it turns out that Anna the osteo is trained in it too, and as part of my osteo treatment plan it’s far more reasonable than going to a beautician. It’s a very strange sensation having a near-stranger put their gloved fingers far down into your cheeks. It definitely wasn’t the massage I had in mind. Instead, she pinpointed a particularly tight and sensitive point and pushed down on it, firmly. The goal was to take me from a six out of 10 pain level to a three. On the first side, nothing happened. The pain remained, stubbornly. But on the second side, I felt something. A small release, as the sharp throbbing gave way to a dull ache.

With a plan in place and my next four weekly sessions booked in ($69 each), I leave with a smile on my face. I’m on the road to recovery, and my car just got turbocharged. Here we go!

In this series of articles – The Wellbeing Quest – I’m recording my efforts to beat my health issues, including chronic fatigue. Thank you for joining me.

Next time: From the clinic to the couch – it’s time to tackle trauma and tension with counselling.

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