Muskegon, Michigan -- We've all done it. We ignore problems and put off treatment when it comes to our health. Americans are a funny breed. When it comes to relationships, finances, and even our sports teams, we are often pessimists at heart. We often see the bad and contemplating the "ifs" while failing to see the good in things. We dwell on what "might happen," which is why insurance is the one industry that has gone largely untouched throughout the recession.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our health, we often do the opposite. Hypochondriacs aside, most of us are quite cavalier about our health when we shouldn't be. We often figure that if we can get through the day without a symptom, we are generally healthy. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, a THIRD of those who die from heart attacks showed no prior symptoms leading up to the attack. We don't often think about our health until we lose it.
This is why people I see in my office have such rotten spines when I first meet them. The wear and tear of sports injuries, falls, stress, and neglect accumulate over the years and they often do not even consider having their spines evaluated until they are already dealing with a major health crisis. By that time, their problem has been there for years, before the initial symptoms.
Worse yet, when we start to notice symptoms, we often ignore them. When faced with a potential health challenge, we often stick our heads in the sand and hope that by the time we come up for air, the problem will have miraculously disappeared. You wouldn't treat your car that way, would you? When the check engine light goes off, you take your car in for repair because it is better to find a small problem early before it leads to a damaged engine. After all, replacing an engine is EXPENSIVE!
Well, you tell me: Is it easier to buy a new engine or a new body?
The longer someone waits to get a spinal problem evaluated, the harder it is going to be to fix it. The soft tissues of the body will tighten. The hips and shoulders will shift in an effort to compensate. Joints will deteriorate. Posture will suffer. In the case of any spinal problem, it will never be easier (or cheaper) to fix than it is RIGHT NOW.
If ignoring your problem isn't bad enough, we often don't stop there. We often do something even more sinister in regards to our health. Instead of having an expert evaluate the condition, we simply cover up the problem and do more damage. Let's go back to the "check engine" analogy. Would it make ANY SENSE to put black electrical tape over that check engine light? Why not? That annoying light is now covered up. Problem solved, right? You can now go back to your busy life, fulfilling important tasks like updating your Facebook status, watching those DVR'ed episodes of Glee, and watching funny cat videos on YouTube. Those things are way more important than trivial things like your health. (Unfortunately, sarcasm cannot be conveyed via keyboard...or can it?)
This analogy seems ridiculous because no one would treat their car that way (well, almost no one). However, every day I meet people who have treated their bodies that way. Covering up the problem does nothing but give you a false sense of security. This leads one to continue to use a damaged body (or engine), doing things that would normally have been avoided because your body was telling you not to do it. Pain is annoying. Pain limits your abilities. THAT'S THE POINT!
Pain is really just your musculoskeletal system's way of sending your mind a snarky email:
Do you remember that seven hour car trip yesterday? I sure do. While you were taking in the sights and listening to a really captivating book-on-tape about some guy running all over Rome looking at paintings, I was stuck in a really uncomfortable position. I did pretty well for a while, but I would have really appreciated it if you would have stopped the car once in a while so I could stretch. I sent some subtle hints, but you thought you could just "switch position" a bit to keep me quiet, but we both know that never works! After two hours, I actually sent you a text message because our lumbars were being compressed, which was irritating the muscles and nerves. What did YOU do? You reached into your glove box (which doesn't even contain gloves, but whatever) and pulled out some ibuprofen. FYI, you may want to steer clear of our kidneys and upper GI, cuz they're pretty ticked at you, too. Just sayin'.
Luckily, that 24 ounce coffee you sucked down in the car caused our bladder to FORCE you to pull over. Sure, you listen to HIM! Not that I care, because only then was I able to do what I was originally designed to do. You know, MOVE! Has it ever occurred to you that the reason that we have two feet and only one butt is because we are supposed to WALK AROUND more than sit!?!? Didn't think so. I know, it's tough being our mind. You've usually got such pressing matters to attend to, like checking your fantasy football team or getting high scores in Bejeweled. I know how you hate to be troubled with things like, say, our HEALTH. Silly me. What was I thinking?
Well, by the time we got to your buddy Marv's (whose overindulgence in refined carbs didn't do our metabolism any favors, by the way), our lower back was a mess. Our neck was tighter than the waistband on your "workout" shorts (which, consequently only get worn while you lounge around the house watching football...) and our head was pounding. Had you actually taken a few breaks and given us a stretch, gone for a walk, and replenished our fluids with something besides coffee and slushies, we would have been much better off. Now, your back, butt, neck, and head all hurt and we've only got you to blame. Take it easy until you can get back home and this thing fixed at the chiropractor's office. Once you do that, I'll quit sending out those pain signals. I know how much you want to play in that golf tournament next weekend.
So, when your body sends pain signals to your brain, don't ignore them and don't cover them up. It will only get worse. Take good care of your body. It's the only one you have and if it wears out, where are you going to live???