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Under-appreciated Alternatives to Medication or Surgery

Often, when faced with pain or physical discomfort, our first instinct is to seek relief through medication or, in more serious cases, surgery. Unfortunately these treatments are not without their risks & or downsides.

A Few Downsides to Taking Medication:

  1. Side Effects: Almost all medications come with side effects, some of which can be as bothersome or even worse than the original problem.

  2. Dependency: Over time, the body can become reliant on certain medications, particularly pain relievers.

  3. Cost: Medications, especially specialized ones, can be expensive, even with insurance.

  4. Masking Symptoms: They might offer relief but not treat the underlying cause.

  5. Interactions: Medications can interact with other drugs or supplements you may be taking, causing adverse reactions.

A Few Downsides to Having Surgery:

  1. Recovery Time: All surgeries require some downtime, which may interfere with your daily activities or work.

  2. Potential Complications: From anesthesia risks to post-op infections, surgeries come with inherent risks.

  3. Cost: Surgeries, even with insurance, can be costly. This includes pre-surgery investigations, the surgery itself, and post-operative care.

  4. Not Guaranteed Success: Surgery doesn’t always provide the desired outcome, and in some cases, the problem may reoccur or new problems might arise.

  5. Physical and Emotional Stress: Going under the knife can be a significant stressor, not just physically but emotionally as well.

The fact that these 2 options appear to be somewhat reflexive is not unique to any one person, but rather more or less a global perspective regarding healthcare & it's evolution over the years. Unfortunately it seems that it has somehow deviated from it's beginnings which has now become more fixated on the business side of the equation thanks to the pharmaceutical industries, among others. However, there's a more broad perspective that is often mentioned in passing, almost as an after thought, when it comes to your body & your overall health & wellness. Throughout this post we'd like to highlight some of the "after thoughts" to medication & or surgery when confronting some of the body's more common ailments.

1. Health & Wellness: At the heart of your well-being is a balance of physical, emotional, and mental health. The WHO defines health as, "a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being & not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Health or the ability to become healthy results from a unique interplay between a person & their environment in the context of a number of specific dimensions. The most common dimensions of wellness include physical, occupational, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, & social. Others have added a few other dimensions such as finances, creativity, environmental, etc. Regardless the point remains the same, there is a much more nuanced complexity to our overall health than just our biology alone.

The idea of wellness actually builds on the definition of health by acknowledging that there are varying "degrees" of health within each dimension that when combined lays the foundation for a "continuum of wellness" so to speak. This continuum spans from premature death to optimal potential, with any point you may find yourself between the 2 extremes. Both medications & surgeries often target the symptoms of the immediate problem but often don't actually address the root cause of the actual problem. Adopting a holistic view towards your health should involve looking at all the dimensions of wellness within your life & how they contribute to your overall well-being.

Basic Dimensions of Wellness Include:

  • Physical: wellness of your physical body; this is influenced by factors such as your body weight, physical fitness, & ability to perform everyday activities

  • Occupational: personal satisfaction & enrichment in your life's work; at the heart of this is your beliefs & attitude toward your work; Are you using your gifts, skills & talents in a way that is both meaningful & rewarding to you?

  • Intellectual: considers creative & mental activities as well as your openness to new ideas or others views; How well do you analyze, synthesize & act on new information?

  • Emotional: pertains to the ability to deal with stress, to be flexible & our attitude toward ourselves & life in general; improves your ability to get through the rigors of life; also includes self-acceptance, self-control & trust

  • Spiritual: focuses on the meaning & purpose of life; includes the ability to forgive, show compassion & to love; this also guides our decisions through the "code" we live by as related to our ethics, values & morals

  • Social: relates to your contribution to your community & society as a whole; taking an active role in your community; effectiveness of communication with others in your community

2. Physical Activity, Fitness, & Exercise: One of the most effective ways to promote overall health is to maintain a consistent level of physical fitness and activity. Regular exercise can:

