Archive for tag: massage therapy

Your Beast, My Unicorn

This weekend I tried to move slowly. I will spend all week moving somewhat obsessively and efficiently from one task to the next. I look forward to the weekend because I don't have to be anywhere at any particular time with my brain on and ready to go. Despite this, it's ridiculously hard to slow down after moving through life at such a clip. I had to make a sincere effort to have an unhurried shower on Friday evening. I had no plans, and yet I was operating like I had better soap up quickly so I could rinse off fast and move on to the next task. The weekends are supposed to be my reprieve from go-go-go! I'm not kidding guys; I had to actually think about lathering shampoo with patience.

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While we're talking about unicorns and positivity...
(Image source: www.twisteddoodles.com)

Why move so fast in the first place? I would prefer to go through life at a relaxed pace, but medical school is the perfect storm of lots of time required for sitting in class and for learning stuff, and high expectations for doing it well. I was blessed/cursed with the ability to move quickly, as will happen when you grow up with ambitious parents in a progressive Boston suburb. Because of this, I can all too easily accelerate to match the flow of med school traffic and maintain that speed.

Part of the reason I am drawn to massage and bodywork is that a general attitude of peace and flow permeates such treatments. If I want to give a good treatment, I must relax into the spa music and foster an environment that allows my client to relax. I reap the benefits of relaxation when I meet my client where they are, ready to slow down and be quiet.

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My home office, set up to practice massage and in doing so, calm my mind.

On the other side of things, an inescapable aspect of working in the ND clinic is that an air of quick anxiety permeates, especially on certain days. It can be hard to come in to work a 2-hour hydrotherapy shift and create a bubble of calm in the midst of an existing sizzling atmosphere. I have found that if I can channel that massage mindset and embody the feeling I'd like my patient to get from their hydrotherapy treatment, the whole appointment goes much more smoothly. If I succumb to the tension that lurks in the clinic hallways, I have a harder time taking blood pressure, or I forget to heat the hot towels for my transition phase of constitutional hydro. Sometimes it takes this little moment of poor planning or fumbling with my stethoscope to realize that I am letting every one else's fervor drive my thoughts and actions.

In a recent appointment, I sensed that my patient was a little more on edge than usual. Before entering the room again after checking in with my clinician, I took a deep breath and made up my mind to fill my being with the word "compassion." I moved more slowly as I pushed gentleness out in front of me in an effort to dissipate the angst I'd sensed earlier. And you know, I think it worked.

I'll admit that pushing a positive emotion ahead of me, or embodying a feeling or a word in order to change the feel of a space and support a patient, is exhausting. However, I know it has to be like anything else; practice will certainly make it easier and self-care (physician heal thyself) has never been more relevant.

I've been both praised and questioned for my optimism. The skeptical people want to know why I am so positive, especially in the midst of finals, for example. My answer is that while it might be tiring, I can always sleep. It is easier to be happy than to be sad. It serves me so much better to look at the bright side than to wallow in the fog. You can approach medical school as if it is a dark and scary beast, or you can make it into a giant, shiny unicorn that might blind you or run you over if you aren't willing to grab it by the horn and ask for help. Yeah, I like that; medical school is a huge unicorn. I think I'll stop there.

My Favorite Tri So Far

I think Week 6 is a good time to get into the meat of what I've actually been up to so far in Tri 6. The best part about this trimester is that I spend relatively little time sitting in lecture, and most of my time applying and building upon what I already know through discussions and hands-on learning.

Physical and Laboratory Diagnosis (aka Phys Dx in student speak) is a beast of a class, with 6 hours per week of lecture and three more hours per week in lab. Our first practical comes this week, and I have been practicing several exams including taking vitals, as well as the head and neck, pulmonary, cardiovascular, neurological, eye, ear/nose/throat, and abdominal exams. Besides demonstrating that we can actually execute said exams, we will be tested on our ability to translate an objective finding into a diagnosis (for example, dullness on percussion of the lungs in the right upper lobe suggests consolidation and therefore pneumonia in that area.)

