You wake up one morning to look in the mirror and discover a bloated and swollen face, especially around your eyes. You think, "Man, I need to back off the wine. This is bad." After splashing cold water on your face hoping to shock yourself into an semi-alert state, you take one more look. Better, but still a little swollen.
As the day goes on, your face seems to shrink to its normal size and shape; your energy comes back up. You feel fairly good. But, the next morning it's back. The puffy, swollen eyes look like something out of a horror film. You finally decide after a week of this scenario, you had better find out what's wrong.
There's something awry in this story. Something bad. And, it comes disguised as puffy eyes.
The culprit is Superior Vena Cava Syndrome secondary to cancer. You have lung cancer and it shows up as a puffy, swollen face.
So, imagine how you would feel to hear your doctor say, "It's just some swelling. Just rub your face a few times a day and it'll go away."
Not so good. Right?
A similar story plays out thousands of times per day all over the world but the characters are different. Instead of a puffy, swollen face, you have back pain. Instead of cancer, you have disc disease. But, patients with back pain are often told, "You'll just have to learn to live with it," or, "Try some ice or stretching or maybe acupuncture." The back pain is treated with just about anything imaginable to get rid of the pain and without regard for the underlying cause. Just like rubbing your face when you have cancer.
Pain from a musculoskeletal injury or disease is a symptom that deserves as much attention and as much thoughtful decision making as the pain from cancer. But, it doesn't. Why? Who's fault is it? Everyone's. From the clinicians who tout a quick fix to the the patients who want one. But, fundamentally it's the clinician who makes the call. It's the clinician who's the patient's agent; acting in his or her patient's best interest. It's the clinician who understands that pain is a symptom and the course of action is derived from the cause of the symptom. And, when a clinician doesn't know the cause, you keep searching, visiting other specialists until you have exhausted every avenue, every possible answer. The treatment of symptoms is important, of course, but it is like fixing a flat tire with a rubber patch. When the road gets rough, you're in trouble. What you need is a comprehensive solution that you understand and can implement over the course of your life; not a patch.
The quickest way to determine if a proposed course of treatment is a solution you should follow is to ask this question: "Is this what you would do for your mother?" Cuts right through the craposphere. Any hesitation, fumbling, or lack of clarity, keep looking. Bottom line, folks - if you hurt and someone tells you, with about as much care as you can put in a thimble, to "live with it" or "rub it a little" or "take this and call me if it still bothers you.", then keep looking. Don't just "rub your face".
PS - We have an awesome seminar on back pain. If you have back pain or know someone who does, call now to get your seat. This is a standing room only talk every time we hold it.