Last week, a patient came in to our office complaining of his recent hip pain. “I don’t know what I did, I guess I’m getting too old. I’m just falling apart. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” I told him he was just looking at it the wrong way. His approach to his health has only been reactive instead of proactive.
He waits for a pain or symptom to take action and it’s costing him.
This is not uncommon at all. I’ve had friends, family, and patients take the approach of “I don’t feel anything wrong, so why should I do anything differently? What I’m doing seems to be working fine.” We only need to look to those that are 10 – 20 years older than us to see where this type of approach leads. If you’re 20, look at the 40 year olds you know. What do the healthy ones have in common? The unhealthy ones? If you’re 40, look to the 60 year olds. What are they doing right, if anything?
How should we approach taking care of ourselves?
I became a chiropractor with the strong belief that if you got adjusted, everything else would take care of itself. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I still believe you’ll never achieve your highest level of health without chiropractic care and have seen that first-hand in my patients. However, it’s not enough.
I spent my 20s concerned primarily about my health only as far as my weight told me how I was doing. If I gained weight, I was not being as healthy as I should be. If I lost weight, I was now healthier — regardless of how that number was achieved. I was denied health insurance in my 20s because of elevated liver enzymes. My liver enzymes were elevated only because I was taking an over-the-counter supplement to lose weight.
Why would a life insurance company deny you a policy?
They denied me life insurance because they believed I would die soon! Someone in their 20s should not be denied life insurance at any time, that was silly. I got off those supplements immediately and just started eating better. In my 30s, I still thought I was in my 20s, looking at my health only as far as weight and pain indicated there was a problem.
No pain, no problem, right? Once you say that out loud, I hope you get the “duh” moment that tells you this isn’t the way to look at things. The number 1 and number 2 killers in the U.S. (heart disease and cancer) give almost no obvious symptoms until the condition has progressed. They don’t just show up, they build over time. Most doctors and researchers will say that these are hugely influenced by lifestyle (just like nearly every other condition), but they are truly silent killers.
That means we have to change how we look at how we take care of ourselves…
What does a symptom mean, really? It’s your body letting you know something is wrong. The symptoms usually start small and are totally ignored. Really, a symptom is feedback in how well you’re doing in taking care of yourself. It’s information and shouldn’t be ignored. How much action you take is up to you and how serious the symptom really is.
If you’re hungry, you eat some food. You don’t take a pill to make you forget you’re hungry. If you’re cold, you put on a jacket, you don’t take a pill that increases your body heat. If your back hurts, you need to take a look at how you’re taking care of yourself. (Not take a pill that masks back pain.) You evaluate how you sit, how you exercise, how you stretch, and if you’re in the right alignment.
Seek the least invasive method, with the least side effects, and least toxic way of improving your health — not covering up the symptoms.
Even without a symptom, you have to know that what you put into your body and how you care for your body will eventually be revealed (in a good way or a bad way). Eat mostly fast food? You’ll eventually discover how your body was handling that and the effects of that diet. Never stretch? You’ll eventually suffer the consequences, when things like hip pain and back pain become a daily part of life.
Never been to see a chiropractor? You may one day consider visiting a chiropractor (the average age for a first-time patient is 45 years old), and then see the effects on x-ray. Nearly all patients that have never been to see a chiropractor see degenerative changes on their x-rays. It’s not every vertebra and it’s not age-related. Degenerative changes are a symptom, an indicator that part of your spine has not functioned normally for some time.
So how are we supposed to look at it? What did that patient do wrong?
I don’t know that there’s any point in bemoaning you age or beating yourself up for your current state of health. “I’m falling apart” is a great way of saying, “There’s nothing I can do.” And that’s just not true. Our bodies are adaptable and changeable. It’s really a matter of “am I willing to make the necessary changes?” Are you?
You can feel back pain and think, “I guess I can’t exercise anymore.” Or you can say, “That’s not right. Let me figure out how to take care of this ASAP and get back on a healthy exercise program.” You can look at your weight and think, “I need to lose weight. Which way can I do it the fastest?” or you can ask, “How can I do it the healthiest, while enjoying the process?” The point is to take a look at the feedback you’re receiving and make changes from there.
When my patient stated he was “falling apart,” I knew what we was saying was “I don’t want to have to maintain my body. I’ll wash it and feed it, but I don’t want to do anything extra.” I can tell you from experience that our body’s do take some effort and maintenance for optimal performance. It can be overwhelming and it can seem like a lot of work, but that’s really the wrong attitude. It’s your body and time spent caring for it will not be wasted. Be happy you have the opportunity to improve your health and take those steps. You won’t regret it.