Developing a treatment philosophy

With any condition that a patient comes in to see me with, I feel like it is always important to have a philosophy to refer to when helping a patient to feel better. It might be neck, shoulder, back or hip pain. It might be headaches, numbness and/or tingling, loss of range of motion of a body part or perhaps an issue with balance or function. There are many ways to help with re-establishing good movement or posture patterns and/or functional retraining when there is an activity that the patient wants to return to. Very often, in my experience, it is when we deviate from good movement or postural patterns that symptoms may arise. Our bodies need to learn again where it should be, whether it is posture or the way that we move. My greatest success with helping the body to move better in a pain free manner is to look at how the body is supposed to move. There are lots of hints and clues with our physical evolution.

Take the shoulder for example. Good movement of the shoulder involves movement of the surrounding ribs, shoulder blade, collar bone, the vertebrae of the upper back with control and stability of the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Everything has a job as the shoulder joint is properly stabilized no matter what direction it moves. One teacher of mine talked about the importance of just allowing the body to do what it was designed to do. It is my job to look at how each part is working during a movement, to make sure that everything works properly. A small dysfunction in one area can cause pain in another area. As owners of the body in pain, we are drawn mainly to where it hurts, making it difficult to assess where the dysfunction is originating. In my own experience, I experienced significant discomfort in one area, to which the treatments I received was focused mostly in the symptomatic area, and it wasn’t until we discovered that the function of another area needed to be improved. Once the function of that area improved, then it significantly helped with the symptoms that I was experiencing. There was a thought put out that sometimes you need to put the symptoms aside for a brief moment and just see how the whole region is working.

With all of the above in mind, I have adopted the philosophy of looking at how the whole system is working. Often the easiest part of treating is the short term effect of removing the symptoms with soft tissue release and mobilizing a joint to allow better movement but I like to move past that to teach the patient to improve their posture or to learn to move in the manner in which we were designed to move so that if we find that there is a return of the symptoms, then the patient knows how to remedy the situation. A classic example is working in front of the computer and falling into a slouched position and feeling upper back and neck pain. During a treatment, I will show the patient the optimal position to hold the body where it is strongest and least like to experience pain or dysfunction.

Learning about ourselves and how we are meant to move and hold ourselves is the secret to reduced pain, mobility, flexibility, strength and endurance.