It’s easy to cut corners on your health. You can get away with almost anything in the short term (smoking, for example). And the human body does heal. When you get hurt, you can usually get better without help, or so it seems. If your car could fix itself, you’d probably never take it to a mechanic ever again!
The “miraculous healing powers” of the human body are, from another perspective, not all they are cracked up to be. Healing from injury is often an awkward and incomplete solution. We don’t so much get better as we learn to “work around” the pain. If it hurts to turn your head to the left after a whiplash injury, for instance, you will probably stop turning left — permanently.The “miraculous healing powers” of the human body are not all they are cracked up to be.
Such a patient once demonstrated his range of motion to me. When he turned his head to the right, all was normal. When he turned it left, his entire torso rotated! Yet he was unaware that he was “cheating” every time he turned his head that direction.
The human body is indeed a marvel of adaptability, but it is nowhere near as good at actually healing as we think it is. Later in life, the quality of life is usually eroded by the consequences of these accumulated adaptations and compromises.
But no one wants to pay a dime more than they have to for anything, including health care. It’s not that most people can’t afford health care — if you can afford to maintain and repair a car, you can afford to maintain and repair your body — it’s that they won’t do it if they can possibly get away it.
Forced to choose between your pocketbook and a pain that you can put up with but probably shouldn’t put up with, you are going to choose to save money every time. I know I do. Because of this simple equation, we need universal public health insurance (American readers please bear in mind that I’m writing from Canada, where we actually have universal public health insurance, in theory). Unfortunately, there isn’t a government in the world right now that is footing the bill for preventative health care, and many other services are not adequately provided either.My clients are courageous visionaries, people who believe that their health is a high enough priority to pay for it.
I am a Registered Massage Therapist — an expensive expert in musculoskeletal health care. I treat the most common of human health problems: the aches and pains that are the early warning signs, the causes, and the consequences of the most common ailments and injuries of life (i.e. back pain). My clients are courageous visionaries, people who believe that their health is a high enough priority to pay for it, and they actually put their money where their mouths are, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on my services each year.
Unfortunately, there are so many others — the great majority — who do not make their health a high enough priority to pay for it, or could not afford to even if they did. I sympathize with them all. Even my most affluent clients spend no more than necessary!
I find myself in the awkward position of wanting to compensate, in whatever small ways I can, for the lack of universal public health insurance. I minimize the cost of my services however I can. My career has become an exercise in educating my clients as quickly and effectively as possible, so that we can keep them out of my office! I have spent years condensing my knowledge into the most digestible nuggets of wisdom, the most relevant and explanatory imagery, the most interesting, practical, and affordable ideas about how to take care of yourself.
In truth, most people could benefit from an hour of massage therapy once per week for the rest of their lives to help them compensate for the constant barrage of stressors in their lives, even just to stay “tuned in” to the valuable messages constantly being broadcast by their tissues, if only anyone were listening. And it would be easier than trying to teach my clients everything I know. But the reality is, only the most wealthy and/or determined clients see me this regularly.
Everyone else, if they won’t or can’t spend that much time in my office, needs information instead.
Biological literacy is just as important as other basic academic skills, and maybe more, if you think that your chronic pain is coming from your tibula or perhaps your quadriglutator. I often hear both patients and, alas, professionals talking about the anatomy of injuries with great ignorance and confidence — a nasty combination. They believe pain is coming from a part of them that literally doesn’t exist, or not in that neck of their woods. This is problematic.
The need is great. None of us learns the slightest useful thing about our own bodies in grade school. When I started my own training in health care, I barely knew a bruise from a blister. People generally don’t know even what they are made of or the basic conditions that need to exist for healing. The average person knows much less about their own body and healing than they do about, say, internal combustion engines. Consider the consequences of this …
Someone comes to me with a problem like plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the bottom of the foot), a problem that has been keeping him off his feet for three years — resulting in significant weight gain, depression, and an increased risk of heart disease — and he tells me that he has “tried everything” when in fact he has tried hardly anything at all yet.
When I started my career, my advice was only available to my paying customers, the visionary minority who are willing to pay for preventative care. To the extent that I have been able to educate them as we work, I helped to fill in the gap left by a lack of public health insurance. The vast majority of the population, however, still doesn’t know what to do when they pull a muscle or get flattened by back pain.I wish I had started learning this stuff in grade two.
Years later, the articles on SaveYourself.ca now constitute a user friendly text book for a class you should have had in grade school. Everyone should know this stuff. It may put me out of business if everyone does — but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
The goal of SaveYourself.ca is to help you understand how you work, so that the skills and tools described here can make sense and can be easily remembered, adapted and applied in different situations, and even passed on to others. Furthermore, it will also help you learn, remember and make use of other information about your body, from any other source, for the rest of your life. That’s the promise of biological literacy.
I wish I had started learning this stuff in grade two. It is the prerequisite for self-knowledge and personal growth, for the use of all health care services, for the prevention of injury and illness, and, of course, the part of health care closest to my heart: troubleshooting the aches and pains that are the highest health care priority for most people, most of the time.
These are all the articles in the Biological Literacy series: