When it comes to some health concerns, it is often helpful to seek the care of a specialist. After all, who knows more about your specific affliction than a specialist in that area?
That said, I have a major, MAJOR pet peeve. I have noticed that some specialists are not trained to consider the rest of the body when considering treatment options. In fact, in general the health care system is set up to look at micro-systems and ignore the macro-system. When treatment plans are developed, rarely are they put together with the idea of supporting the whole person from head to toe. Sometimes, it is even apparent that the song I learned in elementary school, “the hip bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to the ankle bone” is not considered. There are a myriad of things to think about to determine which plan of action is best for the well being of the whole patient.
It is imperative you bring awareness of your health to the table when you talk with your doctor. You can help yourself and your doctor by asking the following specific questions:
- Is the suggested treatment plan wise for other aspects of my health? For example, if steroid shots are suggested, will those affect blood sugar in a safe way? Or if surgery is recommended, can the rest of the body tolerate the recovery process or would steps need to be taken to help the recovery process go more smoothly?
- What other body parts may be affected by the procedure and the recovery process? The body compensates for a weak body part by sort of picking up the slack in other areas of the body. What would your doctor recommend to ameliorate those potential side effects?
- What can I do to prevent repercussions from various procedures? Considering pain tolerance, past history with medications and general preference, pain killer medications are not a one size fits all. Having several options available that align with the patient’s wishes is important. Would physical therapy or massage therapy be helpful? Is it okay to take Chinese herbs or homeopathy for pain?
- What nutrition will be necessary to help me heal? Depending on the patient’s constitution, some foods will be better to speed the healing process than others. For example, a menstruating woman who tends to be anemic will require more blood nourishing foods such as red meat, beets, eggs and dark green leafy veggies.
- What complementary therapies can help me heal faster and prevent post-surgical complications? Acupuncture before and after surgery can enhance surgical outcomes in the way of the patient healing faster. In knee replacement patients, getting off pain medications and achieving desired range of motion seems to happen at a quicker pace. Homeopathy, medical massage and chiropractic care can also help.
- Is my treatment plan going to be life-altering? Changes in health can be stressful and hard to know how to handle. Life or health coaching or counseling may be helpful to make transitions less stressful.
Doctors are people, too, and it is unreasonable to expect just one or two to carry the entire load regarding your care. Depending on the chief complaint, receiving adjunctive treatment from acupuncturists, massage therapists, chiropractors and psychologists/counselors could be helpful to alleviate the chief complaint all together. Those modalities can also be used in combination with the care plan provided by the specialist.
You may be thinking, “All of that sounds just swell, Dr. Schulte, but let’s get real; most insurance companies do not pay for nutrition consults, acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, etc.” That may or may not be true. My question to you is, should it matter that much? It is important to consider what is more important to you, being healthy or not being healthy? Are you willing to risk your health by depending strictly on what the government or your insurance company is willing to pay for in terms of diagnostics or care? Do you ever wonder why insurance companies are often unwilling to pay for treatments that maintain health? I definitely do.
Take your health by the reins and get it where you want it to be. It is up to you and no one else.