You Use Your Hands?

By Douglas Nelson
[Table Lessons]

 In the midst of a really busy day came a phone call that jolted me back to reality. 

I could see that my office manager was busy with three things at once, so when the second line rang, I picked up the phone just before I went in session. I assumed this would be a quick phone call, with someone making or changing an appointment.

“You guys deal with people in pain, right?” (That was quite an opening line!) “I have a pain in my hip, and I am wondering if you can help.”

I patiently explained to the young man on the phone that this was exactly what we do. He described going to the emergency room a week before and receiving a diagnosis of bursitis of the hip. He was not in an accident; the pain just came on over a two to three-day period.

“They told me to make an appointment with an orthopedist as soon as I could. I called today to check on the time of my appointment and was told that the cost would be $480 for the office visit. The shot of cortisone, which the emergency room doctor recommended, would be an additional charge. I do not have health insurance, and there is no way I can afford this. I am looking for an alternative.”

“I understand your predicament,” I responded. “It is possible that the cortisone might be the only way to help your hip pain, but that is not absolute by any means. First, a simple strategy would be to address the soft tissue, the muscles, and ligaments around your hip. If it is bursitis, tightness in a couple of muscles around the hip could irritate the bursa. Treating these muscles may reduce your pain. Second, there are muscles that perfectly mimic bursitis pain. If this is really your problem, it is possible that treating one of these muscles could make a big difference. In the worst case, soft tissue has very little to do with your pain, and you are only out the time it takes to treat you and $50.”

“OK, that sounds really good,” he replied. “That I can do. But how much would you charge for the shot?”

I explained to him that we don’t
do injections. 

“How much for the prescriptions though? I just need to know how much money this is going to cost.”

Again, I explained that we don’t use injections or drugs, just neuromuscular therapy. “The treatment is completely hands-on. There are no pills and no injections.”

“Wait; you are just going to use your hands? What good would that do? Can you guarantee me that this will help? It sure doesn’t seem like it.”

At this point I was stunned. So I asked him, “Did the doctor’s office guarantee that the cortisone shot would fix the problem? No? Call them and ask for a guarantee and see what happens. Here is what I am willing to do. Come to the office and let me take a look at your hip for 10–15 minutes. In that time, I should have a pretty good idea if I can help you. If the answer is no, then you leave without paying a dime. If I can make a difference, then we will continue for no more than 30 minutes. You would probably need two treatments to make progress. If the work doesn’t help after two sessions, I will refund your money. You cannot lose.”

“But there are no shots and no pills? Nothing? I’ll talk to my girlfriend and call you back in 15 minutes.”

When I hung up the phone, I knew darn well this guy was not calling back. In his mind: no shots, no pills, no way. This mentality isn’t good for the physician either. Patients expect to walk in the door, get a shot, and have a miraculous healing. Very seldom does treatment work so miraculously, for the orthopedist or for bodyworkers. Somewhere there was a young man who was hurting, and he didn’t sleep well that night. Neither did I.

  Douglas Nelson is the founder and principal instructor for Precision Neuromuscular Therapy Seminars and president of the 16-therapist clinic BodyWork Associates in Champaign, Illinois. His clinic, seminars, and research endeavors explore the science behind this work. Visit or email him at