Rib Issue – Glad to Help Dad Out Anytime

June 9, 2011 No Comments

My dad and I were in his kitchen when I saw him cringe in pain when he lifted his arm to grab something.

“My arm has been like this for a week now,” he said in what I thought was an exaggerated look of agony.  I love my dad and if you knew him, you’d know that he is kind of a wimp when it comes to any kind of pain.  A pinch would put him on the ground.  I’m just glad he never had to give birth.

“It burns all the way down my arm every time I lift it,” he said.

He’d just gotten back from Chicago after a week long business trip, in which he claimed this pain, the worst pain anyone has ever had to deal with, had been plaguing him the entire trip.

“And, it started a week before that,” he said.

I brought him upstairs to an area where there was some room for me to work on him.  I assessed his neck, his upper back, shoulder, and his arm.  He was right.  He was in pain, probably not the worst pain ever, but as I palpated his upper ribs, I could feel his first rib was elevated quite high.

“Ooh, I said.  You’re not kidding.”  I touched his scalene muscles and he flinched.  His right scalenes were tugging very hard on his first and second rib.  I stepped back and looked at the positioning of his head.  His head was slightly rotated to the right and side bent to that side as well.  Looking next at his right shoulder, I saw that is was higher than his left shoulder.  He was either compensating with that shoulder by bringing it up consciously to take some edge off of his pain or his muscles were pulling his shoulder up on their own because of the elevated rib.

I told my dad to turn around so his back was to me.  I placed my thumb on the superior angle of his first rib and pressed down at moderate pressure.  I grabbed my dad’s right forearm with my other hand, “Let me have your arm and try to relax.”

I decided to use one of Andrew Still’s techniques to get my dad’s rib back in.  If you don’t know who Still is, I suggest looking him up.  He’s the creator of Osteopathy, which can be used by massage therapists as it’s not a high velocity, low amplitude technique.

“Be nice,” said my dad.

In a quick, continual motion I adducted his right arm at about the level of his chest, then brought his arm to what looked like a salute to the sky, lowered his arm back to the level of his chest, and then extended his arm back, still being at the same level of his chest.  All the while I kept moderate, downward pressure on his right first rib with my thumb.

I did this about 5 times.

The first time was painful.

The second time was less painful.

The third time my dad breathed a sigh of relief.

The fourth time he said, “It feels better.”

The fifth time he said, “It doesn’t hurt!”

He was a little more excited than it reads.  Imagine a kid who just got a present they absolutely loved and instead of that kid saying, “I love it!”  They said, “It doesn’t hurt!”

I let go of his arm and stood back, “Lift your arm up and tell me where it hurts.”

He did so and shook his head, “It doesn’t really hurt anymore.”  He was impressed, “I’d say it’s 80% better.  Wow, thank you very much.”

I followed him as he walked into his room and to his walk-in closet.  I wanted to observe him to see how much better it really was.  He grabbed a shirt that required him to lift his arm at a height that was painful to him only 5 minutes ago and said, “Yeah, it’s so much better.  Thank you very, very much.”

Throughout that night my dad continued to comment on how much better his arm felt and to think, all I performed on him was one easy technique that took less than a minute.  How I knew to use that technique was by assessing his neck and shoulder.

Remember, the assessment is just as important as the technique, if not more.

The highlight of that night, however, was the discovery of my parent’s manx cat using their garbage can as her bed.  She decided to knock the can over, move the junk out of it, and go to sleep.  Pictures were taken of her, laughter was had, and past pain was forgotten – at least my dad’s pain.

And yes, the picture to this post is of my family.  My mom is on the left, my dad is next to her, my sister (at her college graduation) is next to our dad, and I’m giving my sister a hug.

– Brandon

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“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” - Chinese proverb