I spent Friday morning at the chiropractors. Upholding the ‘stereotypical man’ (what’s one of those?) it’s taken me 18 months or so to take this niggling back pain seriously.
After filling in a solid five-page ‘new patient form’ I was called in to see the chiropractor.
After looking at the notes I’d given there were a number of choices:
- Jump straight in, prod and poke and send me on my way with some painkillers
- Jump straight in and manipulate my back to reduce the pain
- Ask me the most important question. ‘What’s the problem that brings you here today?’
That was only the first question. It was followed by a volley of questions that, on the face of it, seemed far from the initial issue.
‘How long have you had it for?’
‘Scale 1-10, what’s the pain at its best and its worst?’
‘When did you begin to notice?’
‘What are you typically doing when it gets painful?’
‘What job do you do?’
‘What does it stop you doing?’
‘What injuries or surgeries have you had in the past?’
Then, a flurry of instructions.
‘Stand on the scales for me please.’
‘Touch your toes’.
‘Raise your right knee to your chest, now your left’
Only then did I hop on the table (is it a table?) for the chiropractor to go anywhere near me. And even then, it was nowhere near my back.
Ankles. Feet. Knees. Hips. Pelvis. Shoulders. Arms. Neck.
And then, the diagnosis.
‘I know what it is and it’s easy enough for me to fix the symptoms and the pain. What I’m really looking to do is to get to the cause’. Perfect.
‘It’s your left knee that you injured and had surgery on. Your brain and body are overcompensating to protect it and it’s rotating your pelvis, putting your back and neck out of alignment. That’s why your back hurts in the bottom right’.
Ok I thought. Makes sense. Now the manipulation?
‘Here are the exercises I need you to do for your knee, and the behavioural changes I need you to build to reduce the impact. When you sit, make sure the knee is straight up and not leaning out to the side, same when you’re driving.’
Ok. I can do that.
‘And you’ll need this heel lift to help, too. It’ll just make the process a bit easier’. So, yes, I now have a small piece of cork I carry round and stick in my left shoe every time. Like an invisible Cuban heel. I don’t need to be any taller.
I walked out feeling satisfied and then had a light bulb when I sat in the car.
There was no manipulation of my back. No actual ‘treatment’ that I’d paid for or maybe expected. I had a load of seemingly basic and functional exercises to do, a miniature Cuban heel to carry around and small behavioural changes to make so I rewire my brain/body relationship. It’s on me.
And it made me think about my job in learning. It’s also valuable for other jobs and industries, too.
How easy would it have been for the chiropractor to manipulate my back, relieve the symptom and send me on my way?
I’d be back there in weeks with the same issue and feeling like I hadn’t been helped.
And I think to my role and how many times we’ve done this as an industry (admit it, even you’ve done it), giving what’s being asked for and the problem popping back up because we haven’t fixed it.
The chiropractor took their job as a professional deadly seriously and for them it was less about ‘fixing my back’ and more about ‘fixing my brain and body’ for a better quality of life.
It makes we wonder.
When we’re just tending to the presenting symptoms are we operating as real professionals? Are we just ‘cracking backs’ to show that we’re doing what expected of us?
Or are we acting as true professionals and getting to the root of the issue, rebuilding behaviours, habits and putting the onus on the person to change, rather than expect they will be changed by us?