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Don't Shoot the Messenger

Jul 21, 2022

By: Nick Sienkiewicz, PT, DPT, CSCS

We Need to Think Deeper About Our Health

We spend too much time blaming the messenger in our modern medical system. Many of our treatment strategies for the conditions that plague the human body are targeted at the wrong things. Let’s go through a few examples:

  •  An individual is diagnosed with heart disease, so the practitioner intervenes with medications and recommendations to lower LDL cholesterol: This is a common one these days, and unfortunately, too many people are familiar with this treatment strategy. The attack on LDL was a scientific stretch dating back to the 1950s that included cherry picking data and finding anything that was associated with heart disease in order to designate a scapegoat. This led to decades worth of brainwashing resulting in society believing that LDL is all bad. In reality, LDL is necessary for an effective immune response, producing your hormones, repairing cells and controlling inflammation. Due to its role in cellular repair, LDL is one of the molecules that rushes to the site of vascular trauma or plaque build up. For this reason, LDL has been blamed for this plaque build up that is found in many people with heart disease. However, it is not the cause of the build up, but rather a manifestation of this proliferation within blood vessels. It is like blaming a house fire on the firefighter trying to put it out! Context is everything. High LDL in isolation does not tell us much at all and is generally not problematic. Now, when LDL is elevated in the presence of insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, there can certainly be problems because those issues create rigidity in blood vessels and LDL will subsequently pool in an area of plaque and trauma in order to facilitate healing. This can certainly lead to further create blockage of the vessel. In this case though, LDL is not the main driver of the heart disease, yet it is where many healthcare providers isolate their attention. We need to go deeper!
  •  An individual has low back pain and is treated with steroid injections and anti-inflammatories: We see this one regularly at ProForm! Sure, an inflammatory process may be going on in the spine in an individual with low back pain, and another provider may very well have seen evidence of this on the individual’s images. Nonetheless, if we only treat this person with anti-inflammatories, we will be chasing symptoms for a long time. Evaluating this individual for possible root causes needs to occur in conjunction with treatment of inflammation. Otherwise, we are just going after the messenger! The inflammation is your body trying to communicate with you. Listen to your body, and be a detective to try to determine underlying causes of pain. With back pain, there are often many root causes (that’s an entire blog series in and of itself!). Identify as many as you can. Focus on those that can be controlled and/or modified, and forget about the rest!
  •  An individual has fluid in his knee joint, so the provider drains the knee: This is not to say that fluid should never be drained, but if that is where the practitioner stops, then he or she has not done a comprehensive job. Your body putting extra fluid in a knee is a protective mechanism. Excess fluid may indicate the joint has been under undue stress, such as too much load from running or another physical activity during a short period of time. The fluid may have been triggering discomfort, but it is not the cause of the issue. Identifying, then reducing or completely removing the source of excess strain would be targeting the source of the condition. If a healthcare provider just drains the knee and send this person on their way, there is a great chance the individual will be back to get their knee drained again, and again, in the future. 

I could go on with these examples forever! These a just a few simple instances of how the western medical system often attacks the messenger in response to many modern conditions. The reality is that much of the health hardship we face nowadays has an intimate relationship with our lifestyle and environment. I am by no means recommending avoiding treatment from the modern medical system. It just needs to be combined with an extensive investigation of lifestyle factors that may be contributing to the presentation. And if your healthcare provider is not going to do that, then find a new one!!!

Or you can take matters into your own hands! Be your own healthcare provider. Advocate for yourself. Do research. Experiment with new strategies (as long as they are safe of course!). Evaluate your own movements, postures, life stressors and overall lifestyle, and see where you can make modifications. Or you can come see us a ProForm, and we’d love to talk more about your unique situation! 

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