Who “owns” your health?


diagram of health responsibility matrixWe sure have come a long way since the days of the Barber-Surgeon. Back in medieval times, that was who you went to if you needed a tooth pulled, your gangrenous limb taken off – or a haircut! Wow, talk about one-stop shopping!

Luckily, we have made huge strides in medicine, where now it’s possible for surgeons to do microsurgery through a laparascope, or even in-vitro for life-threatening conditions in fetuses.
Although medicine, in general, has made some wonderful strides, it’s all the choices we have now that I think are most exciting. No longer do we only have our Family Doctor to visit if we have something wrong with us. There are a plethora of alternative medicine practitioners available for any ailment.
In my own case, I feel incredibly privileged to have an alternative doctor as my Family Doctor. He is also a Reiki Master. Besides that he works in an office full of alternative practitioners – a Chiropractor, a Massage Therapist, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, a Naturopath and a heart disease prevention specialist. It’s like going to a medical “Mall”.
I think because of my upbringing, I do not automatically seek out my Family Doctor if something ails me. For instance, my knee was really bothering me last week, so I went to my Chiropractor, who diagnosed it as “runner’s knee”, although it could just as easily be called “hiker’s knee” as that is what caused it in my case. With icing, rest and a few simple exercises it already feels better.

(Update Jan. 2013, it turns out that the runner’s knee was just a symptom of a more complicated dis-ease of my body: Pyriformis syndrome, a spasm of the pyriformis muscle which is a small triangular muscle within the gluteus maximus. The spasming is caused by me overpronating my right leg to the outside both while driving and walking. I have been consciously rolling my leg inward both when walking and driving, with complete relief of my symptoms)

I’m not saying my Doctor wouldn’t have come up with the same diagnosis, I’m sure he would, but I think he also would have suggested I go for more testing (to make sure there’s nothing else going on) and anti-inflammatories to bring the inflammation down, etc. Well, I don’t want to waste tax-payers money on expensive tests and I don’t want to take anti-inflammatories, because they bother my stomach. I’d rather try the simplest possible methods first, then if they don’t work, try something more aggressive. I also asked my Yoga Teacher who gave me a number of exercises as well. If none of that worked to relieve my pain, I would have sought out my Acupuncturist for help and relief.
It never fails to amaze me, however, how many people I know who just blindly follow “Doctor’s orders”, taking whatever pills/tests are prescribed them, without even questioning, and in some cases, becoming dependent on proton pump inhibitors, or anti-depressants, when these were only prescribed to mask the symptoms, but the underlying cause was never diagnosed in the first place.
In some cases, you really do need to go for more testing, even at tax-payers expense. This was my case a couple of years ago, where I had some extreme gastric symptoms. A different doctor than mine may have prescribed a PPI, but my Doctor, being like a wolverine when it comes to finding the root cause of something, prescribed me some (quite invasive) tests, and then my Gastroenterologist found a huge overgrowth of H.Pylori bacteria which was causing all my symptoms. This is the same bacteria which causes ulcers and stomach cancer, so even though I hate taking antibiotics, I had to go on a major triple-antibiotic regimen, then more testing to make sure they were eradicated. If I hadn’t gone for more testing, I may have been on proton pump inhibitors for the rest of my life.
I urge you – please, please, please – just question your Doctor.
Why are you prescribing this? What would happen if I didn’t take it/do the test? How long will I have to take this medicine? (if the answer is for the rest of your life, I would seriously question why and what alternatives there might be). Seek a second opinion if the answers you get don’t make sense to you. If your Doctor is not open to your questions, or to alternatives, consider changing doctors if possible. If not, then at least ask your Pharmacist (they are fantastic in their knowledge of drugs and interactions with other medicines and herbs) Don’t be afraid to try out alternative medicine. Often times a Chiropractor is exactly what you might need for a musculo-skeletal problem. Think about it, you don’t go to a Doctor to get a tooth filled, or a haircut (anymore), so there are definitely alternatives out there if you are open to them.

Consider that your health is your own responsibility, with your Doctor and other practitioners as your coaches. Make prevention of disease your mantra. Keep an open mind to alternatives in your health care, but carefully discern for yourself the tried and true from “quack” cures and use modern technology to educate yourself.


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