Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Slow Medicine Journey

Slow Medicine. This is the title of a book by Dr. Michael Finkelstein. I highly recommend it as a guided in-depth exploration of one’s health, using the author’s 77 Questions for Skillful Living. Dr. Finkelstein, via his personal experience, discusses how Western medicine is great for acute injuries and minor illnesses, such as broken bones and sinus infections, but it has failed us in coping with chronic illnesses and long-term health issues, especially those related to lifestyle. He takes a “whole person” view of care and treatment, which is nearly impossible to find in today’s Western doctor population.

Please understand that I am not placing all the blame for our generally sad state of health on doctors. Much of it falls on lack of responsibility on the part of the patients as well. The general mentality is that folks really don’t want to change to get better, they want the doctor to fix it. It’s a lose-lose situation.

One of the maddening things I’ve noticed over my lifetime is that for many folks, if their doctor told them to jump off a cliff, they’d go do just that, no questions asked. The doctor knows best, and they close themselves off to other possibilities. Here’s a well-ignored fact: no doctor has ever healed anyone--we all, ultimately, heal ourselves. Our amazing bodies do the healing.

So why not simply work with our bodies, minds and spirits to heal ourselves? It takes too long. That’s “woowoo.” It’s not covered by insurance. I don’t want to change my diet or exercise or whatever. If I’m taking responsibility, I have no one to blame but myself. I can’t find anyone to support my efforts. On and on it goes.

Here’s a personal story of slow medicine. For several years I had an ache in my left hip, bearable, but fairly constant. I had unfortunately settled into the mentality of “I’m getting older, I’m gonna hurt somewhere.” Occasionally I would take an over-the-counter pain reliever. I maintained my usual activities of swimming, yoga, golf and walking, though the ache limited my walking to a mile at a time. I did not go to the doctor about it, because I knew he would look at my date of birth and say “arthritis.” (I’ve witnessed this too many times in my older-adult yoga student population.) I am extremely opposed to a doctor labeling me with a condition.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided that I’d had enough of the aching and embarked on finding a way to get rid of it. I started with my chiropractor, where I learned my sacrum was out of alignment, and we’ve cared for that with regular adjustments. Those started out weekly, and now I see her every 2-3 weeks. That was a beginning in taking care of the structural alignment problem. I also continued my regular monthly massage, focusing on the muscles around the hip.

There was a lot of following my intuition in this journey, as well as noting guidance offered to me along the way by others. One of my yoga students told me about Whole 30 (whole30.com), a diet-exploration plan that intrigued me. When I learned in May that another super-health-conscious friend had done the Whole 30 program, I was inspired to do it. It gave me valuable insight into how foods affect my body, with the added bonus that I had 25 fewer pounds for my hip to carry around. This same Whole 30 friend also told me about the Melt Method, a body movement system that works with the fascia, the connective tissue throughout our bodies. In September I began a daily regimen of using the Melt techniques, easy to do in about 20 minutes a day. That has been an incredibly important piece of the healing puzzle, and I can say that I rarely have hip pain anymore. I am up to walking two miles easily again.

However, after years of compensating for the hip pain, the muscles surrounding it, especially in my thigh, are still quite tight. Enter my amazing massage therapist again. I asked her to work on my IT band (muscle running along the outside of the thigh), and she applied kinesiology tape to that. It’s the stuff you see on the shoulders of basketball players. Who knew?!?! It has had a huge effect on my leg mobility, stiffness after sitting a while, and muscle tightness. I also learned that I can buy the tape online, and there are videos showing how to apply it to many parts of the body. Another piece of the healing puzzle falls into place. Holy cow, self-care, I love it.

This has been a year-long journey so far. I knew it would not be a quick fix. I’ve learned a lot of valuable information about myself along the way. I’ve made changes in what I eat. I’ve worked hard at maintaining an attitude of health as opposed to illness. No drugs or M.D.s were used in the process. Best of all, my hip rarely hurts anymore, and I’m convinced that if I continue using the techniques I’ve learned, that my muscles will relax. My body knows what to do if I support its innate healing capabilities. Yours does, too.
Knowing our vibrant health,

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