Putting it into Perspective

It’s an interesting and amazing feeling to be treated by some of your biggest mentors. I had the pleasure of experiencing this – I say “pleasure” in that as a patient and a student it was a great experience but not loving that I needed to have treatment.

A couple weeks ago I reinjured my lower back, the debilitating kind of injury where I couldn’t stand, bend, turn, laugh, cough, etc without shooting pain across my back and along my glutes. Finally admitting that I need treatment I begged my mentors to treat me and luckily, as busy as they are, they were able to fit me in. Not only did I walk away feeling better physically, but there were so many take-aways both as a patient and practitioner that I thought I’d share.


One of the biggest messages is to look at the bigger picture. Just because the pain was at my lower back doesn’t mean that is where treatment should start. I received a full functional screen within my abilities, which ultimately led to treatments that did NOT start at the location of pain. The first treatment involved acupuncture of the abdominals, hips and quads with soft tissue work around the hips. The second treatment involved treating my old ankle injury which – without even touching my back and with doing some intentional localized soft tissue micro-conditioning at the ankle had a dramatic influence on both my ankle function and forward bend. The rest of the treatment involved treating along the leg, hips and then the back with Neurofunctional acupuncture and micro-conditioning along specific nerve pathways. I felt UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. Full lumbar flexion, full ankle range and increased stability. Needless to say I felt like I was walking on air, much different than the old lady that walked into those treatments.

Unbelievable might not be the right word but as a patient in this scenario I felt the magic that can happen when you get treatment by someone who understands the complexity of the human body and can look beyond the location of pain. As a neurofunctional practitioner I strive to think, see and treat in that manner as well. It helps to seek every opportunity to be around the people doing just that as often as possible – that is why I’ve been assisting at the McMaster Contemporary Acupuncture program for the last 4 years and taking other courses being offered by the lead instructors.

Learning opportunities are everywhere

Every experience offers learning opportunities. Every learning opportunity involves an experience – which can be, in the moment, felt as negative or positive. While I was particularly frustrated by my recent back injury (third one in 3 years) it allowed me the recent experience to get even further inside my mentors’ head by experiencing their skills first hand. Which will allow for further transference into my own practice. Outside of that it has also forced me to slow down, pay particular attention to my body and what it is telling me, and do the activities in the quantity, intensity and frequency that feels right (from workouts to work to social and sleep/rest).

Take aways as a patient:

  • Be picky about your practitioners

  • Are they looking at you as a whole or fixating on a particular area?

  • Is the treatment always the same thing?

  • Are you seeing changes within a reasonable amount of time or have you gone for treatment for weeks or months with minimal to no results

  • Is treatment functionally driven (aka are they relating treatment to meaningful movements and incorporating functional activity for home exercise)

  • Take ownership of your health

  • The practitioner is like your sherpa – he or she will lead the way (educate you), offload some of your heavy baggage (treat your system for dysfunction created by daily habits/activity) but you are doing the prep to do the hike and only you can climb that mountain so eat right, exercise properly, get good rest, and of course listen to your guide (do your homework!)

  • Ultimately, how well you do is up to you!

Take aways as a practitioner

  • Always keep learning – seek all sorts of avenues to learn new skills or refine your current ones. Do not become complacent or pigeon hole yourself into one mode of practice – learning is growing, both professionally and personally

  • Don’t treat the pain, treat the dysfunction – chasing the pain doesn’t work. Its that simple.

  • Think neurofunctionally first – what controls everything in our body? Our nervous system – if you aren’t thinking neurologically, you are missing a BIG piece of the puzzle.

  • Take the time you need with patients and don’t be afraid to ask for it! I still and will continue to struggle with this but ultimately, 15-20mins with a patient is absolutely ridiculous if you think you’ll do anything meaningful with them. I find 30 mins a struggle! Its not up to the patient to know that, it is up to you to educate them on what they need. Its up to the patient to decide but if you think you’ll make a lasting change with anything less than an hour you’re doing a disservice to your skills and skill development and to the patient. I’m encouraging at least an hour per session to allow for sufficient treatment and pre and post treatment assessments.

  • You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with – stick around those who inspire you and challenge you. Follow those people who are getting the results you want to be getting for your patients and living the life you want to live.

  • Its so easy to get caught up in helping others, moving forward in your career, staying on top of everything personally/socially, etc etc that you forget to take care of yourself. Find your balance – it goes in waves but recognize when you are stressing your system and take a step back before you are forced to (via injury or otherwise, me being case and point!)

Hopefully that has offered some insight as a patient and/or practitioner for whoever is reading this. Thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any questions/comments feel free to reach out!

#physio #acupuncture #fitness #health #wellness

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