When should you see your doctor about pain?

September 19th, 2009


It’s me, Cynthia Mealy. I am a massage therapist and medical exercise specialist in Oakland, CA. This is my first blog, I’m going to use this space as a place where I write my reflections on questions asked by clients, and on various articles and resources that may be helpful to my readers.

Clients often ask me whether they need to see a doctor when they are experiencing pain. I just saw a great article on this by Ben Benjamin, (a PhD in education and sports medicine) in the Massage Today newspaper.

Did you know that you can’t just go to a physical therapist without being referred by a physician? Many people are not aware of this, and often feel like it is some part of the crazy red tape system called “healthcare”. I don’t blame them for thinking that, but in this case, there is a very good reason – it is the same reason why I sometimes refer people back to a doctor before I feel good about seeing them for massage again, or beginning an exercise program.

Why should you go to a doctor first if you have pain?

Because pain can indicate serious medical conditions that need to be ruled out.

There are a lot of medical conditions that I don’t know about, that a physician will. Some examples that are listed in the article:

- pain in both heels can be a sign of gonorrhea (who knew? you don’t want to be wasting time with a massage therapist in this case)

- pain in the shoulder when lifting the arm might be musculoskeltal injury (frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injury, etc.) but it could also be a sign of cancer in the lung.

- pain when rotating the neck may be a result of injury, but one massage therapist ensured that her client went to a doctor, and they found they had a brain tumor.

- I learned from another doctor that pain at night can indicate cancer (go figure, but there you are)

When it comes to this kind of thing, there’s a lot that we don’t know, but physicians do. I’m not wanting anyone to be alarmed, but I always say “I don’t know what I don’t know”, so seeing a physician is the right thing to do.

You don’t want to waste precious time on therapies that will not be effective when something potentially serious can be caught and dealt with in the early stages.

There. I’ve written my first blog, I hope you find it helpful for yourself or loved ones

Supporting your muscles that support you,


http://www.alteredstates.org <–sign up for my Advanced Muscle Care newsletter here

http://www.facebook.com/alteredstatesofscience <–resources and discussion board re: specific injuries and chronic pain

http://www.twitter.com/cynthiamealy – quick tweets of great articles on fitness & health

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