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Friday Manual Therapies class celebrations! Tony's birthday called for learning, pizza, and cupcakes.

Two other classes require me to sit in lecture. The first is Imagining Diagnosis, in which we just finished learning about how to recognize arthritides, like rheumatoid arthritis, on X-ray. The other is Ethical Practice Management, a class that discusses things like how to use twitter for marketing, and why networking is vital for success.

All my other courses are significantly more hands-on and interactive, the reason that this trimester is my favorite one so far. In Homeopathy 3, we sit in class, yes, but we learn remedies and have discussions about how to take a case, analyze a case, and subsequently find the correct remedy for a patient. In Applied Clinical Theory, we discuss paper cases each week and learn about how to make a diagnosis based on a history and results of a physical exam. Next, we discuss how to treat these patients by working through our therapeutic order and addressing each determinant that is out of balance.

These classes are directly allowing us to apply what we know and understand about pathology, physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, etc. (material from our first phase classes) to a theoretical patient. It is so satisfying to prepare for a class discussion and find out the next day that your diagnosis was correct and that some of the therapies you've chosen are the same ones your professor would apply!

These classes are helping me to move beyond simply identifying what is wrong with the body, to actually creating a treatment plan to solve the problem. I have two more hands-on labs that fill my week, one is phlebotomy lab where we've been learning to draw blood and take urine samples. The other is a class called Advanced Manual Therapies, which has proven to be a great review of evaluation techniques we learned in our E&M classes, and allows us to put it all together. For example, last week we learned the "upper extremity evaluation dance," which will help us to determine where a patient's source of pain or malfunction resides if they present with a problem in their arm or shoulder. We also learn how to use alternative techniques like pelvic blocking and activator to treat stubborn or sensitive patients.

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Crazy lookin', right? Lisa and Jack practice naso-sympatico.

My very favorite course this trimester is Hydrotherapy. If you've been reading my blog the past few weeks, you'll know that I adore this class. Last week, we practiced constitutional hydrotherapy, a vis-stimulating treatment that involves alternating hot and cold towels and applying electrical stim. Two weeks ago we experimented with Neti pots, as well as steam baths and naso-sympatico treatment for sinusitis.

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Neti Pot time! Pouring water into my nose.

Lastly, I get to spend four hours a week in the clinic, which you have also read about already if you've been following my posts. Observing allows us to focus on understanding how the clinic operates and to practice writing SOAP notes without the stress of actually having to treat patients or think really hard about the cases. I am so thankful that I get to watch and think and learn from my peers; many of the interns I shadow offer useful tips, teach me the finer points of writing a SOAP note, listen to my suggestions, and answer my questions about their patients.

Oh! How could I forget to mention my massage courses! I love the physically exhausting challenge of giving massage in my Fundamentals of Massage class every Tuesday night, and my class on Ethics and Practice Management is helping me to visualize how I will apply this skill in my practice of the future. Despite how satisfied I am with this trimester, I admit that I am already looking ahead to what comes next! I can't believe I am already halfway through medical school; time if flying. On that note, I better get to work preparing for my Phys Dx practical! Wish me luck!

How to Look Fabulous as a Clinic Patient and Other Related Thoughts

Remember that sprained ankle I mentioned in my last post? I finally went to the clinic for treatment and was reminded of how lucky we are as students to have free care available to us! I received some cold laser as part of treatment for my swollen ankle and left with a BCQ (Boswelia, Bromelain, Curcumin, Quercetin) supplement to decrease inflammation (half price for students!).

