Deadly massages
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2014 - 12:00am

My friend “Doc” loves massages.

Anywhere we go, you can almost bet that the first thing he will look for or go to after a days work is the nearest Spa or call for an in-house masseuse. For Doc, it is one of the few ways he spoils himself. I never gave this much of a thought until I started noticing how many people have been using “massages” to deal with aches and pains. For some it has become part of their therapy for “getting old,” arthritis, etc. Even I have been guilty of calling in a masseuse because I’m too lazy to go to a physical therapist which we all say is a lot more expensive and inconvenient because they don’t do home service.

However, I recently discovered that a lot of people have been making wrong and dangerous assumptions about, arthritis, gout, body aches and have been self-diagnosing and self-medicating with potentially dangerous outcomes. When I started interviewing friends and strangers about massages, gout and uric acid, I found out that many of them who are above 45 years old automatically resort to massages when they have aches and pains. Then I found out that a number of them have had or regularly have episodes of gout where they have an inflammation of the joints often of the feet. I also noted that many real doctors casually advise people to just take a certain medicine that starts with the letter C. This of course has resulted in many people simply buying the medicine and using it like aspirin instead of having a proper consultation and clinical work up.

What many people suffering from gout and using the medicine may not have realized is that the medicine is “For symptomatic treatment of acute attacks of gouty arthritis.” It helps to reduce the swelling and the pain but it’s not the cure all for high uric acid, which is what leads to episodes of gout. High uric acid triggers the aches and pains as well as the acute attacks of gouty arthritis. So while a massage and the C medicine might help, it’s all temporary because what you have to deal with is Uric Acid. You do that with another kind of medicine; forget about eating the most popular Ilocano and Tagalog foods, and get proper exercise.

The reason I’m writing about this topic is unbeknownst to people I have been living with excruciating pain for the last 3 weeks the last 2 of which was so painful I had to live on pain killers in order to function normally. In fact I am presently “grounded” undergoing mandatory bed rest!

For most of my adult life, I’ve lived with lower back pain as a result of a congenital gap in my spinal column that led to a surgery at age 16. Like many others you learn to cope, medicate and exercise for the best result. Because I’ve been so busy in the construction of our mini-farm, I usually came home sore to the bone and from time to time I would call in a masseuse who would do the traditional stretching. I never thought much of this until three weeks ago when I was constantly in pain day and night. So I decided to have my uric acid level checked and true enough my score was off the charts. But even after taking the medicines my doctor friend prescribed things seem to get worse, I went to a therapy clinic but that only helped for a few hours. I also noticed that I would be in excruciating pain after sitting or lying down for several hours. To me that was a bad sign.

At the suggestion of my doctor friend, I sought out the help of an orthopedic specialist who had x-rays and an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) done immediately. The X-ray cost P1,500 while the MRI cost P8,800. Yes it was a bit pricey and I found out that some people actually decide to drop out or not show up for an MRI appointment because of the cost. But at the time I had mine, it was the only way of determining beyond doubt if my condition would require a surgery the prospect of which was looming over my head like an axe. One sleepless night worrying about the possibility of needing several hundred thousand pesos for a surgery was enough to justify the cost of the MRI. Incidentally, I learned that if you’ve had heart by-pass or any sort of implants particularly metals, the hospital will require a clearance, as it can be risky.

In between the tests and waiting overnight for the results, I had enough time to figure out what must have happened. I figured that the last time I underwent stretching it was quite intense to the point that it caused sciatic nerve trauma. We almost never hear of the sciatic nerve that runs from the base of the spine all the way down our leg, but after my recent trauma, I will warn you that it is equivalent to being stabbed in the pelvic area, while having a total cramp on your thigh, leg and heel! It’s almost as if you sat on a spear!

The tests ruled out the need for surgery for the moment but confirmed the nerve trauma. So here I am stuck in bed, doped up and praying that a few days bed rest will help make the inflammation subside. So next time you have several days of aches and pains, see a doctor, get your blood test, and find out what’s causing it. Don’t self diagnose, don’t self medicate and don’t presume that a massage is harmless. Under the wrong circumstance, what you’ll gain is a whole lot of pain!

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