As practitioners continue to search for modern ways to look at how the body responds to injury , we also start to look into better terminology and ways to describe new approaches to clients.
This boots-on-the-ground doctoring involves real-life experimentation with what works and what fizzles. It drives research to new ways of treating and continues to push our industry and others to the cutting edge.
Generally speaking – I want my clients to get what the professionals and Olympians get. Why would I have them wait for 20 years for new treatments to trickle down? Everything in the modern era has quicker turnover and I don’t think your health care should be any different.
As you all know, I think the explanation is almost more valuable than the treatment. If you don’t know how or why something works you tend to make poor decisions.
We all make Poor and Wrong decisions despite our best attempts.
To briefly explain a key reason we often make mistakes in self-diagnosis and self-treatment I want to take an entirely different industry and use it as an example and analogy for what I feel is one of the biggest mistakes in healthcare.
I’m not that doctor that tells you, “Don’t google your symptoms, it’s too scary.”
In fact, I’m the nearly polar opposite, “It’s Your body, you need to be responsible for what happens to your own body. I definitely want you to look this stuff up and come up with your own ideas. No doctor will EVER know what it feels like to be you- the way you will.”
So hang along with me for a story involving plumbing that will miraculously explain the inner workings of the human body better than your 101 physio. class.
At my house, we have a water well. It’s very basic, a hole dug into the ground and a pump that will help pull the water up. There is also a great big blue “water tank” that is used to help create pressure. So when I turn on my hose or sprinkler system the water can get to where it needs to a water my plants.
I spent all last summer tinkering with this simple setup because it wouldn’t work well.
I kept blowing out PVC pipes from the pump to the water well and from the water well to the sprinkler system and I couldn’t seem to get anything to work the right way. While I’m not handy, I definitely try- and I love to try things in the vocational realm because I just didn’t grow up with much of this knowledge.
After about the fifth attempt at gluing together my PVC piping. watching the pressure build and an Old Faithful type explosion that would bring neighborhood kids from three houses over, I decided I needed to try something different. The science made sense, I had everything hooked up the way it originally had been. Working flawlessly for about 4 years with no problems. So what’s the problem?
I then brought out a professional who decided the entire thing was set up wrong and went about charging me $1,000. He put in a new pump, completely redoing all of the plumbing and pipes, and even dug another hole so we had two wells to draw from.
“Ahhh, that’s it, let’s try it now.”… BOOM! Explosion! Like a geyser. Again. The plumber promptly left with my money and told me, “I don’t know what’s going wrong. But hey at least you have new stuff. When you finally get it working it should work better.”
Analogy number one –
This happens to you.
You have some sort of pain or discomfort or something in your body isn’t working the right way so you start tinkering with it and messing around and doing some things that your PE coach in high school taught you. Or more likely, something that you caught on YouTube and you play with it for a while. Let’s say 5 attempts just like I did for the piping, but realistically more like 5 months. You probably do it just like I did, fairly half-assed and when it was convenient.
Not surprisingly, It failed. So you call up your local practitioner, be it a chiropractor, physio, PT, or athletic trainer and I also see a lot of people go to their orthopedic surgeons.
Collectively, we look at the issue, tell you what we think is going on, and proceed to work on you. Often times you give us one or two chances and then bail. Also Often times you give us 16 chances and nothing gets better. Either way, it was a fail. So just like my plumbing system… what’s going on?
My well system self-help went just like this.
Eventually, YouTube took me to a guy talking about how the bladder inside those big blue water tanks will often rupture. Without the bladder, you can’t create the right pressure. You really can’t create any pressure.
With this new information, I had new ideas about how the system worked. So I started looking at my big blue tank. I noticed immediately that on the top of the blue tank, there was an air valve like what you would find on your bicycle where you would fill up your inner tubes. Well, that makes it really easy to check if there’s any air pressure. So I put my air pressure gauge on there and it showed me that there was about 40 lb of pressure. So I got on my compressor and filled it up to 60 lb of pressure and tried my system again.