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Cold laser therapy

If you're not an established patient of a student intern, I highly suggest you spend the time for the initial intake and reap the benefits! If you're stressed and over-worked, there are hydrotherapy treatments waiting for you! If your neck and shoulders are in knots from sitting and studying all day, there are soft tissue treatments and gentle adjustments in your future. If your skin is misbehaving or you haven't pooped in three days (or the opposite... I mean let's be honest, stress wreaks all kinds of havoc on our systems)... there is realistic dietary advice and vis-stimulating/supporting treatments (like acupuncture or more hydrotherapy) waiting for you at the clinic. 

These are just the everyday med student woes that can be attended to by our fellow student interns and future colleagues. Don't forget they can also help address the bigger things. Perhaps you arrived at NUHS to study naturopathic medicine (or chiropractic or acupuncture or massage) because you or another family member is wiser for experiencing a challenging health condition. Even the conditions that require pharmaceuticals and other higher force interventions can benefit from the complementary, supportive care offered at the clinic. 

Do you have family, friends or acquaintances that could benefit from the services offered at the clinic? Refer them, please! In fact, just last night our server asked for our advice to help with his broken ribs. Since we're not licensed doctors and cannot give medical advice, we referred him to our clinic. We also brainstormed some homeopathic remedies anyone can find at their local health food store that are indicated for stabbing pain and broken bones.

An appointment at the clinic might take up your time, but I encourage everyone to support our peers and future colleagues. If you're not an intern yet, you will be soon and we'll all be thankful for more patients to learn from as we hone our skills and prepare for life after graduation.

So, what are the highlights from my week other than remembering the beauty of free care and the fact that those cold laser protective glasses really tied my outfit together? I practiced back massage in my Tuesday night class, purchased some materials for my massage table (fleece covers, a bolster, etc.), observed a few intriguing patients in clinic, and continually wished my DC peers good luck on their board exam (Congrats guys! You did it!) I also fell deeply in love with hydrotherapy and totally forgive the scheduling goddess for giving me class from 3-5 on Friday afternoons. We practiced dry sheet wraps and salt scrubs; techniques that elicited a feeling of true healing that I can see using often in practice and assigning as homework for my patients.

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Painting with friends

Lastly, my best girlfriends and I celebrated our girl Mia, a new bride who got married in India over this past break! We indulged in a night out that included wine and painting and inappropriate jokes and howling laughter. I am so thankful for these friends! They make me laugh, they make me think, and they inspire me to embrace my creative side in the midst of the brain workout we all endure on a regular basis.

Mountain Time

And we're back! August break was absolutely fabulous! For me, at least...I know that many of my DC student friends were busy studying for their board exams coming up at the end of this week.... Good luck to you all! 

But I went exploring. To celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday, we ventured into the White Mountains in New Hampshire for a 4-day, 3-night hut trip. Staying in the AMC Huts is a total treat; they cook breakfast and dinner for you, and you sleep in a real bed! (Albeit, in a bunkroom with approximately 11 other people....) It makes backpacking with your family a whole lot easier when you only have to carry your lunch and there's no worry about tents and stoves.

Unfortunately for me, I sprained my ankle early in the trip, but we taped it up and I continued on for another 14 miles over the next few days. I am quite thankful that I can go to the clinic here on campus to have a student intern help nurse my ankle back to health! It needs it.

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All 6 of us (Mom, Dad, my brother Arthur, my Uncle Nate, Hanzi, and Me) on the summit of Mount Madison! Day 1 of 4.

After a few breathtaking bluebird days in the New Hampshire mountains, I continued on my high altitude journey to visit with some of my best college girlfriends in the Adirondacks in New York. In addition to spending time sunbathing and catching up on the lakeshore, we visited the Sugarhouse Creamery, a dairy farm owned by some other college friends who gave us a tour of the cheese-making process! After our tour we bought up almost all the cheese in their farm store to take home and share with our families. Yum!

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Here's a photo of us in the cheese cave (underground!), and another of the cows at milking time with barn cat Soup posing in the foreground (In Memoriam: Soup disappeared a few days later; a coyote had been afoot.)

