Don’t let a doctor make you feel uncomfortable

by Diana E. Lee

One member of my health care team is a migraine specialist in another state. Since we don’t have many opportunities to work together in person, we generally try to pack a lot into my periodic two-day visits.

Last time I was there I had an experience that has left me feeling guilty all these months later.

My doctor, who I respect and admire greatly, asked if I was interested in working with a craniosacral therapist who was in the clinic that day. Of course I was willing to try it because it’s noninvasive, relatively harmless and my doctor seemed quite enthusiastic about it.

Unfortunately the guy he hooked me up with gave me major heebie jeebies. He made inappropriate jokes and having him touch me was horribly uncomfortable. I fought the urge to jump off the table and run for the waiting room the entire time. But I didn’t. I remained on the examining table and let him continue his treatments until he was finished despite feeling like my heart was pounding out of my chest and my stomach was on fire. I’m surprised I didn’t have a panic attack.

As a result of that experience I never followed up on the treatment when I got home. I have no reason to think a different practitioner in my area would be creepy, but I can’t shake the association formed in my mind between this treatment and those uncomfortable feelings.

I continue to feel guilty because I feel some weird obligation to try everything my doctors suggest or risk being labeled a non-compliant patient. I guess I have people pleaser tendencies. But I can’t fathom letting that man or anyone like him come near me ever again. I know in my head I don’t have to, but I can’t shake the guilty feeling that I’m not doing my part to heal myself. I need to head there again soon, so I’ve got to find a way to let go of this.

Loolwa Khazzoom of Dancing With Pain wrote a great article about how to determine when a health care provider might not be a good fit for you: 5 Red Flags that a Healthcare Practitioner May Not Be Safe for You. Don’t be like me and suffer in silence.

Diana E. Lee is a chronic migraine patient who blogs at Somebody Heal Me.

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  • DrLemmon

    I know it would have been hard to do so, but telling him, on the spot, what caused you to feel uncomfortable might have taken care of it immediately.

    As far as noncompliance goes. Well, it is team work. You and the doc. Only a fool would partake in a treatment they felt uncomfortable with or unsafe with. You and the doctor work out something you can both live with. But the doctor shouldn’t be expected to prescribe treatments he feels are ineffective or unsafe.

    Noncompliance is when a treatment is working, you are benefitting and you choose to stop or skip the treatment anyway, endangering yourself and increasing the physician’s liability.

    • Alice

      I think patients feel intimidated while in a small office with someone who is expected to be an “expert” to them (particularly, when their clothes are hanging on a hook somewhere). Many doctors are aware of this and go to extremes to make the patient feel comfortable, while some are just themselves, and some can’t be bothered with all of these vexations.

      It’s a position of vulnerability for the patient, and um…….I guess at times the tables could be turned when patients turn Ramboish! I am thinking doctors are trained to deal with this. I hope so, because patients are slowly feeling pretty empowered. Scary, huh? :)

  • The 50 Best Health Blogs

    “I feel some weird obligation to try everything my doctors suggest or risk being labeled a non-compliant patient.”

    Not me. If the treatment doesn’t work for me, I won’t continue with it.

    And I do get called noncompliant. A lot.

    Jim Purdy

  • Mary Brighton

    Don’t let this experience push you away from these type of therapies. One of my first experience with an osteopath 15 years ago led me to also feel very uncomfortable around this type of medicine. I was also lying flat on the table and the male health professional was touching me, mostly on my head. It felt good and relaxing. But at the end of the consultation, while I had my eyes closed lying down, he kissed me on my nose and asked if he could walk me outside to the bus stop.
    He actually helped me a lot with his treatment, but I refused to see him again because of his end of visit inappropriate gestures. Even to this day I feel slightly “violated” when I revisit this experience.
    Since that time, however, I have seen and my kids have consultated with many different “osteopath types” of therapists. None have ever made me nor my children feel uncomfortable; and actually, these therapies have been very beneficial.
    Don’t give up…sounds like a similar therapy with a different practitioner may be just what you need.
    Mary Brighton

  • Doc D

    “I continue to feel guilty because I feel some weird obligation to try everything my doctors suggest or risk being labeled a non-compliant patient.”

    I’ll admit to some frustration when a patient returned with the same problem and they didn’t follow up as suggested, but it’s because now I don’t know if that would have helped. It took me a while to understand the patient’s point of view, drop it, and work together to move on. Patients aren’t there to be judged by me, just helped.

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