Explosion. Again. More neighborhood kids. I’m pretty sure one of them had popcorn this time and was really loving the drama. I mean this was the third or fourth week this has been going on.
So I started thinking. You all know I do a lot of that!
“I’ll bet there is way too much pressure in that tank. In fact, if there was too much pressure there wouldn’t even be the ability for water to be stored. It’s a “water tank” after all. That makes sense. Yes, that must be it! Too much air pressure and too little water, no wonder my sprinkler system only work for about 4 seconds, and then it dies out.”
“Once the water pressure Rises and the tank fills up, It should run perfectly.”
Result? No result. It did nothing.
Finally after another two weeks of no success, but also no more effort (see the similarities with how we treat the body, “I’m just gonna let it rest for a few weeks.” ) I went to one of my neighbors who is a very vocational man and has a few years of experience over me. He came over with a couple of pipe wrenches and twisted a couple things. He then scratched his head and told me he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the system either.
Analogy number two –
After hoping for a quick fix with your health using one professional, you tend to jump to another one. The other professional may have different wordings and vocabulary and hopefully even new ideas but often, at the end of the day, you still have the same issue. Everyone is missing some key component so your treatment again stalls.
After a day of thinking about my well system, my neighbor called me up and said, “Chad I just can’t figure out what is wrong with that system it should be working like a champ. I installed it the first time and it was working very well for about 4 years. We’re missing something.”
He continued, “Take me through what you have been doing so that I can track it and maybe I can find the mistake.”
You vocational thinking listeners already know what my mistake was because you understand how the well and pump system works. You see I thought I knew how the well and pump system worked. I looked stuff up online and it made a lot of sense. Sound theories, stuff on YouTube that worked…certainly a water tank would hold water.
However, the people that have a better understanding realize that those big blue water tanks despite saying right on the side that it is a 70-gallon “water tank.” designed in Milwaukee Wisconsin, actually don’t hold much water at all. They hold pressure. Air pressure. And the air pressure is what pushes the water into the pipes so the pipes can hold the water pressure.
Now, I get that this explanation isn’t as good as a master plumber or well worker would describe it. There’s more science involved. I can only get into the basics, even after living through the experience.
The moral of this story is that I had one key flaw.
Not understanding a water tank and how it worked. That’s what kept me from fixing my problem.
Analogy number 3.
Sometimes we just need the problems stated differently or described in a different way to further our understanding so we can make the best decisions.
Once we got the pressure right in the tank the system has since worked flawlessly.
Thanks for hanging with me on my explanations and my three analogies.
“Ohhh, great Chad. You just took me on a podcast that had absolutely nothing to do with more understanding of the human body and more just a story about your backyard water well. Come on man. How am I supposed to share this one? No wonder you’ve only got like 33 subscribers!”
Wait… here’s how. I want to give you a little bit of information on how a better understanding and different perspective helps us make better clinical decisions. Having a little bit different idea will most likely allow you to better diagnose yourself thereby helping you come up with better solutions.
The idea and title of this article is “Different Reactions.”
One of the many lectures I give in my office with patients is just this idea of different body parts reacting to injury, stress or what in the sports world is described as “threats”… differently.
When an area of the body is under “THREAT” the brain immediately takes over to protect the area. Oftentimes it will sinch an area down or splint muscles around it or react with huge edema and swelling. A large part of why this happens is the brain is no longer receiving good information from that area. Kind of like the brain’s map of your body gets smudged out.
When the brain isn’t getting the right information it immediately self protects to try to keep your body from sustaining more injury.
For instance, we have almost all had a sprained ankle at some time. Extremities like the hand and Ankle tend to swell up very quickly. You have all seen ankles that are swollen up like the size of a baseball and are gooey, black and blue, and very fluid-filled. Because that’s what happens when an ankle is injured.
