There’s a phrase that goes something like ‘when you’ve got a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.“ It’s an interesting little take on problem solving, basically asking yourself if this is really the best way to solve a given problem or have I just looked at the tools available to me and decided this is the best way that I could solve the problem at the moment. The answer to each question could be the same, but they could also be incredibly off.
How many times have you gone to a specialist you thought could help you? This professional came highly recommended, had more certifications than you could count and was so certain that you would improve by working with them. You eagerly signed up, started treatment and then…nothing! No improvements.
Still facing the same challenges as before. Still dealing with the pain you started with. And now you have the addition of a poor experience with a medical professional.
What if it wasn’t the medical professional’s fault?
What if all they had were hammers, and you weren’t really a nail.
The current model for western medicine is specification. See your Primary Care Physician, get a prescription and see a specialist from there. What you may not know is that after that initial visit, you go into the system as a diagnosis code. A diagnosis code is an easy way for healthcare professionals to effectively treat and refer individuals of similar presentations.
So you can imagine that once I’ve gotten your diagnosis code that I can now see you as a certain type of patient. From what I know about this diagnosis code, I can create a plan of care that should, in theory, fix what ails you. But therein lies the problem. The second you become a diagnosis code, I’m no longer fixing you. I’m fixing the diagnosis that has been presented before me. And this is not to say that diagnosis codes are evil. I’ve seen first hand just how helpful they can be in effectively treating some really life threatening issues.
But maybe it’s not the way we should be treating everything.
The term chronic means ‘persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.’ So right there, we can surmise that most chronic conditions are not life threatening. If they were, you wouldn’t have the opportunity for it to constantly recurring.
And if the train is just starting to move out of rhythm rather than careen off the tracks, wouldn’t we consider that the issue could be something much more subtle and much more specific for the current situation instead of something that fit any and all situations.
Medical professionals, myself included, are not always trained to see the whole body. Maybe we were taught this early on in our pre-requisite classes, but as we garnered more knowledge we undoubtedly began to be pulled towards one area of expertise.
Today’s medical system calls for better communication between the specialties to ensure that one area of dysfunction is not being overlooked as others are overtreated. Chronic conditions cannot be neatly tucked into a one size fits all treatment package. It’s time to start looking at the whole tool box, rather than just the hammer.
~Kevin Davi, Physical Therapist Doctor of Physical Therapy