A recent post in one of the many groups here to which I belong got me thinking about how easily swayed a patient can become to accept the views of the clinician.
These views often conflict with what the patient’s primary MD or medical specialist might put forth and often stem from the results of testing unique to that particular line of intervention. I am working hard not to cast shade on one particular group or sub-group, as many different professions can be seen as guilty of such sins.
The post which got me thinking was one where the health professional warned the patient not to look up or fully turn their head to either out of fear of damage to their spine. If they did do so, they were instructed to return to the clinician immediately to see if they knocked things out of place and needed more treatment. This despite having been seen by a spine specialist (MD) who ran enough tests to assure that the pain was not overtly pathology-driven, with no fracture or overt spine/nerve compression issues.
I do realize that many patients trust the word of MD’s less than others in the medical profession, but why allow FEAR to drive you?
Are we so fragile that looking up or hitting a pothole with your car (another one of my favourite fear-building warnings..ARGH!!!) that we cannot hope to live a quality existence without the constant oversight and (expensive) micromanaging by a healthcare professional? I cannot hope to know the rationale from which all different healthcare professionals are trained, but with what is known about pain and it is often not an indication of damage/injury/pathology, building a model of fear in our brains could make us more vulnerable to future problems, not to mention paying for the boat of that professional who planted the FEAR SEEDS.
My N=1 story. 20 years ago I suffered two spiral crush fractures of my lumbar spine, all while riding on a pasture horse named Sweetie (true story, true name). Sweetie was actually a fairly old horse who happened to be grey…an old grey mare. I had 2-3 years of regular, daily pain, attributed to the secondary issues of what was at that time diagnosed as disc herniation-type pain.
I DID live in fear for many years, even after the primary pain subsided, fueled by 3-4 time per year reoccurrences of some pretty bad back region pain. I heeded my health practitioners’ advice, initially from my MD as well as the other people who helped me return to function, but some of this advice was avoidance warnings as well as predictions of limitations in mobility and function for the remainder of my life.
I’m not always the best patient, at least when it comes to heeding warnings.
Yesterday I shovelled 4 yards of dirt into a wheelbarrow and moved it to a job site on a different part of my property. I woke up this morning stiff, but not my low back, which feels as strong as before Sweetie and I met. There was a period of time when I would hear those health professional’s words in my ear, warning me not to do such work as I would injure myself further, risking permanent damage. But I had a life to live and I worked my way to a point where I can live a fully healthy and active lifestyle.
I ignored the warnings which did not come from my MD. He basically told me to stay active and see what happens. He told me to let pain be my guide but not my master.
I am not at all trying to say that you are me. Maybe you have a condition that truly should cause you to live and act with caution. But ask yourself a question: is the health professional who is planting these fears telling you a story that contradicts all of the other health professionals you have seen? Even if that person is seeming to help you, might you be better served finding a provider who does not use fear as a primary motivator?
Pain does not always equate to damage and “damage” can be overcome.