Last week I was treating a patient of mine, who it appeared had seen just about everyone to help her with her pain. Unfortunately this isn’t the first case of it’s kind that I’ve seen, in fact many patients with persistent pain have this all too familiar narrative. As the inevitable silence descended down upon the room during treatment, I began to ponder why would a patient need to see so many different practitioners to deal with a problem…. and so I asked.
“I don’t know who I’m supposed to see” she said. The response, while apparently simple, did get me thinking. Who would I see if I needed some help with pain? How would I go about finding the correct practitioner for my complaint?
Choice is good when it comes to healthcare, but the saturation of promised pain solutions we have access to can become slightly overwhelming. With the addition of Dr. Google, endless online content and the constant social media discourse, we are now inundated with an infinite pool of cure all exercise videos for back pain, recipes for chronic gut conditions and know-it-all bloggers telling us what’s best; it’s no wonder there is a little confusion! To help navigate your way through the internet health maze, here are some important things to consider:
What kind of modality would you like?
Natural products, herbs and nutritional products – the most popular of complementary therapies. These include herbal or botanical medicines, certain vitamins, minerals, dietary supplements and probiotics.
‘Hands on’ therapies or body work – based on touch or manipulation of soft tissue, muscles and joints. Includes massage and Bowen therapy. Osteopathy and chiropractic are often spoken of as complementary therapies, but in Australia, these therapies are classed as allied health treatments.
Mind-body therapies – aim to influence physical functioning and promote health using the mind, thoughts and feelings. Work on interactions among the brain, mind, body and behaviour. Includes acupuncture, meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, guided imagery and support groups.
Energy-based therapies – based on manipulation of ‘energy fields’ in the body. Includes reiki, kinesiology, magnet and light therapies
Movement therapies – such as Feldenkrais method, Alexander technique, pilates, Rolfing and Trager integration.
Whole (alternative) medical systems – such as ayurvedic, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), naturopathy and homeopathy.
(Courtesy of Better Health)
2. What are your expectations and goals of treatment?
- Reduced risk of disease
- Feeling more relaxed
- Supporting health
- A cure
- Assistance with managing the condition
- Pain relief
- Reduced risk of complication
3. Speak to your friends and family
Most of us will have people close to us who have seen a particular practitioner for some ailment or another. This is a great way to get insight into a particular modality, practitioner or treatment style. Don’t just take their advice as gospel, ask them what the practitioner helped them with and why they liked them.
4. Ask a health professional you trust
1 in 5 Australians suffer from chronic pain and often consult their GP as first point of call (2). GP recommendations are worthwhile investigating as they can have some good insight into local practitioners, with whom other patients may have attained good results. However, also be wary, as there is minimal information provided in GP training about some health services and hence there may be other more appropriate options available. If you are already seeing a health professional for a complaint, ask if they know of anyone who might be of assistance. They may actually be able to help you or let you know someone who can.
5. Do your research
Most clinics will have practitioner bios available on the website and I suggest you sift through this information in order to get an idea of who you are dealing with . Look if they have an interest in working with particular complaints and what kind of approach or management style they have. Given that you are going to be working with this practitioner, it’s important you actually like them. Do they have similar interests to you? Do they have similar beliefs about health?
Next, ring up and ask to speak to the practitioner directly, if they can’t, insist they call you back. This gives you a great opportunity to have an initial interaction with the practitioner. Give them a brief idea of what’s going on and then ask them the following;
- Do they have any experience working with complaints similar to yours?
- How might they address such a complaint?
- Is there any evidence for effective treatment of these issues for their chosen modality?
6. Give it a go
Once you have made a well thought out selection, temper your expectations.Your chronic pain will not disappear in one visit. Give the therapy and your body a chance to do it’s work. Four visits should be enough to give you an idea if it is worth pursuing.
Here are some things to ask your practitioner regarding your complaint to give you an idea if they are on the right track;
- What is the problem?
- How long will it take to get better?
- How is your treatment going to help this?
- What is my role in the recovery?
Whilst it may seem like a little time investment, making an educated decision may save you a lot more than just time and money in the longer term!