Sometimes it is good to reflect on what we believe. I have had to do quite a bit of that as a physio lately. Things that I have been taught at Uni haven’t quite stood the test of time with research questioning the ‘truth’ that underpinned my understanding of the way our bodies work. In some things my understanding has been too simplistic – in other things I have probably been just plain wrong. It is uncomfortable to acknowledge that and be prepared to look at things in a new light.
I was reminded of this in a lecture by Professor Tim Noakes. In it he outlines his career and the different research focuses he has had over that time. He also points out that a lot of what they ended up discovering was not what they expected and challenged current thinking. It is an interesting lecture to have a listen to!
I like his comment at the end of his talk – “50% of what we teach is wrong. The problem is that we don’t know which 50% is its! The educated person spends a life time trying to figure out which 50% it is. Until disproven, accept that for which the evidence appears solid and logical and is free of covert or overt conflicts of interest. Do not ever dismiss lightly that for which there is credible evidence. Question everything else”
Chronic pain has been one of those journeys for me. I have had to readjust my thinking when it comes to treating those with persisting pain in the STEPP program in Nowra. I have had to acknowledge that our brain and perception of threat plays a very large role in what drives this pain. Trying to focus solely on finding a specific physical cause is probably not that helpful – but this was the way my physio brain would like to problem solve. I may not have even considered what role the brain had to play.
The same sort of belief changing process has to occur for the chronic pain sufferer as well. There are many entrenched beliefs that have to be challenged if you really want to move forward. And letting go of something that has driven you for months or years (trying to find that magic bullet cure, holding onto an MRI scan that ‘proves’ why you have pain, arguing with insurance companies….the list goes on) can be uncomfortable, but a necessary part of the process of becoming well again. Realising that you are way more than a ‘bad back’ or ‘shoulder dysfunction’ and being prepared to work on all the drivers of your unique pain story is the direction to restoring health and function.