Reframing Our Expectations of Doctors—the Hero Vs. the Guide
If you’ve ever been to my office, you know that I often take a “tough love” approach to treatment. I want more than anything in the world to see you succeed, but I can’t do it for you. I view the patient/doctor relationship very much as a team, and it’s my dream to see healthcare as a whole get away from the “I’m-the-doctor-so-you-must-depend-on-me-to-fix-all-your-problems” vibe. That approach takes all the power away from you as the patient when, in reality, you as the patient have ALL the power over your health. The clinician is not the hero of the story, but simply the guide that walks with you through an issue and use his/her education and resources to help you arrive at a solution. We are here to equip you to make decisions about your health, but you have to take the steps. “Who’s the hero then?” you may ask. It’s you.
We need to reframe our mindset about our health and change the expectations we have of doctors and clinicians.
All too often people want to come in, lay on the table, and be “fixed”. They have this idea that there’s some magic treatment or modality out there that will finally resolve their issues. And they usually also think that once they find it, it will happen overnight. Then after a couple appointments, they’re confused why they aren’t cured. I am here to tell you: there is no magic treatment.
In my office, a typical appointment is around 30 minutes long. Think about that in the grand scheme of your day and in the grand scheme of your week. That is such a miniscule amount of time to make any real change if that’s the only step you’re taking. It leaves so much outside time to either be working for or against yourself. Not to mention, rewiring motor patterns and healing tissues takes TIME. Especially in issues that have been persistent for years.
Something I try to preach to every single person who seeks care at my office is that this is a collaborative effort. My job as the clinician is to identify problem areas, give you tools, and to offer certain modalities that may assist in the healing process. But if I’m going to do my part, I wholeheartedly expect you to do your part as well. This means doing your prescribed exercises or any other “homework” I give you, and then being patient and trusting the process.
I want to dismantle the myth everywhere that you just need to keep coming to get adjusted every time you have pain. Getting adjusted is great! I’m a chiropractor for crying out loud—I LOVE adjusting and getting adjusted. But in my own life I also spend a lot of time on my nutrition, on getting quality sleep, and on exercising and moving well. And my first thought when I’m in pain is NOT, “Crap, I better go get adjusted”. Why? Because I have so many other things I’m equipped with to manage my pain. Any time we are relying on ANY passive modalities—adjustments, massages, cupping, dry needling, medications, cryotherapy, supplements—to resolve our issues, we need to re-evaluate. While those are all great tools, our emphasis should be on ACTIVE care, taking initiative, and oftentimes revisiting the basics to manage our health.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re battling an injury or chronic issue, seeking treatment is fantastic. However, before doing so (or at least in addition to doing so), I would encourage you to evaluate the other pieces of the pie in your life. Are you getting adequate & quality sleep each night? Drinking water? How’s your diet? How are your stress levels? Have you been exercising/moving your body? Are you recovering? When was the last time you got out in the sun?
Think of all these lifestyle factors as the foundation of your health. If you have low back pain, it’s likely not ONLY because you squatted wonky at the gym one day. It could also be due to the fact that you’re not sleeping enough, you sit for 8+ hours a day, or your diet is creating an environment of inflammation throughout your body. These are just examples, of course, but my hope is that we start viewing health more through this lens and less through the lens of “what treatment or modality do I need to fix me?” You cannot adjust/dry needle/foam roll your way out of poor lifestyle habits. If it was as easy or simple as getting “fixed” by a prescription, surgery, or adjustment, we’d be the healthiest country on the planet.
Thomas Edison once said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
I cannot want you to get better more than you do. Read that again. The person who should care the most about your health is YOU. And don’t me wrong, I care A LOT. (Probably more than I should sometimes.)
I promise you, there is nothing more empowering than realizing that you’re the one in ultimate control, that you can take ownership over your health, and that you already have most of the tools you need. And while I can’t take the steps for you, I sure am honored to be your guide along the way.
Thanks for reading, friends, and I hope you feel empowered today to do at least one thing that moves you toward your goals.