Birthday chocolate cake, neck pain, good friends, and shared knowledge

Acting upon a good hunch

I gave out a free spinal crunch

    The pleasure is mine

    When I straighten your spine,

Oh yeah, I love it a bunch.


My best birthday ever was my 60th

Our youngest daughter, Aliya, worked for months putting things together as a surprise; it was also the occasion of her graduation from college.  The last day of the event was Mother’s day.

Attending the festivities were two of my sisters, one of my brothers, two of my brothers-in-law, one of my sisters-in-law, two nieces, two nephews, all three daughters, five of Aliya’s friends, a Denver/Sioux City/Denver friend, my stepmother, and a friend of forty years.

Al and I met at Yale and lived under the same roof two of our four years.  After graduation we bicycled from New Haven to Denver, and we have visited back and forth since.

He went directly into real science.  After a few sputters, I went into medicine.

He has spent most of his time on the coasts, I in the interior.  He is nationally known, I am local.  We are both respected in our fields.

The two of us have an appreciation of intellectual honesty and a keen grasp of where knowledge fails.

We speak the same language, and I enjoy hearing about the frontiers of science.

Al and I were talking after supper, finishing the last crumbs of Aliya’s exquisite chocolate cake, when the young woman across the table from us put her left hand up to the muscle connecting the back of her neck to her shoulder-blade, as if to massage a sore spot.

I interrupted Al and nodded at the young woman, Aliya’s friend.  “Did you see that?” I asked.  Both Al and the young woman furrowed their brows at me.  “That gesture,” I imitated it, “says, ‘I didn’t sleep well last night.’  Tell me, how did you sleep last night?”

The young woman looked at me with open mouth surprise, stunned into silence.  “I slept pretty bad last night,” she said at last.

I said to her, “If you want me to, I can make you feel better.”

To Al I said, “This is what I do.  Want to watch?”

We went to the adjoining family room, I had her sit in a chair and I stood behind her. 

“This isn’t in the books,” I said to Al, “that I know of, but the first step in the sequence that ends in fibromyalgia is the specifically left trapezius knot after sleep deprivation.”  I kneaded the muscles in the back of her neck.  I could feel the lump just above the upper inside corner of her shoulder-blade; there was no corresponding knot on the right side.

My left thumb and forefinger squeezed the knot, and as I had her breathe in I let the pressure off.  When she breathed out I squeezed harder.  After three cycles I could feel the tension in the knot relax and at the fourth the knot was gone.

The ability to feel another person’s pain by touch is a surprisingly common gift; almost all massage therapists and chiropractors have it.  In intuitive terms, I think of it as listening with my fingers; in analytic terms I feel for very subtle variations in tissue texture, skin temperature and moisture.

“What I just did…” I started to say to Al, then I stopped.

“It’s a Breedlove move,” he said.  We stared at each other.

While my fingers gently walked down her spine between her shoulder blades, listening for the whispers of pain, I suddenly remembered our friend and roommate Bob Breedlove, saying “Feel where the ridge/valley sequence is interrupted.”  I flashed back to the course on manipulation I took in med school, where we learned the osteopathic lesion and diagnosis. 

The story of Bob coming into possession of his knowledge requires much telling, but he returned to Yale with a lot of information which he shared.  We all shared our learning back then, and many conversations were lecture swap meets. 

Years after Bob had handed me a set of very useful tools, I went to medical school and learned how to use them. 

The letters MD follow my name, but I went to Michigan State which also has the only state supported osteopathic medical school.  Political firebrands that we thought we were at the time, about twenty MD students demanded and got a course in the osteopathic manipulative therapy taught to the DO students.

In 21st century America the main difference between a DO and an MD is that the DO is more likely to have been trained in OMT, commonly known as spine crunching.  With each passing year that difference fades into historical notation, and nowadays the Michigan State Osteopathic school offers, but doesn’t require OMT.

Jesse, our oldest daughter, was torn between going to an MD school and a DO school.  I told her that if she wanted to do primary care, osteopathy would give her a very useful skill set.

I had the young woman stand and cross her arms.  I stood behind her, placing my right pectoralis muscle against the two-inch segment between her shoulder blades where the ache murmured.  I grasped her elbows, requested that she breathe out, and when the time was right, I pulled her elbows in.  Two vertebrae snapped satisfyingly, and I let go.  She grinned.

Al and I sat back down.  “This is what I do,” I said.  “I want to slow down enough so I can enjoy what I love.”


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4 Responses to “Birthday chocolate cake, neck pain, good friends, and shared knowledge”

  1. irresyslept Says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  2. Chris Says:

    This article is very helpful and things you said its very knowledgeable and helpful for the viewers.we are working in the same area and helping people get relief from neck and back pain


  3. Manta Place Says:

    Hi would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    • walkaboutdoc Says:

      I never considered a choice of blog platforms; my brother, an outstanding illustrator and artist and very in touch with the information highway, set me up.. The layout might be different because everything else has been updated.

      Best of luck on your blog. If you write 500 words a day for a year you will be a better writer. Consciousness that you need something to write about will bring an immediacy to your mental process.

      Tips: do away with the passive voice completely and delete the verb to be unless you’re talking about identity. Don’t use more than two adverbs per 500 words; all modifiers weaken. You can get away with short adverbial clauses if you write them well.

      Don’t think that the writing will bring fortune or fame; writers write because they have to.

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