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Massage Today
February, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 02

Earning Respect Through Research

By Debbie Roberts, LMT

I was very fortunate and grateful for a recent case that earned the respect and referral of an orthopedic surgeon. This was done by doing the appropriate assessments, documentation, research and a written report.

He truly was thankful for my comprehensive written report and the picture I had included, which was a faulty alignment posterior view from the book Muscles Testing and Function, Third Edition by Florence Peterson Kendall, PT and Elizabeth Kendal McCreary.  This picture showed how the quadratus on the left had shortened, creating a misalignment of the pelvis and the weakness of the same hip. He told the client, "You are in good hands." In fact, that same day, he had another case in his office which had a similar history and they actually passed each other in the waiting room. He immediately picked up the phone and called my office with the referral. Needless to say, I was very excited he had enough confidence in my research and documentation to give me the referral. I am sharing this particular case with you because learning how to follow through makes a widespread impact to our industry of massage therapy. Your participation doing this sort of follow through can gain two great things: an increase to your referral base and it helps to professionally expand our place in the health care industry.

myofascial dysfunction - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark The reason this report was significant is the combined fact that this orthopedic surgeon did not believe the pain pattern matched the MRI report of a torn labrum and he didn't feel that surgery at this time was necessary. He felt there was another reason for the pain pattern she was experiencing. So he referred her to a physical therapist to try strengthening exercises which shortly ended with her having increased lumbar pain. The physical therapist concluded she was a surgical candidate and referred her to another orthopedic surgeon who concurred she needed to have immediate surgery to repair the labrum. This left her confused, what was the right approach for her? She wanted another opinion so she came to see me for an evaluation and assessment of her structure.

Always ask yourself the most important question: "why is this happening to the client." The question "why" should lead you down the path of using assessments,  needing to research all the possibilities and then taking the time to write a complete, detailed report in case the client needs it to take to another health care professional.

It is very important to our industry as a whole to gain a positive reception from other health care providers. We are a critical part of a clients overall well-being and health. Just because you may not file insurance, doesn't mean you shouldn't take the time to assess and do documentation. I haven't filed an insurance claim in more than 10 years, but I still conduct my business like at any given moment this client may need records as to the type of therapy I am providing for them. What if their physical therapist wants to know? What if their chiropractor wants to know? As a massage therapist, you are a health care provider. Built into that title is the responsibility to the client just like any other provider within their care to keep notes and records. You never know the far-reaching effects one report might gain.

The following is the actual case and the report that was presented to the physician. The name is left out for privacy issues. The report was done on letterhead. Save this as a reference to use as a guide for your documentations. After the report, I will talk a little further on leg-length inequalities and hip dysplasia.


This client presented to my office with the diagnosis of a torn left labrum, left hip dysplasia, left hip pain that on occasion, radiates down the left leg. She was seen by a physical therapist that evaluated her and didn't think physical therapy would help and concluded it was a surgical issue. She has been seeing a chiropractor for more than a year that performed the Graston Technique to her left hip muscles because of a previous diagnosis of hip bursitis and combined giving her adjustments to help with her rotated sacrum.

myofascial dysfunction - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Enclosed is a picture of the myofascial dysfunction that the client presents with. She is showing a lower limb-length inequality both on the massage table and in gravity. In a supine position on the massage table, her left leg appears to be longer by assessing both the medial malleolus and the heels. On a bilateral assessment of the ASIS's, the left was lower and more anteriorly rotated than the right side. In gravity, a lift under the right foot makes her feel more balanced. She states she has always had a funny walk and wouldn't wear a bathing suit because of the ribs sticking out further on the left side. On the table, the anterior rotation of the left ribs was quite noticeable. In a prone position, her sacrum is deeper anteriorly on the right side. Her left glut lacks the same tone as the right and there was weakness on a MM test of the left glut in a prone position. She stated that in a prone position her ASIS do not touch the table equally.

When I performed manual therapy, she had a great deal of hypertonicity in the left QL. When I relieved the tension in both the left QL and the right piriformis, the medial malleolus appeared equal on the supine retest. In gravity, she stated she felt more balanced. However, the treatment did not hold as confirmed by her chiropractor the next day. He stated she had 8mm's difference and after his treatment the difference remained at 4mm's.


According to Janet G. Travell, MD and David G. Simons, MD from Volume 2 Chapter 4, page 61, there is a need to take a standing radiograph to evaluate lower body asymmetries. Manual therapy is very successful in treating muscular asymmetries, but not if there is an underlying structural issue. If the x-ray is conclusive, the patient may benefit from having a professional orthotic made. I think the quadratus muscle is trying to help stabilize her pelvic position similar to what happens in the trendelenburg sign. We have scheduled her to have manual therapy three times this week to see if her body will hold the muscular length.

Thank you for your time and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to call me at my office 772-288-0073. Deborah A. Roberts, LMT, NASM CPT, TPI Medical Level 3

Writing the Report

Now, ask me how many times I re-wrote the report. At least five times because after reading it, I wasn't being specific or to the point enough. Make your documentation short and to the point, one page is plenty. End with a title of conclusion just in case that is all the health care provider has time to read. Be sure to read it out load to yourself like you are talking to the doctor. That helps hearing if the report is making your point clear. Now, ask me how much time I spent researching before I decided to write the report. At the least six to eight hours. Yes, I knew quadratus was involved and was hypertonic to the point that when she stood her left hip was noticeably higher and on palpation there was absolutely no doubt what my hands told me. But I needed to be clinically specific which meant re-reading from the Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction Manual the entire chapter again to see what I felt related to this case. That research then lead me back to Volume 1, Upper Half of the Body, Second Edition, starting on page 179 to discuss lower limb-length inequality (LLLI). Quoted from this chapter is how correcting LLLI is often essential for lasting inactivation of TrPs in muscles that are overloaded by the length discrepancy.

Her condition was complicated with the diagnosis of hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a medical term for a hip socket that doesn't fully cover the ball portion of the femur. This allows the hip joint to become partially or completely dislocated. Most people with hips dysplasia are born with the condition. This client will present with hip pain and spasms due to the fact the muscles are trying very hard to stabilize the joint. This type of client will not benefit by passive stretching and you could add to the instability. This fact is why she was told to stop doing Yoga.


He ordered the radiography and it did, in fact, show the lower limb-length inequality. For now, his approach is to treat the LLLI with a lift, continue manual therapy and see if that will manage her hip discomfort. However, there may be a need further down the road to repair the labrum, smooth out the ball of the femur, and hollow out the socket for better articulation. The real bottom line is if they had done the labral repair only, this client could have been like many who have had surgery and the pain remained the same because the underlying structural condition wasn't addressed as well.

Every client you see that is in pain always ask the simple question, "why." It may lead you down many roads.

Click here for more information about Debbie Roberts, LMT.


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