03 Sep 2010
We all get sick. We all have aches and pains. It’s just a fact of life. Some of us are affected more than others and to a greater degree than others. But what does it all mean? How to “get healthy and stay healthy”? Why do some people seemingly never get sick? And why do some people recover faster than others?
If the answers were simple, the book would already be written, so to speak (and if you check the “health” aisle of your local bookstore, you’ll see plenty of attempts already). But the bottom line is this: when you get sick, or get a headache, or your back hurts — or any other number of aches, pains, and illnesses — it’s your body trying to tell you of a deeper underlying problem. For the most part, the people who get well faster and stay well longer are the people who are able to treat the underlying problem rather than treat the ache or pain.
Let me explain: when your back hurts, what do you do? If you’re like most people, you reach into the medicine cabinet and grab a Tylenol or Advil. Maybe you do some yoga to stretch it out. Maybe you get a massage. Maybe the pain goes away for a few days, and then it comes back. Why? The massage should have taken care of it, right? Maybe, but all of those things, in their most basic form, are treating to symptom — the back ache — rather than the true problem. What if your back hurts because of a kidney problem? What if the massage works, but the back pain comes back a few days later… what do you do? Get another massage? Go to the chiropractor again? Again, you’re continuing to treat the symptom rather than the cause.
Let me illustrate my point with a story. I have a friend and patient (he has given me permission to tell his story) who had many of the same problems we all experience. He’s tall and thin and he was having chronic back pain. It would typically arise early in the morning, hours after he fell asleep, and would be so acute it would wake him up in severe pain. For a while, he was able to get up and stretch and it would go away. Then that didn’t work so well, so he started taking Tylenol PM before bed to help. That worked for a while, but the pain kept intensifying. Next he started stretching before bed. Again, it helped for a while, but it didn’t solve the root problem.
When he first came to see me he was determined to find the cause of the pain and fix that, knowing that the symptom (the pain) would go away if he could fix the root problem.
The first thing we talked about was his diet. He wasn’t drinking enough water, which made his muscles more prone to cramping up and eventually knotting. He consumed too much caffeine, which was putting undue stress on his kidneys. His back was substantially out of alignment. All of these things were contributing factors, so we started there. He increased his water intake and changed his diet. We did a kidney detox and got his spine in alignment. The pain lessened, but it didn’t go away.
We looked at posture. He works at a computer all day and his posture wasn’t helping. He made adjustments at his office to start fixing his posture. But that didn’t solve the root cause, either.
We did massage, we added supplements to his diet, we added core muscle workouts to improve core strength, we adjusted sleep posture…. and while everything helped, nothing cured the problem. Then came the epiphany. While waling down the hallway it was pointed out that the toe on his right foot was slightly pointed out. On closer examination, he was slightly rolling on the outside of his foot. That was it… it all made sense. He had surgery on his right ankle ten years ago. Because the ankle never healed 100%, he changed the way he walked to prevent any instance of pain. By rolling his foot he was opening up his pelvis slightly, which was putting stress on his back. Over 15 years the stress continued to build until it all started to release each night while he was sleeping.
Now, with slight adjustments to the way he walks, coupled with deep massage and structural adjustments, we are starting to undo the pressure that he has built up over 15 years, and slowly he is feeling better.
He lived in pain for almost a year, trying to mask the symptoms, before choosing to attack the problem instead of the symptom. It has taken another year to find and attack the problem properly. And now he’s on the road to recovery and soon won’t need regular adjustments or massages anymore. He is retraining his body to walk properly and is strengthening his core muscles. and he’s more limber now than he has been in years.
The back pain was a symptom. It was his body’s way of saying there was a problem. You see, when your child has a problem, she can tell you. When you car has a problem, the dash light comes on. When your body has a problem, the only way it can tell you there’s a problem is to make you sick or show you through pain (or exhaustion, or emotional swings, or…..). That’s how your body tells you there’s something wrong and that you need to fix it. The people who get healthy fast and stay healthy longer are the people that are making adjustments in their lifestyle to fix the problem, rather than mask the cause.
When you have a cold, you’re told to drink orange juice and eat chicken soup, etc. You know that TheraFlu won’t fix the problem (although it will stop that runny nose so you can go to work). That’s because those OTC drugs attack the symptom (in this case, the runny nose and cough),while the orange juice and chicken soup help the body attack the problem — in this case the virus.
So the next time you get sick or get an ache or pain, take it as a sign that your body is trying to tell you something. Look for the root cause. Your body — and your health — will thank you for it!