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Which Costs Less? Hip Replacement or Massage?

(A post by massage therapist, and co-Director of the LHHC, Bill Bryan)

Concerned Friend: “Your car is low on oil.”

Car Owner: “Yeah, I know.”

Concerned Friend: “You should go buy some and put it in.”

Car Owner: “Nah, I don’t want to spend the money.”

Concerned Friend: “Why not?”

Car Owner: “Cause I need to save up for when my car breaks down . . . !”

This is the common approach most people have towards health. Rather than spending a little money on maintenance, they’ll spend a lot of money on repairs and replacements.

For example: the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says complete hip replacement is approximately $35,000. (Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina says the median cost of hip replacement surgery is about $39,000.) These costs include all the care and tests a patient receives before and after the actual operation.

Many surgeries of this sort are performed each year, correcting injuries that are often the result, not of trauma or accidental injury, but of poor living styles.

When warning signs begin to appear (slight aches and pains, or limited range-of-motion), rather than invest small amounts of time and money to correct the problem (body-work, dietary changes, exercise and other activity levels, stretching, etc.), nothing is done until the injury is too far gone.

$39,000 is a lot of money. To place it on the massage-standard . . . that’s 558 body-work sessions! Not that massage or shiatsu or acupuncture can solve every issue out there, but I dare say that 35 to 39 thousand dollars spent on holistic methods of wellness would get someone a lot further in life, and with fewer side effects!

What do I mean by ‘holistic methods’?

Obviously, bodywork, such as massage, shiatsu and marma-point therapy play a big part. Many injuries to ligaments, tendons and fascia can be corrected through soft-tissue repair, before becoming major injuries.

Nutritional counseling based on an organic, fair trade, community based and locally grown platform is also a big part of the picture. We truly ‘are-what-we-eat’. Therefore, every dollar spent on a better diet is well worth the investment!

In addition, there are exercise programs that do more than simply elevate the heart rate and strengthen muscles. Disciplines such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong go beyond the basic workout, by training the mind to focus, and the body to breathe more efficiently. (It’s amazing how many aches and pains exist simply because we don’t take in enough oxygen!)

These modalities are part of a holistic approach to health, where the entirety of our being is taken into account, before the crisis, rather than the “let’s-focus-on-the-damage-after-its-done” approach.

“But my insurance doesn’t pay for alternative stuff …”

No, it doesn’t. But after you’ve had the carpal tunnel surgery, and the pain comes back, what then? Or after you’ve had the spinal fusion, and the sciatica returns, what’s the next step. (This is often the case, you know . . . )

More trips to specialists, more prescriptions for pain killers, steroid injections, physical therapy. I mean, let’s face it, insurance paid treatments have a way of keeping someone in-the-loop, while making them ‘loopy’!

I guess the big question is: how much is your health worth? What dollar sign are you willing to assign it?

Sure, a decent bodywork session can run seventy to eighty dollars, out of pocket, and it may take several sessions to get ahead of the injury, but what if that’s what your body actually needs? What if that’s the ticket to a pain free life? Is it worth remaining in pain, or relying on drugs to get by, simply because it’s paid for by a third party? (I know a person who added up the amount of money she was going to spend on co-pays for PT three times a week, and decided to put the money towards acupuncture instead. She said it was the best financial and health move she ever made! The Acupuncture did what the Physical Therapy could not, and she actually saved several hundred dollars in the end!)

So, why not put the surgeons and pharmaceutical companies ‘on hold’ for a bit, while trying non-invasive, and possibly a more logical means of approach to pain? It may cost you more up front, but in the long term, you may save plenty, and get your life back!

In short, put the oil in now! Spend the money on the maintenance, and stay running longer!