Real life

Why I finally succumbed to my musclebound osteopath

5 June 2021

9:00 AM

5 June 2021

9:00 AM

‘You’ll come back when you’re in enough pain,’ said the osteopath as I walked out of his door. That was two years ago this week, so when I walked back through the door he raised his eyebrows and made a face. I had booked online as I lay shivering in bed with pain.

Two years ago I ducked under a fence, my neck twanged and my head exploded. The GP saw me, doling out platitudes from ‘take paracetamol’ to ‘give it a few weeks’.

After a few months, a friend recommended an osteo of some repute, but when I arrived at his surgery early and heard the bone-crunching sounds coming from his consulting room I decided I couldn’t go through with it.

Before I left, I let him put his hand on my neck and he instantly claimed he could tell what was wrong. But on the basis that he was as muscle-bound as Popeye, I told him he would snap me in two. And I fled.

The pain has never really gone away. Lately, my blood pressure has soared, which may be linked. And now I have no access to a GP even for the doling out of meaningless platitudes, because the doors to the surgery are barricaded shut, the windows plastered with Covid notices, and when you telephone a woman with a stinking attitude tells you that under no circumstances can you speak to a doctor unless you go on a special list of emergencies. And I went on that a few weeks ago with my blood pressure and got nowhere.

I became demented by that annoying mid- to low-level pain that gnaws away at you, and by lack of sleep. I started to have irrational thoughts. No, not about the vaccine. I’m still not having that. I mean really irrational thoughts.


The pain was wearing me down to the point where it occurred to me that I may as well book in to see Popeye the osteopath, who was recommended by a friend in the music industry. She said he was renowned for treating people who have been humping cellos around for 20 years. He was uncompromising and, yes, a little eccentric, but he got results.

I turned up dead on the hour, not early as I had last time. But when I walked through the door I was greeted by a red-faced man leaving the consulting room after a treatment who declared: ‘I hope you’re feeling brave!’

The osteo appeared, biceps bulging through his navy scrubs. His shoulders looked even wider than I remembered. Was he just more unshaven or had he aged? Had I really taken years between my first and second appointments? What was wrong with me?

He smiled and said, ‘Thanks for the essay!’, referring to my booking notes, in which I had copied and pasted the results of a scan I had done after the accident, which listed the vertebrae that were possibly affected, or possibly just arthritic.

I sat on the treatment bed and told him I was desperate, but even so I did not want to be clicked. Could he not just do some deep massage and get things moving a bit?

He must have taken pity on me because he said he would try something, even though it wasn’t his preferred method. And he ran a vibrating machine over my back, neck and head. It was rather enjoyable. As I lay on my front, face in the hole of the table, my mouth popped open and I went ‘Urrrrrrrrr’ as the machine squeezed the breath out of me.

Then he did a massage so hard it was on a par with a Thai lady who once ran up and down my back. ‘You’re a dark horse,’ he said. ‘What I just did was more painful than any clicking.’

Somehow, he got me in a head lock and made me a proposition: ‘If you just let me do one adjustment now, I can fix most of this.’

I whimpered but heard myself say: ‘Do it.’ A second later, I felt a thump and something inside my neck moved.

He finished off by sticking three acupuncture needles in me and a heat pack in between. Then he left me to go and start on another customer.

I lay there listening to the screaming from the room next door. After five minutes, as instructed, I got up, got dressed and left. A Chinese fellow in a mask was sitting waiting. He looked terrified. I didn’t say anything.

I got in the car and drove home in a daze. That night, I got into bed and fell asleep straight away. For the first time in years, I slept all night and in the morning I awoke with no pain. And the next night I slept soundly too, and the next, and the next…

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