#5 Should You Use Medicine to Fix Your Pain ?

I have met 100’s of people who have been helped by the medical system.. in fact I am one of them BIG TIME. I have also met 100’s who have been badly damaged by the medical system .. but more often in their minds more than their bodies believe it or not. What I mean by this is they have been mis-guided and mis-informed by medicine.

Medical doctors prescribe surgery and drugs .. physiotherapists, podiatrists, osteopaths and chiropractors prescribe mechanical solutions like exercises and orthotics. These are 2 very different paradigms and both have their merits … but are they both valid ways of treating chronic pain ???

Firstly I want to just say how much I love modern medicine, I believe that we are blessed beyond belief to live on a world where anaesthetics for pain relief, effective treatments for cancer and repair of compound fractures ( the anaesthetic is handy again here ) are all a reality. I despair of ‘alternative types’ (despite being one in many ways myself ) who heavily criticise medicine for its  shortcomings without acknowledging what it could do for them if they were in a bad car crash.

We can bemoan how shady the pharmaceutical industry is ( and it is ) as much as we like but if we are going to have a fair trial we must acknowledge the miraculous beauty of successful cancer treatments, emergency care, eye surgery and the like.

All this being said just because medicine is brilliant at some aspects of health care and I am grateful for that it doesn’t excuse dropping the ball on the grandest scale imagineable when it comes to the treatment of chronic pain. Medicine in the front line currently ignores decades of research data ( and common sense ) in its provision of care for chronic pain sufferers … that’s hypocritical not hipocratical and in my view it’s not okay !

The simple fact is that almost all musculoskeletal pain including arthritic pain has its root cause in underlying mechanical issues. The reason that this is a problem for medicine is that most of not all of medicines solutions are either based on chemistry or surgery… not biomechanics.

If you apply chemical ( drug based ) or surgical ( structurally based ) solutions to mechanical ( function based ) problems you intevitably come up short. Using drugs to deal with mechanical pain is like using plumbing skills to fix an electrical fault.

You don’t need to take my word for all of this. If we consult the global gurus of pain research like Gordon Waddell ( professor of orthopaedics in Edinburgh University ) they are very clear about the fact that medicine has dropped the ball when it comes to managing chronic pain. In fact GW goes as far as stating that medicine has made matters worse over the past 3 decades.

A Case Study

I met a 75 year old man recently who has suffered right sided hip pain for 3 decades. His doctor medicated him for 25 years and eventually when it got too much to bear he had the hip replaced. He has never been offered any physical therapy ( except for a couple of weeks after surgery ), orthotic prescription or rehabilitation at any point in that 25 year consultation.

The interesting thing about this man ( and most of these cases ) is that is left hip is pristine despite having done the same mileage, played all the same sports and having the same genetics.

When I performed a gait analysis on this gentleman it was immediately apparent why his right hip had degenerated ( and why it still hurts in that area even after the surgery ) because his arch drops severely on his right side when he walks and probably has done so since he was a teenager: None of his doctors or his surgeons have ever identified this … much less done anything about it.

After custom orthotic prescription similar to what a podiatrist does and some rehabilitation exercises he can already walk better than he has in 20 years. This is because the 2 major causes of stress in his hips were a fallen arch ( which badly needed support with an orthotic ) and his glute muscles were not performing the task of stabilising his hip and leg.

What cases like this demonstrate is that medicine is capable of doing an appalling job managing mechanical pain. And I believe it does so because it is simple not commited to expanding its repertoire beyond the surgery and pharmaceuticals that form its mainstay.

Of course if this chap had been hit by a ute and had a compound fracture of his tibia his doctors would no doubt have done a fantastic job of fixing him up .. credit must be given where it’s due.

thanks for your time.

If you live in Wellington and you are interested in exploring what computerised gait analysis , rehabilitation, acupuncture, podiatrist style custom orthotic prescription and deep tissue work can do for your stubborn pains let us know we are here to help. We regularly treat people with plantar fasciitis, heel pain, ankle sprains, knee pain, knee injuries, hip pain, groin pain and back pain.