One of our clients sent us a recent article from the Huffington Post about the meningitis outbreak in September of this year that has been linked to contaminated steroid injections, given mostly to patients with chronic neck or back pain, and a handful with joint pain.
Steroid Injections NOT the Answer
The most interesting thing to note about the article, as practitioners, is the author’s (an Assistant Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University) acknowledgement of the continued use of treatments that don’t work. She implores the medical community to begin to have “open and frank conversations about the potential harms of medical procedures and tests, especially when scientific evidence is murky or entirely lacking.”
Citing articles and studies from such sources as JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), Spine, Pain Physician and others the author states plainly, “there is no good scientific evidence that steroid injections help reduce back pain.”
Not only is there a lack of evidence that these shots work, but there is increased risk of side effects due to the use of steroids and in some cases they even make the patient worse, or as in this case with the meningitis outbreak, these invasive treatments can bring along a whole new set of problems for the patient.
In the stories we hear from patients who’ve been through this system, many times there is no discussion about what the patient could be doing to improve their condition on their own. The continuous search for a “magic bullet” to deliver some sort of immediate relief of symptoms for a patient in a chronic circumstance has become a total disservice.
While it’s true that patients in chronic pain desperately want relief, the question is: Is it ethical to give them an invasive, unproven procedure, just to try to appease them? Even if the shots did work at alleviating symptoms or pain — the truth is, these shots are not a cure but rather an attempt to mask an unpleasant but necessary warning signal from your body that something needs attention.
Treating the Problem not the Symptom
We’re often shocked when we get new clients in their 20 or 30’s who’ve already had back surgery. In most cases, little to no physical therapy, manual therapy or exercise were ever even suggested before these folks were recommended invasive procedures.
Does cutting into healthy tissue (as you do in surgery) and creating fresh scar tissue and adhesions really give the patient a long-term solution to a temporary problem? Does introducing liquids (as is the case with injections) to an area of the body in distress, thereby causing “artificial” inflammation, really work?
- How about trying massage to reduce the strain on the joint and to get the lactic acid moving out of the area, helping to break up and remove the adhesions that are causing the problem?
- How about looking at your work station; your car (how you enter and exit it); your bed (how you sleep at night), and other body mechanics that are at work to see if these daily activities are the source of the problem to begin with?
- How about strengthening exercises, and working on proper body alignment to allow the body a more balanced place to begin the healing process?
This body of ours is a wonderful machine, one that will self correct and heal when given the right tools and assistance.
Patients are coming to understand more and more that it is up to them to find alternative ways to treat conditions whose solutions have become both invasive and ineffective. It’s up to YOU, the patient, to take responsibility for your health and well-being. You must seek second and even third opinions before subjecting yourself to procedures that are irreversible. It’s worth it to give your body the chance to take care of its problem before seeking artificial methods of treatment that can lead to even greater imbalance in the body.
This takes time and commitment and in our hectic lives — it is hard to do, but look at the alternatives.
We don’t keep track of statistics or employ formal studies (we leave that to the scientists) but we have all the proof we need, when we see the results in our clients — many of whom come to us concerned about their doctor’s recommendation of injections or surgery. We work with their bodies and give them resources for strengthening and balance. They improve dramatically from our work, both because we assist the body to start healing and because we remind the client that it is their responsibility to listen and care for their bodies.
We’re often amused when people say to us “Why does it hurt there?” Our standard response is, “I don’t know, I just visit every once in a while, you live there.” It may sound glib but understanding this concept is actually the first step on the path to body awareness and self-healing. We then begin the work of understanding when the pain started by asking questions like:
- What were they doing at the time that the pain started?
- Are they continuing to do the same action that caused the pain?
- Can we think of a better way to do it, to allow the body time to heal?
The number one thing we do for our patients is to facilitate their body awareness, getting them back in touch with their bodies and helping them use that information to understand what needs to be done to get better. Once we are reconnected with ourselves, healing and prevention become much less of a puzzle and much more of state of being conscious.
It’s important to remember that the instinct of your body is to return to balance and to a state of ease, not dis-ease. You have only to listen to what your body’s telling you.
If you have chronic back, neck, shoulder or joint pain and would like to begin to better manage or resolve those issues today, contact us for an appointment. We will work in conjunction with the rest of your healthcare team to ensure the best possible outcomes and assist in putting you in the driver seat to your good health.