The Godfather: Peter Corris on the massage message
I once asked a friend who was suffering from some malady or other what he relied on to get better.
‘American chemicals,’ he said.
Sceptical about homeopathy and alternative treatments, I was inclined to agree, but experience has taught me to be less definitive.
Twenty-odd years ago I had a frozen shoulder from coming off a bike at speed. I tried physiotherapy and acupuncture without effect. I was then spending some time with Professor Fred Hollows and he saw me wincing when I mimed a golf shot. He asked me what was wrong and I told him.
‘Leave it alone,’ he growled. ‘It’ll get better of its own accord.’
He was right, but not long after that I had an experience that shook my conviction that time and conventional medicine were the best bet. As I related in an earlier column, I fell into a swimming pool while cleaning it, broke my ankle and incurred a deep cut. This was in high summer at Byron Bay; the cut turned into a tropical ulcer, which I had treated a local clinic. It didn’t get any worse but it didn’t improve. I was telling this to a taxi driver bringing me back from the clinic. He said that his treatment for ulcers was to make a poultice of mashed up comfrey leaves and apply it to the site. Jean got some comfrey ointment from a health foods store. We used it and the ulcer healed quickly in the right way – that is, from the bottom up. We were told by a student of homeopathy that the rapid healing power of comfrey was well known and that care had to be taken not to heal over an infection. I’ve found comfrey effective quite often since.
As a long-term diabetic I’ve suffered for some years from neurogenic pain in the lower legs, a consequence of poor circulation, and severe calf cramps in the early hours. The cramps often had me whimpering and Jean had to help. A friend told me that her mother used quinine to alleviate cramps. I found that this worked and for years took a quinine tablet every other night. This was frowned on by doctors, as quinine is a poison which can damage the liver and your hearing. One pharmacist indeed refused to dispense it even though I had a prescription.
I was told that the only medication for neurogenic pain carried unpleasant side effects. The only treatment was to maintain good glucose control, keep the legs warm in bed and elevate them as much as much as possible during the day.
And this I endured but all this changed a year ago when Jean and I moved to Earlwood. Jean found a Chinese masseuse and suggested that I try massage for my troublesome lower legs. I overcame my scepticism and after very few sessions the neurogenic pain disappeared and I was able to stop taking quinine with no cramps resulting. I became a grateful convert to massage and, inadvertently, had the chance to put it to the test.
As I’ve written, I was in hospital for nine weeks – no massage – and the neurogenic pain returned, with twinges of cramp. I’ve now resumed and increased the massage sessions. The pain is coming under control and there are no signs of cramp. Bravo!
But if I catch a cold and begin to cough I’m still likely to pop a pill rather than try a Chinese herbal mixture.