I often think about that ring. The diamond is set very high off the band, on a four-pronged, odd-shaped tower that seemed to me to be very fragile. Who was that woman I treated? I can remember looking at that ring several times while I was treating her. My memory is that she is face-down on the adjusting table, and I notice the wedding ring on her left hand. Yes, I can remember the ring, but not the patient.
It’s the same thing with this tattoo I recall. It’s a picture of a rose with a fishhook through it – on a woman who perhaps liked to grow roses and go fishing. I don’t know. I must have treated the woman a few times, because I can vouch for the fact that the tattoo was near the top, and slightly inside of her left shoulder blade, right where she had a stubborn trigger point. When I would goad that point, I could imagine, but never could decide, if I was bruising the rose or risking some sort of injury to my finger from the fishhook.
A chiropractor can notice a lot of things about patients when they are prone or face-up on a treatment table. Often images come to me that I can no longer associate with a particular patient. I can still visualize a wide, leather cowboy belt that had a name stamped on the back of it. I must have seen it many times while the man who wore it was on his abdomen on my table. It said, “BOZO.” I never asked the patient if it was his nickname, since I thought Bozo would not be any guy’s choice for a nickname. He didn’t refer to himself that way when I first met him. For instance, he didn’t say, “Hi doc, just call me Bozo!”
Tattoos are easy to remember. I wish I had photographs of what I have seen people tattoo over their lower back, especially women. I have seen a lot of Chinese characters, dates, sundry fruits and flowers, and the occasional billy goat. But what’s up with all the flames and winged patterns stretching all over the place on women? What if one of these women ever had to consider a posterior vertebral fusion? Would she say, “No doctor, I know I should have the fusion, but my flame tattoo would never look the same again?”
And then there is underwear; a thong on an 87-year-old woman, for instance. I remember treating a man with a lower back problem, who was prone on the table when I pulled his jeans down a bit to palpate the lumbosacral region. He was wearing Victoria’s secret underwear, which was his business, of course, but it made me wonder want kind of pajamas he preferred. That was different than the young Asian fellow who often wore a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. It seems he was a new immigrant, and probably got those jeans at a secondhand store, not understanding the brand name/gender issues in buying particular pants.
Sometimes I can match up a patient with the T-shirt that he or she might wear – a political one, or a “Sturgis” motorcycle rally shirt, for instance. And I have seen enough 5K or 1OK “race for the cure of your favorite disease” T-shirts to fill my laundry bin many times over. A patient once wore a T-shirt into my office that said, “Swenson Chiropractic.” It was just a little strange to be adjusting his thoracic spine while reading all about a colleague’s office on the back off the T-shirt.
I often find myself moving around my treatment tables like I’m in a dream. Patients are telling me about their vacation to Topeka, but I’m staring at their purse or athletic jacket with their favorite football team’s emblem. You can tell a lot about people by the stuff they bring in the office. I live in Denver, so if a male patient born and bred in Denver is wearing an Oakland Raiders jacket (The Denver Bronco’s rival), it tells me a lot about him. He was probably the mouthy little kid in grade school who seemed to like to get beat up by the other boys.
Yes, dreams of many things and many items, when I have treated patients: bad odors, wet hair, greasy skin, nipple rings, and of course, the ubiquitous cheap perfume. I have seen a female patient for many years who wears an especially strong selection of fragrance. She usually comes in at the end of the day, and washing my hands does not completely take away the smell. My wife always questions the circumstances. Consequently, whenever I smell that fragrance on any other patient, I think of her.
When patients empty their pockets, put their glasses down on the chair, take out their teeth, their wig, their hearing aids, their gum, earrings, hair pins, necklaces, hernia belts, etc., a doctor can learn a lot. Sweet dreams, fellow chiropractors.
This article is available online at www.chiroweb.com/columnist/hanks. You may also leave a comment or ask a question at his “Talk Back” forum at the same location.
John Hanks, DC. Previous articles, a “Talk Back” forum and a brief biography of the author are available online at www.chiroweb.com/columnist/hanks.
John Hanks, DC
Copyright Dynamic Chiropractic Sep 27, 2004
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