• Alexa Severtsen

Ruptured bicep

Before I get into the strengths of having a provider who can't diagnose and the pros and cons of insurance, I'd like to share how I got where I am.


My first job out of massage school was working with a Chiropractor and 3 primary care physicians. Spa life was not for me, give x-rays and MRI's machines and I'm in! A year into practicing, a middle-aged man came in for treatment of a ruptured bi-cep. The doctor said the only way to repair it was through surgery. Which he couldn't do, because, he didn't have insurance. A common problem before 2010. So, the doctor gave him muscle relaxers and sent him over to me.


A massage therapist.


I mean, I'm flattered he thought I could do anything to help, but I don't know how massage therapy was supposed to replace surgery.


I was also willing to give it a shot. The client injured his bicep at work, his boss gave him10 days to get it fixed, he was the sole provider for his family and was working under a Visa. Shit.




My attitude was the following: alleviate the immediate pain as much as possible and bridge the gap between acute injury and fully healed as best I could.


I'd never seen a ruptured muscle. I wasn't sure how it was supposed to look, but I definitely didn't expect how un-eventful it was. There wasn't any blood, discoloration, visible wounding or gashes. It was just a bigger lump in the middle of his arm. Like a tennis ball stuffed in a tub sock. It felt that way too, like I was trying to uncurl a hard ball.


Over the next week and a half, I took the approach of identifying the sore spots along his bicep and gently tracing them along where the bicep should lay, from proximal to distal attachment. I visualized the uncurling of his fibers for added measure too. Because frankly, I didn't know what I was doing and I figured visualization wouldn't hurt.


On day 10, I noticed the tennis ball had turned into a flattened sweet potato. Still un-secure and loose in the fascia encasing, but decreasing in hardness, so I counted that as a win. He was also able to flex his arm at his elbow.


To my memory, I don't believe he was getting treatment from anyone else. I know my boss (the chiropractor) was seeing him pro-bono and helping where he could. But most of it fell on me.


This is where my story starts taking shape. This idea that if modern medicine didn't have the paradigm to help a patient, the patient got redirected to alternative medicine. Such as massage therapy.


Something seemed fishy about this. Isn't allopathic medicine supposed to be all inclusive? Doesn't modern medicine have all the solutions? What was the plan for when people didn't have insurance? What good was just a diagnoses code if people couldn't get treated?


After a week and a half, the client felt well enough to go back to work. He was a car mechanic, a job that required significant used of his bicep.


I never saw him again and never knew if what I did helped or if he was able to stay employed. But I think about him often and how the system failed him.






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