Lately I’ve been making nice with the massage therapy community, since the publication of my olive branch of an article, Reassurance for Massage Therapists. In the same mode, I recently had a lovely conversation with massage therapist Allison Denney (Instagram) for her podcast, The Rebel MT (episode 152). It was about how my “transition from massage therapist to chronic pain translator revealed much more about the experience of pain than he could have imagined.” Indeed it did!
The interview strikes an unusual tone for me: gentler, more diplomatic, because I know I’m addressing an audience of massage therapists. I didn’t want to scare the hell out of them with the full power of the scientific perspective on manual therapy.
There’s also much more about my background and early years as a massage therapist in this interview than anyone has heard me chat about publicly before.
And one more unusual thing about this podcast: it’s quite produced. Allison doesn’t just record a conversation and upload it! This is a mixture of narration and selected clips, a journalistic style that’s very appealing.
A good excerpt from the discussion:
Humility came to me hard and fast. I cooked up the idea of pitching myself as an advanced troubleshooter as a marketing concept, just an eager beaver junior therapist, and then the clinical reality of the kinds of patients who came to see me almost immediately deeply humbled me, and I realized that I was out of my depth. And to be honest I didn’t really market myself for long as a fix-it guy. What I transitioned into pretty quickly was a science-based therapist, a rational therapist, one who would take the time to do my very best to help people to help with their stubborn pain. I pretty quickly stopped claiming to be able to fix anyone when I realized I couldn’t, and I saw so many tricky clinical cases that I knew I was out of my depth. I didn’t even know the half of it, and that expression isn’t even adequate: I didn’t know the tenth of it. To this day, I am still learning about startling ways that people can be in severe chronic pain that I’ve never heard of. It’s incredible how many there are. And that’s from someone who does nothing but study and write about this stuff all day, every day, for over a decade now.
I want every beginning therapist to know, I want every therapist to know, that chronic pain is the hardest problem that there is. Nuclear fusion is easier. Rocket science is easier. Any failure to help someone in pain is not your fault, and not because you’re limited and you don’t know something that other therapists do … it’s because the human species remains surprisingly ignorant of how these things work.