After nearly two weeks of tromping all over New England visiting with faraway family and friends, I came home to the Boston area. There, I checked in on the progress of the construction at my parents' new home and saw our old house for the first time since my parents' move. It is now happily full of a family of six and I feel good about that. I spent my last full day on the East Coast drinking morning coffee and talking wedding plans with my oldest childhood friend, followed by shadowing my Mom while she saw her afternoon patients. It was the perfect way to ease back into medical school mode after my vacation.

I arrived back in Chicago in time to organize my schedule and have some school friends over to celebrate Labor Day. The first week back at school was a short one, but whew, it was big. I have started the massage program, which means I am on campus two nights per week after my ND classes end for the day. It's exhausting because I have to mentally prepare and pack both a lunch AND a dinner, but it is also extremely rewarding because I get to spend time learning with and from a different type of healer.

Highlights from the first week include practicing phlebotomy on bananas (before we "stab" each other this week!), and my first clinic observation shift. I got to wear my white coat and see a patient! It should be noted that when I say, "see" a patient, I literally mean just that. As observers, we are not allowed to talk to or give any input while in the room with the patient; we just watch and absorb. No complaints here though. I learned so much by observing everything that went into one blood draw appointment.

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We watch as Dr. Aikenhead demonstrates proper technique in Stab Lab, and one of my classmates brings his banana to life!

This first blog of my 6th trimester will serve as a reminder that the time for adventures and spending time with friends and family will come again.... Until then, it's back to the grind -- reading, writing, analyzing, thinking, puzzling, and occasionally complaining about it all as we jump back into it for fall. Here goes!

Go Us! Almost There!

Whoa, here we are! It's already my last post for the trimester, a sure sign we have only a handful of days left until we're done! Week 14 signals the beginning of exams with all the lab practicals taking place this week. My E&M Extremities practical on Monday has required me to learn and understand about 60 different types of orthopedic tests and 44 different types of mobilizations/manipulations/adjustments. Let's just say this is prime evidence of how medical school is like drinking from a fire hose.

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This trimester has been a significant one for me. I started the Clinical Sciences portion of my degree, made a decision on when to take boards, followed my intuition and decided to do a dual degree in massage, and learned so much from my sim-patients about what the real experience will be like. It was also the first trimester that I haven't had any classes with any of my best buddies with whom I started the program. This is a blessing and a curse because I miss their company terribly, but I have also made new friends who I value just as much. During this tri, I traveled to see some of my favorite people make the promise to spend their lives together, my best and oldest friend got engaged (I never told you this, ah!), I wrote a blog post here that elicited tears from an exceptional friend (the first time my written words have ever inspired such emotion), and my parents sold my childhood home. All this, and it still feels that these summer months have absolutely flown by!

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If you're not here at NUHS yet, you'll soon learn the value of our brief breaks between the trimesters. This time I will head east, and go on a 4-day backpacking/hut trip adventure in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my family and Hanzi to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday (wish us happy trails, we might need it!). After that, I plan to visit with some of my best college girlfriends; one of them just bought a house -- OMG -- grown-up things! Hopefully, I'll find a day to shadow my Mom at her Integrative Dermatology practice, and will crack my Boards study guide at some point (we'll see about that last one). I hope the rest of my peers also have something fun, and especially something relaxing, planned for break!

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But before we can totally engage with our time off, we have to give that last major push through finals. WE CAN DO IT! Remember, it's OK for life to be totally, completely unbeautiful right now. Also, the world is a whole lot bigger than NUHS finals week.

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Throughout my post is a series of photos I took around campus on the Friday before Week 14. I asked students to show me how the impending last 2 weeks of the tri makes them feel; this is what I saw. General consensus says we're all a little crazed, a little worn out, and a little hungry for the sweet stuff...so don't worry, here's the evidence that if this is how you feel, you're not alone!

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Lastly, a little blessing for us all; may our professors ask us the questions to which we have all the answers! Good luck, friends!