I Got A Massage — And Ended Up With A ‘Broken Neck’ Diagnosis, Steep X-Ray Bills
3:45 pm, June 28th | by Laura Donovan
I heard a rumor that massages are supposed to help stressed out people unwind and take care of their bodies. This is generally true, but not for me. I was born stressed out, so I should have known that something most find restorative has the opposite effect on me.
A month and a half ago, I went to a spa in the West Village for a massage — the first of my life. Because I’d never gotten one before, I did some digging prior to the visit to understand the process. I read that it’s important to drink a ton of water the day of the massage and also that the whole thing is supposed to ache. If it doesn’t, your masseuse isn’t doing his/her job. So when I felt extreme soreness after the appointment, I thought the pain was normal and “part of the experience,” so to speak. Six weeks passed and it still hurt to turn my head, particularly when desk-bound or in a sedentary position, so I figured something had gone seriously wrong during my would-be relaxing spa visit.
At the insistence of my best buddy Kendra, who happens to be a nursing student, I met with a physical therapist on Tuesday. Before even administering an x-ray, he concluded that I had a cervical fracture, which in scarier terms is a broken neck (*^&%!!!), and needed eight weeks of physical therapy. A normal patient would be skeptical of such a presumptuous conclusion, but gullible and in need of some answers after nearly two months of discomfort, I believed him. After all, massage injuries aren’t unheard of. Knowing my luck, I thought, I’d be among the few to walk into a massage parlor totally happy and leave crippled and unable to do anything cool ever again.
So like an emotionally disturbed toddler (who happens to have an iPhone. Hey, kids apparently do these days), I ran out of the medical center, sobbed in the streets of Manhattan (an NYC rite of passage), and called my mom. Upset about missing work to be told bad news and draining my bank account, I started pointing fingers and asking why, why, why me. I cursed the strong male masseuse, who had done nothing more than try to rub the knots out of my tense muscles. I blamed New York. Yes, I blamed the entire city, “the hellscape where dreams go to die,” for my misfortune. Everyone says NYC is a rough place to live, so it’s an easy target.
But once I desisted with the display of self-pity, I realized the sheer insanity of the doctor’s diagnosis. Before setting up weeks upon weeks of appointments with physical therapists–which I lack the time and money for–I locked down a visit with a radiologist to take upper body x-rays. And guess what? They came out looking totally normal. I have no fractured bones, let alone a broken neck (I mean, really???). I just have sensitive nerves and muscles thanks to my slight, delicate frame, and while only an MRI can determine what exactly is going on, I know for certain that I’m not in grave danger. Now I feel awful about telling everybody that I thought the end was near and that I’d never be able to write again. After all, I experience the most amount of pain in front of my computer, but it’s nothing that walking around, posture shifting, and breathing exercises can’t fix.
The moral of the story is to always get a second opinion, especially if you’re a full-time employee and dedicated worker. You may feel guilty for scheduling yet another doctor’s visit during regular office hours, but it’s best to talk to more than one physician when given a serious diagnosis. Besides, I would have wasted a lot more of my work time and money had I listened to doctor #1 and set up tri-weekly physical therapy sessions as advised. The last thing you need is to have to slow down at work because someone provided you with inaccurate information.
The other lesson here is that some folks are simply too high-strung to get massages. That is unfortunately applicable to frail, lanky me, so for my birthday next month, do not send me a gift certificate for a massage. Just don’t do it.