My friend has been a massage therapist for over 3 years now. About a year ago, she switched jobs from a relaxation spa to a high patient load chiropractic office. In her old, She could take her time easing into each massage and spread the workload out over time and all over different parts of the body. At the new job, the chiropractic office, she was doing trigger point therapy on every patient she saw. This is hard intense work in that you use your hands and elbows to put direct pressure in one specific area of one muscle. The pressure is held until the muscle begins to relax.
The problem with this is that her patients varied from day to day, and hour to hour. The bigger the person, the harder she had to push. This office, being a fast-paced, high patient number office, would schedule one patient every 20 minutes. In any given day my friend could see between 21 to 27 people with little to no break between each patient.
When working, her body position was standing or sitting with her shoulders slightly extended and forward. She would then use her body weight to push down or into the muscle with her hands or elbow. After about 4 months, she started to complain about tightness in the back of her left shoulder and slight tingling down her arm. Although she never felt this doing relaxation massages before, she ignored it and kept working.
One Saturday morning she woke up to her left arm swollen and almost motionless. She called her boss and asked if he could meet her at work to adjust her shoulder. After describing her condition, he told her he didn’t want to adjust it and to go to the emergency room because it sounded like she had a blood clot in her arm. She did go and they did find a blood clot in the front of her left shoulder.
The doctors told her it was not common, but blood clots could develop in the upper extremities. These type of blood clots are dangerous because they can quickly enter the heart if it moves. Once in the heart, the blood clot could kill her. Upper extremity blood clots, also known as upper extremity deep vein thrombosis (UEDVT), only accounts for 1-2% of all deep vein thrombosis (DVT) cases per year.
The doctors decided surgery was needed immediately. She was put on blood thinners and had a screen put in her vein to stop the blood clot from going to her heart if it broke loose. After 2 days, she was transfered to another hospital where the surgery was performed. During surgery, they removed the blood clot and half of her first rib. They needed to give the vein more room in the shoulder cavity if she wanted to continue her career of massage therapy.
The doctors told her they thought the blood clot came from working the way she did and the body mechanics she used. Rolling the shoulders forward and using her body weight to push downward was constricting blood flow. Over time the clot developed. If they did not take half of her first rib out she would have to quit working and find a new career.
After it was all over and she was able to go home, she now had thousands of dollars of health care bills and medication to pay for. Even though she was supposed to be home recovering, she wanted to come back to work. She sat home stressing out about how she was going to pay her bills. Now, you think that working for a health care business she would have health care coverage right? Wrong. Her work did not offer benefits other than adjustments from the boss.
My friend is a single, working mother. If she doesn’t work, she can’t pay bills, rent, or even get groceries. How was she supposed to pay thousands of dollars of medical bills if she can’t work. Well, 3 weeks after surgery she went back to work. She had to for her family’s sake. After a couple weeks her arm started to tingle and she was having pain in the area where they took the rib out. She was scared something was going to happen again, but kept working through it so she could pay her bills.
Today she is feeling stronger and has not had any other complications associated with her shoulder. She has decided that the chiropractic job is too hard and damaging on the body, and is moving back into the relaxation massage field. The only problem is that she still has all those bills to pay. She is slowly paying them off on a payment plan, but it just doesn’t seem right that someone working in the health care industry doesn’t even have the opportunity to have medical coverage. With insurance constantly rising, I guess everyone is trying to save from having to pay.