Any of you that have read my other articles, especially the ones about how lower back, upper back issues, and a Crick in the neck respond to any “threat” realize that the spine doesn’t swell up like the ankle does. In fact, stress along the spine is typically a direct local inflammation but instead of swelling the body goes into lockdown mode along the spine and contracts the muscles in a splinting/spasm. Your brain wants to protect your spine and so it locks the muscles down so you can’t move very quickly. You can mentally overcome this and push through it but the body will fight you every time. Like I say in my clinic, “You just hurt your lower back yesterday – your body doesn’t want you going bowling today.”
Now your shoulder reacts differently to threats as well. Almost any injury in the shoulder will cause the chest muscle, the PEC to contract. When the pec muscle locks down, your shoulder rotates inward and kind of naturally puts your arm into a shoulder sling position. Anyone that has ever had a long-term shoulder injury knows that the shoulder feels best when it is in that shoulder sling position. You don’t see shoulder slings as often as you did in the past because all of us medical-grade people now realize THAT was a big part of what was causing frozen shoulder a month or so after the initial shoulder issue.
So the way of the shoulder sling has gone by the wayside for the most part. However, your body still likes to put the shoulder into a position that causes the least amount of pain so it often will stay locked down.
In fact, when I see somebody for a shoulder issue in my clinic they will tell me they either don’t remember when the initial pain started or what happened to cause it but the issue has just continued to be achy and tight for weeks.
Going back to the water well analogy. Almost every day I see someone who comes to me for a shoulder issue that they have already been to three or four other practitioners for.
“Nothing helps and I haven’t got better.”
But at the end of the day, despite what our titles are, a lot of what chiropractors, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and physiotherapists see and treat..we all pretty much do the same thing professionally.
What this patient needs is not the same treatment from another person but a different look entirely. I have a lot of experience with the shoulders so, I checked the tight pec muscle first. If that thing is locked up, I can unlock that Pec before doing any shoulder work.
This is why we have such good success with shoulder issues in our Clinic. It’s not because we have any radical new approaches that have never been looked at before. It’s because I understand the mechanism and because of that understanding my treatment works in a different order. My stage one is different than their previous practitioner’s stage 1. And that is what makes a difference.
To tie it together, I didn’t understand the full working of the water well system and I went about trying to fix it on faulty information and it didn’t get better.
Often, even My Brightest clients don’t understand the full mechanisms of how the body reacts to threats. I mean even the idea and the term “threats” it’s just a new way of looking at how the body reacts.
I’ll have a few more articles in the next couple of weeks about some of the unique ways that the best sports professionals are looking at how the body reacts.
Anyway, I hope this gives you some enlightenment and new ideas. As always my basic advice for you is:
Go ahead and try to work on your own body. I’m not that doctor that tells you don’t look things up on Google. I want you to know your body. I want you to care and you will always be the best person to decide what is going on in your own body.
None of us will ever know what it feels like to be you. So experiment. But have some parameters. If you have tried a certain approach five times and you are not getting better. The answer isn’t that you need to just keep doing more of it. After the fourth or fifth time of my water well pipes exploding and shooting a geyser to the Moon -I decided I needed a different approach.
If you are trying a certain approach for work on your own body and it isn’t getting you anywhere after four or five tries, try something else.
If you’re not sure where to go get professional help or at least try something different.
It’s an old idea that is (often but incorrectly) credited to Albert Einstein, “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is insanity.”
This practical insight is how we come up with some of the all-time SportsDocDC classic ideas such as:
stop stretching your lower back when it is tight,
stop using a hot tub when you are inflamed,
stop looking up rotator cuff exercises with a stretchy Red Band every time your shoulder hurts.
Instead, constantly strive for new information. New Ideas, New Wording that makes sense for you.
I hope you love the way I present stuff on this website and stay here because I tend to have a pretty good knack for making things easy to understand. I’m not above asking for help. Please, Like it and Share this article if you think of someone else that would like it. Leave me a comment.
There’s some really cool new stuff coming down the pipe that I play within our Clinic. I’m excited to share.
That’s right, our Clinic runs more like a lab and we run experiments and we throw out the garbage that doesn’t work and use the stuff that continues to push us to get better. Exactly what you should expect and demand on SportsDocDC!