How are you? No, really.

I’m a bit of an introvert.  I recharge with alone time and I do best in small-group settings.  Maybe that’s why I love the one-on-one interactions that I have with my patients.  Put me in a crowded conference room or a busy house-party and I don’t feel like myself, but put me in a treatment room with a patient and I’m all in.

The conversation with a patient is a delicate balance; technically speaking, my “job” is to conduct a detailed history and physical examination and come up with an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.  But I think it’s more than that.  I think a big part of my job is to learn about you, to gain your trust, to build a rapport.  You see, that’s the part I really love.  I like to know what you’ve been up to on the weekend, what your kid’s names are, what makes you tick.  I like to learn about your work, your exercise routine, your opinion on the Raptor’s game.  And I like to learn those things not because they’ll affect your treatment outcomes (*** but they will, more on that later***), but because I’m genuinely curious to know the answers.

michelleeducatedMaybe it’s the same reason that memoirs and autobiographies are my favourite genre of book to read.  Simply put, I love to hear people’s stories.  I love to learn about how you got to be the person you are- where you’ve lived, where you work, why you’re here.  I love to hear your perspective, your opinions, your voice.

My mom has often said that my Grandpa was always so “interested” in those around him.  I think I’ve got that gene too.  If I ask you how you are, believe me, I’m genuinely curious to know.

And as for patient outcomes?  Yes, I believe that a better relationship with your practitioner will lead to better treatment outcomes.  I believe it, because I see it happen every day.  This website serves as my open book for you to get to know me; that’s always been my theory and the very reason that I started this blog back in 2012.  I want you to know me, know my stories, know my world, because I think that starts our relationship.  And inside the treatment room, well, that’s my chance to get to know you.

The Hippocratic oath says “first, do no harm.”  Ha.  We can do better than that, can’t we?

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Tough Love

I’m here for some tough love today.

I work in a sports-based clinic, and while we are by no means an athletes-only environment, we do tend to attract an active population of patients. In fact, active-lifestyle patients are the reason I became a chiropractor in the first place. I had finished my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Calgary and was unsure of my next steps- my boyfriend’s cousin was a chiropractor and needed front desk help, so I began working there and my path became clear. A year later, I packed up my worldly possessions, moved across the country to attend CMCC in Toronto, and (insert cliché here) the rest is history.  Fitness and health is what I’m all about; I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk, and being active is one of my core values. So perhaps it comes no surprise that I ended up working at a clinic that follows the same principles.

Let’s get back to the tough love part:

You cannot expect your body to be pain-free if you do not treat it well. Please read that again, and hear me out. If you sit at work all day and do not incorporate fitness into your life, there is only so much I can do for your back pain. If you carry extra weight and ignore your rehabilitation exercises, there is only so much I can do for your knee pain. If your workplace ergonomics are terrible and you work 60 hours per week, there is only so much I can do for your neck pain.

Listen, we’re in this together. In fact, I pride myself on getting people feeling better very quickly. I will do my part, but please, you have to do yours too.

Tough love can be confrontational and irritating and uncomfortable, so if you’re feeling that now, please accept my very-Canadian apology, and make a plan. Make a plan to take charge of your health. As we age, our healing rates slow down. Cell turnover drops and recovery slows.

Make a plan to move more, for movement is the fountain of youth.

It doesn’t have to be running or CrossFit or yoga (my personal favourites), but it has to raise your heart rate, stress your muscles, and put your joints in motion.

Short and sweet. Black and white. To the point.

Get moving.

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“and your back pain is going to go away”

“You know what really helped me?” a patient recently said during her second treatment with me.  “The fact that you told me that my back wasn’t going to go out.

I hear this type of thing often.  This particular patient was suffering with lower back pain, and had a previous history of an exceptionally debilitating episode that made her temporarily unable to care for her two young children.  Her fear level was high.  On her first visit to the clinic, I spent much of our time together talking with her, explaining what was happening to her back, and why she was having pain.  Patient education is patient empowerment.  I did some hands-on manual therapy and then we chatted about rehabilitation exercises and the importance of movement, something that people in pain tend to avoid.  The last words I said to her before she left were along the lines of “don’t worry, you’re going to be fine, and your back pain is going to go away.”  A huge part of my job is patient education, because knowledge is power.

And just so that we’re all on the same page moving forward, backs don’t “go out” and then “go back in,” running does not cause arthritis in your knees, and getting adjusted three times a week for the rest of your life will not prevent stage three spinal degeneration.  Yet these are all proclamations that patients come in and tell me about themselves; these blanket statements are untrue and damaging, and in most cases, patients have been told these things by a health professional.  As chiropractors, and certainly as all healthcare providers, we cannot underestimate the power of our words for the good and for the bad.  If you have a patient’s trust and respect, you have the power to remarkably alter the course of their healing and the perception of their body’s abilities through your words alone.

This is the same reason that medical imaging can often be detrimental; because it affects a patient’s psyche.  Did you know that in many cases, there is actually a very poor correlation between what is shown on a medical image (an X-ray, for example) and a patient’s symptomatology?  But if a patient is shown an x-ray of “degenerative joint disease” (that’s a fancy term for arthritis) in their spine, they will come to believe that they have an arthritic, incapable, dysfunctional body.  This person then tends to become fearful of movement and therefore moves less.  And what creates a perfect storm for unhealthy joints?  Lack of movement.  Herein lies the problem.

Healthcare professionals: please do be careful with your words, and patients: please do be careful of what you listen to.

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