Well-Being for the Open-Minded Sceptic #23 – Preventative vs Curative
I recently finished teaching a Gokhale Method posture course. In it, I teach people how to sit, lie down, stand, bend and walk. Ha! You say, “I knew how to do all of those things from a very young age. I don’t need someone to teach me such elementary stuff!” Well so far I have been teaching doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, dentists and many other people from all walks of life to do just that.
Why you ask? Well that is a good question. I teach the basics of posture and alignment. Ultimately I would like to teach healthy posture as a matter of prevention as opposed to teaching it because so many people are already suffering from back, neck and shoulder pain.
I was having a discussion with a doctor, who attended my last course. (I’ll call him Ben-not his real name), He suffers from neck and low back pain. He is not immune to these types of problems just because he’s a doctor. You see doctors like many other health professionals spend their very busy days doing things like sitting, standing and bending over patients. As a primary healthcare professional he sees patients every 15 minutes. He also does a lot of skin cancer surgeries. His work is primarily curative as the people he sees day in and day out are already in trouble. They are sick, hurting or in need of treatment for an existing ailment. Well you say, “That’s what doctors are for isn’t it?” That is how most people view healthcare today. If I have something wrong with me, I go to the doctor to get it fixed.
Ben would like to spend more time with his patients helping them figure out how to live healthier lives before they get sick. In his words. “Western society is a bit of a mess really. You have unending ‘busyness’ leading to poor lifestyle choices, unending population growth, corporations with shareholder models for unending growth, endless suburbs with only McDonald’s and shopping malls nearby curbing outer urban ghetto growth with no public transport resulting in long commute days in cars.” Whew! I felt sorry for him. I felt like he was not taking time to even take care of himself.
Ben’s dream is to see primary healthcare practitioners being rewarded if they decide to spend more time with patients and discuss prevention aspects, rather than more lucrative non-preventative specialties. “One more thing,” he says, “Did you know that most ‘integrative’- preventative healthcare clinics in the US struggle to stay financially viable as people and Government funding are not really willing to pay for a long 1 hour consult?”
Yes I did actually know that having grown up in the US. I felt his frustration. But my response to this was. Adversity can sometimes open people’s eyes to seek out preventative solutions. In an extreme example, according to economist Bill Bonner in his book “Hormegeddon.” In Cuba under Castro’s rule in 1990 to about 2000, people were on food rations with very little to eat and no healthcare. There was no money to support clinics and hospitals. This could be viewed as disastrous! However in a report by the Guardian on this “special period” it indicted that it had actually forced people to lead healthier lifestyles. People were forced to slash their calorie intake. Many grew their own food. They didn’t have access to fuel so they had to walk and ride bicycles to travel. This was horrible indeed. However during this time there was a steep decline in deaths linked to being overweight. Deaths caused by diabetes declined by 51%, coronary heart disease mortality dropped by 35% and stroke mortality by 20%. The overall life expectancy increased every year!
Now I am not saying that we have to experience such extremes to get healthy. But perhaps we can have a good look at our own situations. Maybe we could choose to educate ourselves on ways to prevent certain conditions that we view as just part of life or getting older. As a massage therapist I hear so many people say to me, “Oh it’s just old age. I can’t do anything about that! ” I always cringe a little when I hear this. I am hopeful that people will take some of their own power back and start re-learning some of the “elementary” things we as homo sapiens actually intuitively know how to do. We can make better more natural food choices and do a bit more exercise like our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to do. Perhaps we can slow down a bit and breathe deeply once in awhile. Oxygen is good for us. Most people breathe just enough to stay alive. Maybe we can move in a way that is more natural to our species instead of walking into things because we are viewing our smart phones. I don’t think someone else has to devise elaborate solutions for us. I believe that people can make good decisions as to what feels right to them. Taking back some of their own power and looking closer at what is making them sick or causing them pain. Sometimes it’s getting back to raw primal basics.
Ben smiled as I told him to relax his chin, breathe deeply and roll his shoulders back. “Do this before you go in to treat your patients.” Leading by example is a really good place to start to teach preventative medicine.
Contributed my Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method Teacher 0428 223 271