How do most people think of the spectrum which is health & disease? I think Diagrams (1) & (2) capture what the majority would say: either you are in a state of health, or you are not. Those who are active would have a gap of injury and illness between health and diseased because being active would lead them to eventually experiencing times where they didn’t necessarily feel 100% because of a strain, sprain or fatigue that results in being susceptible to a cold, whereas those who are inactive would likely believe that its binary: either nothing is wrong and you can call yourself healthy, or if everything isn’t right, then there is something wrong and a disease process must be underlying even a small ache or slight cough.
Why does any of this matter?
I believe how we look at the health <> disease spectrum matters, alot. I believe how we look at the spectrum determines how proactive we are in regards to our health, or how inactive we are. I believe it determines whether we feel able to intervene through our lifestyle to making ourselves healthier, or conversely turns us into victims if we believe that disease just happens.
This all comes down to whether or not we identify states between health & disease, and if so, how we define those states. The perspective we have on the health <> disease spectrum determines not only when we seek medical intervention, but what type of intervention, and how often we seek it. It also determines what we do to in order to not have to seek medical intervention and if diagnosed with a disease what role we see ourselves taking in the restoration of our health.
Take for instance this individual… they started to take learn to swim sessions, they started to experience discomfort in their back… immediately they thought that something was wrong and it was off to their family doctor with the intent of having their doctor order both x-rays and an MRI and have an appointment booked with an orthopeadic specialist asap.
What do you think is their health <> disease spectrum?
After having all the scans and tests available, and after the appointment with the specialist who suggested nothing was wrong, just typical wear and tear as a result of their age and that gentle activity would be beneficial… guess what… unsatisfied with the diagnosis, they sought another round of scans just in case their disease was missed, in case the doctors were wrong.
If your health <> disease spectrum is simply that… either nothing is wrong, or the moment something is wrong… then there must be disease, there really isn’t any room for you to take ownership over your body because this mindset corners you into being a victim. Being a victim you need a saviour… and when a doctor “refuses” to save you because they don’t see you being in the dire straits you see yourself, as a victim you have only one option… you need to go find a saviour because you are bent on your belief that if something is wrong… then there must be something seriously wrong.
What if this same individual had a gap between health & disease?
What if there was the potential for minor non-disease based injuries and illnesses to exist?
How would that change their approach to seeking health, and more importantly seeing themselves taking a role in their health?
If the gap of injury & minor illness can exist between health & disease, then all of a sudden instead of needing x-rays and MRIs and specialist appointments, an appointment with an allied health professional becomes a viable alternative. All of a sudden, instead of adding wait times onto already long wait times for scans and specialist appointments, this individual heads of to their physiotherapist or chiropractor. Allied health professionals when assessing do have the ability to identify active disease processes (e.g. cancer), and when they do, they do refer the individual to their doctor for appropriate medical appointments.
The point is… this takes a particular mindset in order to happen. The individual discussed above lacking any gap between health & disease, couldn’t even consider an appointment with a chiro or physio. And we wonder why our health care system is overloaded, overbudget, overextended? It really is no wonder.
Now consider this… what if we widen the health <> disease spectrum further as in Diagram (3)… what would happen then?
What if inflammation was put before injury and illness? Inflammation could also easily be overweight, or overtrained, or overstressed, or simply exhausted. Imagine if we respected our body so much so that we sought to identify not just disease, but simple injuries and illnesses before they became full blown issues.
But you may ask, “how is that even possible?”
Consider the flu, the incubation period for the flu is between one and four days, with the average being two. This means that no one gets the flu virus and then milliseconds later develops a full blow flu. The point is… there is an incubation period and it is in this period that there is the opportunity for your body to fend of the flu, provided it is not already stressed, or put another way stretched beyond its capacity to deal with yet another stress.
Its happening constantly: everyday you come in contact with viruses and bacteria, but you do not (at least I hope not) become ill with each exposure.
What if we thought about all the major diseases in a similar manner? That each major disease as an ‘incubation’ period… meaning, that there is an opportunity that you do not develop that disease, in a manner not dissimilar to your immune system fighting off an infection without you becoming ill, what if you approached disease as proactively as you approach ‘not getting sick’ during flu season. Well, what would that look like?
You cannot have health & disease pushed up against one another as in Diagram (1). In order for that not to be the case, you need to be in constant conversation with your body… meaning that you need to be ‘feeling’ (not emotions), but listening and hearing the messages that your body and brain are sending to you. These messages do not start like a police car siren screaming down the street, in the initial stages, even before inflammation the messages are more like post it notes… something you can check to see what is written on it, or you can toss out. If you deal with these post it note messages from your body and brain in the early stages, before there are any signs and symptoms then there is no reason for anything to develop into something significant, and definitely is the prerequisite if you are going to be fending off major diseases.
But here is the catch… this takes time, this takes effort, this takes a commitment to listening and hearing and then acting on what your body and brain say.
If your lifestyle is rush rush rush, then like the typical individual what will you do… instead of reading the post it notes, you will crumple them up, throw them over your shoulder, and to ensure that your body doesn’t write anymore you will take a painkiller or an anti-inflammatory telling your body and brain to shut up. Not respecting the post it notes, the small damage done daily builds… your musculoskeletal system gets pushed to its limits, your immune system gets pushed to its limits… and when one system cannot handle any more or handle the stress any longer… stiffness, aches and pains. Again, what do you do? Now in need of stronger shut-up drugs you book an appointment to see if you can get something that will ‘make these annoying messages’ from your body and brain go away? Hoping that magic fairy dust will heal whatever is causing your body and brain to send those stupid post it notes?
With 85%+ of all diseases being lifestyle diseases, it basically means that this is what the majority do… and when the shut-up drugs that their doctor prescribed are no longer able to shut-up body and brain and when something finally breaks down… in absolute shock, its off to the Emergency Department because what you failed to deal with, has now become a medical emergency.
You have a decision to make: discipline yourself to do the daily work to widen the gap between health & disease giving yourself the opportunity to be healthy throughout life, or toss in the towel, claim to be a victim and sooner or later the shut up drugs that allow you to play pretend that everything is a-OK will reach their limit and when they do, don’t say you weren’t warned.