Not long ago, I took a course about techniques for treating back pain. It was a great course and I learned a lot, but there was one thing in particular that the instructor said that really made me think. He said that most American people live in a constant state of “crisis intervention.” Put simply, it means that we overload ourselves with so many projects and responsibilities, that nothing can hold our attention unless it is so urgent that it forces its way to the top of our bulging To-Do list. We notice that the dishes are piling up but don’t wash them until we literally run out of forks. We notice our car making a funny sound, but don’t call a mechanic until we’re already stranded at the side of the road. Do you see the pattern?
This “crisis intervention” idea applies to our lifestyles in so many different ways. Projects pile up at work and the only one that gets our attention is the one that the boss needs by 5 o’clock sharp. The gutters need cleaned at home but don’t get done until the roof starts leaking. We know that if we could take care of things before they became emergencies we could save ourselves frustration and time, never mind a fair amount of money. And yet, our behavior doesn’t change.
Perhaps the most troubling thing that we keep on the back burner is our own health and wellness. Ask around and you will find few people who aren’t harboring a few concerns about their own well being. Many of these small concerns don’t get attention because people think things will resolve on their own. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “I can live with it, but if it gets worse maybe I’ll see my doctor.” To those people, I say this: Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. When the pain gets worse, it means that the cause of the pain got worse too.
Remember that as injuries become more severe, they become harder to treat. I often look at people who are having surgery to correct a painful condition and wonder, “Could they have avoided that surgery if they had only addressed the problem sooner?” In many cases I believe the answer is yes. While there are certainly cases when a severe injury requires immediate surgery to repair the damage, I wonder how often people need surgery because of a chronic condition that was ignored for too long. Could that idea be motivation to address problems with our bodies before they reach the crisis level?
Whether you have back pain or knee pain or headaches or some other problem, I urge you to consider talking to a healthcare professional about it. They can help you find out how to get the problem under control before it becomes a crisis. I’m not telling you that you should run off to the doctor’s office for every ache, pain or blister that comes your way. I’m telling you to listen to your body. When you feel like something is wrong, trust your intuition and take care of the problem before it gets worse! The dishes will still be waiting for you when you get home.