Finding Your Match

I love acupuncture, and I’m lucky to have a great acupuncturist. She first treated me in the clinic when I was in massage school and she was finishing up her acupuncture studies, and somehow she just “got” me. When she graduated, we lost touch.

I’d seen other acupuncturists before, and I saw some after Sue graduated and moved on, students as well as licensed professionals, but it wasn’t the same. Sometimes I felt judged. I’m a vegetarian, and some acupuncturists said that eating meat was the only way for me to be truly healthy and shrugged shoulders when I said I was not going to change this lifelong facet of myself, mouths turned down as if to suggest that they’d done all they could for me. Sometimes I didn’t know what was happening. I am fascinated by acupuncture and love to know what’s going on, and some acupuncturists are more willing than others to explain treatment strategy and to discuss points. Other times, in the quest to find a good acupuncturist, I didn’t feel heard. One unfortunate student told me lots about what he believed, but asked little about my health. Other times, I felt like treatment strategies were created around things I’d mentioned as asides, but not on the things that felt most pressing to me. Listening is a biggie.

Then again, my GP is not that great a listener, and I love him. I’ve always sought out doctors who ask lots of questions, stick to appointment times, and take a more holistic view. It’s surprising to me that I am as happy as I am with my neighborhood doctor, who has only walk-in hours, who drinks coca cola and eats snack cakes in the office and occasionally smells vaguely of cigarettes, who talks more than he listens and doesn’t dig deep when he doesn’t deem it necessary. When I injured my thumb in massage school (not by massaging, incidentally, but by lifting a pan from the oven in a supremely awkward manner — body mechanics apparently matter all the time), he diagnosed me with “some kind of sprain.” Obsessed as I was, at that particular time, with learning and remembering muscles and ligaments, it was kind of funny that I was OK with his vague diagnosis. But it was enough for me. In part because I trust him. In larger part because he told me that his thumb sometimes gets funky when he writes too much, and wearing a brace for a little while helps. He asked his assistant if they had any braces lying around to loan out, and, when they did not, he opened up his desk drawer and loaned me his personal brace and told me to bring it back in two weeks. Who does that in New York? That guy.

I am very fortunate to have these healthcare professionals in my life. One whose office is around the corner from my apartment, found entirely by happenstance, the other the aforementioned student acupuncturist (now a professional) with whom I reconnected when we took the same class last year, reunited through common interest. Even though they take different approaches and are very different people, there’s something about them each of them that makes me feel like I’m getting good care. It’s personal and amorphous, and it’s incredibly important.

So it goes with massage. At brunch with friends the other day, I said something to a fellow massage therapist friend about her massage not being particularly relaxing. My husband thought I was was being weirdly rude until my friend agreed. Relaxation massage is not her passion. That woman will hurt you (in a deep pressure kind of way, never in a doing-something-wrong way). She will also completely obliterate your trigger points and separate adhesions like nobody’s business, and I would recommend her in a heartbeat to any and all who want that kind of work. While I’d love to say, especially here on my very own blog, that I am the most amazing, perfect massage therapist for you and everyone else on the whole entire planet, there are many kinds of massage therapy, and you might be looking for something or someone else. And, as much as I love my acupuncturist, there are many different ways to approach acupuncture, and I might suggest someone with a different style — trigger point acupuncture over classical, for example — it that would be your preference. There are many approaches, and sometimes it’s about finding what’s best for you.

In this city, with so many people informed by so many philosophies, employing so many different techniques, finding your match can be a real game of trial and error. Whether you are looking for a doctor, a therapist, or a great massage, you may find yourself in a vulnerable spot while you look for the right fit. I can help with the massage part by pledging here to be nice to you, to be honest, and to tell you, whenever possible, who might be a better fit for you if I am not a good match.

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