  • Boost the immune system

  • Improve cardiovascular health

  • Enhance muscular strength and flexibility

  • Release endorphins which are natural mood lifters

This can be especially important if you are facing musculoskeletal issues, where strengthening the body can often alleviate or, at the least, improve the problem. Physical activity is any movement of your body that is accomplished by your muscles that results in energy expenditure over & above your resting state. In years past our everyday life revolved around physical activities you performed to "get the job done", whether it be on the farm, at the ranch or any one of the many physically demanding jobs available at the time. With the advancement of technology things changed to the point that the majority of our society now performs a job that is considered to be sedentary in nature. Sedentary doesn't necessarily mean easy, but rather work that is primarily performed in, more or less, a seated position. This type of posture or activity doesn't afford our body's the stimulus it needs to increase, much less maintain, our physical fitness.

Physical fitness is defined, "as the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor & alertness, without undue fatigue, & with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits & meet

unforeseen emergencies." Furthermore, if you are physically fit, by definition, after spending your day performing what you "have to do" you still have enough energy to do those things you "want to do" AS WELL AS being able to respond to any emergency that may present.

More Benefits of Becoming Physically Fit:

  • Enhanced Mental Health: Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of depression, cognitive decline, & anxiety. The endorphins released during exercise act as natural painkillers and mood elevators.

  • Chronic Disease Prevention: Consistent activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, & hypertension. It aids in controlling blood glucose levels, improving blood circulation, & maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.

  • Improved Sleep: Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster & deepen your sleep, which in turn helps in better rest and recovery for the body and mind.

  • Increased Longevity: Research has shown that physically active people have a lower risk of premature death than those who are inactive.

  • Bone & Muscle Health: Weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, or resistance training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Furthermore, they enhance muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which is crucial as one ages.

  • Optimal Weight Management: Through the burning of calories & the building of muscle, exercise plays an indispensable role in achieving & maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Nutrition: What we feed our bodies also deeply influences our health. Proper nutrition can help combat inflammation, promote healing, & provide the necessary building blocks for muscle and bone strength. In fact, nutrition is the cornerstone of health & plays a pivotal role not just in maintaining good health, but also in preventing & managing a range of diseases.

More Benefits of Nutrition:

  • Disease Prevention: Balanced nutrition supports the immune system, making it harder for illnesses to take hold. For instance, consuming adequate vitamin C can boost immunity, while omega-3 fatty acids from fish can reduce inflammation in the body.

  • Chronic Disease Management: Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, & certain cancers have been linked to dietary patterns. Proper nutrition can manage or even reverse some of these conditions. For example, a diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber can help manage cholesterol levels, potentially reducing heart disease risk.

  • Bone Health: Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake are crucial for bone health, helping prevent osteoporosis and fractures, especially as we age.

  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is more than just aesthetics. It reduces the risk of various diseases, including heart disease, stroke, & type 2 diabetes. Balanced nutrition, paired with physical activity, can aid in achieving & maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Mental Health: Certain nutrients, like B vitamins, iron, & omega-3 fatty acids, have been linked to mood regulation. A diet deficient in these can increase the risk of conditions like depression.

Nutrition, when combined with physical activity, is an extremely potent tool for maintaining as well as improving your overall health. It's essential to weigh these factors against the potential benefits. We always should aim for the least invasive & most natural approach first. That's where physical therapy, combined with lifestyle changes, with a focus on the dimensions of wellness, come in to play.

Your journey towards better health doesn't have to be walked alone. A physical therapist can help you navigate your path, ensuring you have the best tools & knowledge available to achieve your health goals. Through guided exercises, manual techniques, & therapeutic modalities, we aim to alleviate pain, restore function, and improve overall quality of life. So before opting for surgery or long-term medication use, you may want to consider giving your body the chance to heal & strengthen naturally.

If you aren't sure which way to turn or you need help choosing which path is right for your, please don't hesitate to reach out to us here at 4th Corner. We'd love the opportunity to be in your corner!

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