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Maybe It Will Just Go Away…

For life’s problems, there are pretty much two ways to respond – you can ignore the problem or you can address it. Deciding the appropriate response depends on the particular issue at hand. For example, fenced dogs who growl as you go by should be ignored. That way you don’t cause their bad behavior to escalate, and perhaps one day, the dog will learn you aren’t a threat that needs barked at. However, if you find your house has a rodent problem, ignoring it will only exacerbate the issue. You have to address the predicament before you’re overrun with furry, little home wreckers.

When it comes to your health, ignoring problems carries an inherent risk, yet everyone does it from time to time. If you ignore your cold and flu symptoms, you may end up getting better on your own – or you may get worse and progress to pneumonia. Despite the fact that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, many people still ignore symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, sometimes with deadly consequences.

The French/German physician and philosopher Albert Schweitzer said, “Every patient carries his or her own doctor inside.” This is very true. When something’s wrong, our bodies will almost always send us signals – pain, discomfort, weakness, and difficulty of movement among others – but many of us have learned to ignore or simply live with these signals. There are many reasons why we choose to do this. In my work as a physical therapist, I’ve heard all the excuses. “I’ll never get better anyways.” “I can tough it out.” “Treatment costs too much.” “I don’t need a doctor to tell me what’s wrong.” “It’ll go away on its own.”

These excuses (and the countless others I have heard) all have one thing in common – attitude. What’s your attitude towards your health? Good health is the greatest gift a person can have – just ask someone who has lost theirs. Good health also goes hand in hand with a good quality of life, and who doesn’t want that? We have to retrain ourselves to look past the excuses and discern what is truly important.

Many times patients don’t seek treatment until they’re in the advanced stages of their injury or condition and have been living with pain for weeks, months, even years. These people tend to have bad attitudes, partly as a result of their poor quality of life. They’re used to being in pain. They don’t believe anything can help and think it’s a waste of time to even try. They’ve grown hopeless from unsuccessful visits to physicians in the past and from constant reoccurrences of their injury. I hear this story all the time – a person comes in for physical therapy after suffering severe back pain for several weeks. They tell me, “I have back pain all the time, but it usually goes away.” As I inform these patients, pain that reoccurs has never truly gone away.

I try to impress upon people the fact that there’s no need to suffer unnecessarily. Yes, you may be in the throngs of a chronic and painful condition, but with the proper treatment, you can work your way back to good health. Yes, healthcare may be costly, but just as it takes money to keep your car and house in good condition, your health is something worth investing in. And yes, you probably can tough it out on your own, but not forever. Eventually you’ll need help to address the problem, and usually, the longer you put off treatment, the longer the treatment will take.

How important do you consider your health to be? What is your quality of life worth? You only get one life, so why not make it a good one? Listen to your inner doctor and address your health issues right away. The problem rarely goes away on its own. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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