So a new patient comes into my practice today and she was looking to get some relief from her lower back pain which she thought was the cause of her two disc herniations.
This situation is much more common than you think.
Her doctor had her get an MRI and the results showed two herniations at L4-L5 and L5-S1. This is the most common part of our spine that is susceptible to herniation.
So thankfully, he decided not to operate on her and they are unsure what to do about her pain.
Surprisingly, he did not give her any Cortisone shots or painkillers, which is good in my opinion.
So we sat down and talked about her condition during her intake and one of the first questions I had for her was: "When did you start to feel your pain and what was going on in your life during that time?"
She answered that it was only after BOTH her parents had died that she began to suffer from this lower back pain. It didn't occur to her that there was a connection between the two.
In fact, not one health care practitioners of the numerous ones she visited before me ever asked her about her personal life, her emotions, stress-levels, or anything else besides her 'physical' issues and condition.
To ignore the other aspects/dimensions of ourself other than our physical structure is like looking at the body as simply a sculpture and nothing else. Sure, as my osteopathic teachers say, 'Structure governs function,' but there's much more to us than our structure.
What about our mind? Our subconscious mind? Our mental/emotional psychosomatic dimension of ourselves?
I believe that as health care practitioners it is our duty to work holistically and to pay attention to all aspects of ourselves and that only looking at the structure is doing a disservice to our patients.
So what's causing her pain? How could it not be the disc herniations if we can plainly see from her MRI that these herniations are compressing on her spinal cord which 'may' cause pain?
Well, this may sound strange and you may not believe me when I tell you that there are a ton of people walking around and living their lives without any pain yet they have herniations and other disc problems. Some even have severe cases of spinal stenosis, yet they have NO PAIN!
How can we explain this?
Well, pain science is quite complex. In fact, it's more complex than we think.
Our herniations may be a trigger for the pain, but they are not the cause of the pain. Just as our symptoms may be pain, but the actual 'cause' of the pain is something entirely different that most likely you had no idea was the cause!
Our shoulder pain may be coming from fascial restrictions in our quad region of our upper leg! Our lower back pain may be coming from a tight psoas muscle which includes tight fascia in that region and beyond. Or, it may be coming from an emotional repression of some kind. Or, there may be other actual 'causes' for the pain which are really not so evident and clear.
Once again, I'll reiterate that pain is a good thing and always bears a lesson for us to learn.
So the next time you suffer from pain, let's open our minds a bit and think about what could be the 'cause' of it and then let's TREAT THE CAUSE, NOT THE SYMPTOMS.
(Recommended reading: Healing Back Pain by Dr. Sarno)