People generally describe the signs and symptoms of their pain, illness or health concerns in terms that they think the healthcare provider in front of them wants to hear.
For example, when facing their primary care physician they tell a story about issues related to the body like pain, itching, rashes and/or congestion. When meeting with their psychologist they may describe the same issue in terms of stress, anxiety, worries and how those things are connected. If meeting with a dietician they may try to relate a connection between what they are eating and drinking and the quality and level of their health concerns.
The one thing I always try to impress upon people is that wellness issues like pain, illness and disease cannot be divorced from every aspect of the person. Wellness must be addressed utilizing a systems view of health. In other words, it must be addressed with the understanding that the whole of one’s life is greater than the sum of its parts and that a change in one part affects every other part.
Therefore, limiting the description of a health concern to a small area that is of interest to a particular healthcare practitioner will derive a “management method” aimed at helping that one small area. Yet, when one considers that every aspect of their life affects their health—thoughts, sleep, diet, exercise, stress, habits, etc.—then in no way will addressing one piece change all the pieces responsible for causing the issue.
Everything is important when considering the triggers for ill health and for addressing a method of care, reversal and ultimately prevention.
When speaking to a specialist, many important things that can and do affect the patient’s health in the course of their activities in daily living (ADL) are omitted from the dialogue. The problem with this is that, in order to better understand and treat the patient, the doctor/therapist/chiropractor should know about all of the things one does and feels and thinks is related to their health concern.
We all want fast and effective relief from our body pains and illnesses. The way to go about finding the right approach toward relief—or even a cure—is to identify those things that do or may trigger, relieve or aggravate the pain and illnesses and then communicate these to every healthcare professional sought for treatment.
You may think there is no correlation between feelings of depression and the carpel tunnel you have from typing all day. Yet studies show that chronic body pain can lead to depression. In such a case, the best course of treatment for that depression may not be therapy or psycho-pharma drugs, but physical therapy or bodywork.
You may see a chiropractor or massage therapist and tell them of your excruciating low back pain. Their therapies may offer symptomatic relief. Yet, the problem persists because it may, in fact, be caused by dehydration.
Your work life may find you seated all day and drinking four or five cups of coffee to stay alert and keep working, then enjoying a few drinks at happy hour with co-workers to burn off steam. Both the coffee and alcohol are diuretics causing dehydration, and this may be the cause of the back pain. In such cases only reduction of diuretic beverages and increase in water consumption will relieve and prevent the back pain.
If you are suffering from acute or chronic conditions that affect your activities in daily living (ADL), then it just may be the ADL themselves that are causing the problem. There is no way to know this for sure, or to see how your ADL may play a role in your health and wellness, unless you speak of them to your healthcare provider when describing your symptoms. Some daily activities that are known to cause body pain and health concerns include:
- Irregular sleeping patterns.
- Skipping of meals.
- Sitting for long periods of time.
- Playing sports without warming up or cooling down.
- Talking with the phone held between ear and shoulder
- Repetitive motions of hands (typing, factory work, playing piano).
- Cracking your own neck and knuckles.
- Engaging in too much or too little sex.
- Engaging in too much or too little exercise.
- Sitting with one leg crossed over another.
- Not washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
- Having arguments with co-workers or loved ones.
- Worrying night and day about things you have no control over.
While the above list is brief, it offers insight into some of the most basic things that one does during the course of their daily life that can, may or does in fact cause or aggravate their health conditions. It is therefore important to paint a complete picture of your life when speaking of your health issues.
With this information, your healthcare provider can better determine the best course of treatment… or refer you to another provider who can.
–Dr. Mark Wiley