When It's Time to See the Doctor for That Nagging Pain (and why that's a good thing!)
I once served in leadership of a healthcare company who's mission is to connect America's most ill individuals with timely care to prevent life-threatening events. Every day I used to watch our nurses ease the fear, frustration, and apprehension that results when patients hear, “Let’s get you connected to your doctor.”
These are feelings my family and I are no stranger to.
From my own health journey reversing Osteoporosis, to my dad who shares, “My knee is fine!” (as he limps around tending to his farm).
And then there's my mom's story. While I admire her selflessness for wanting to care for every elderly person, child, and furry creature before herself, it sometimes results in a delay of seeking medical care and timely medical testing.
Even my sisters (who I should mention are wonderfully intelligent healthcare providers) share fear and apprehension when getting their own health issues checked out. This often results in a delay of making that first doctor's appointment.
I got thinking about this perspective of fear, frustration, and apprehension surrounding health care when a recent trail running stumble sent me airborne, landing knee first into a boulder on the Appalachian Trail.
Should I have seen a doctor immediately? Probably, as it was quite a loud and painful impact! However, I gave it over a week of rest and at-home therapy before making my first appointment. I justified my delay in care because I have a background in injury prevention and have been mentored by some amazing Sports Medicine minds.
As I experimented with self-rehab and trying to figure out how badly I was hurt, I started to think,
"What is delaying my care really accomplishing?"
Despite my knowledge I am not an expert, nor am I an MRI or X-ray. I had no true way of determining if it was a fracture, tear, or just a horrible bruise. Was there really much of anything to gain by waiting? More importantly, what was there to gain by seeing my doctor?
So, I decided to check myself before I wrecked myself. And I propose we all empower ourselves to do the same.
When You Know It's Time
We can shift our thinking when we know it’s time to see our doctor for a nagging pain or injury, focusing on how getting the care we need will:
1. Give us much needed information.
We can expect our doctor may advise us to wait it out or hand us a referral. We can also keep in mind we have the option to seek additional opinions and alternate care. However, seeing a healthcare professional is the vital first step of our recovery journey because it helps us understand the root cause of our pain. With a root cause to address, we can work with our care team to develop an evidence-based healing game plan.
Our game plan may take time to deliver results and it may require some tweaking along the way. However, it certainly sounds worse to waste our own time and money trying to figure it out on our own!
2. Prevent worsening of the condition and additional injuries.
If there is one thing I learned from years of providing bodywork for pro athletes, it is that one ignored area of pain can quickly result in multiple injuries! If we continue to push through our daily activities, workouts, and competitions a crappy knee can quickly become a bum ankle, a sore shoulder, and an aching hip.
3. Save us time and money.
Acquiring additional injuries or worsening the condition not only costs us more money, but it wastes our valuable time. Personally, I'm an active mom who wants the ability to run around pain-free with my kids. I also want to return to competing as a member of our county's racing team. Delaying medical care prolongs recovery time, which costs us valuable personal time for doing all the things we love.
4. Protect our mental health.
It's a slippery slope when we feel pain or know we are potentially injured. We can easily start to convince ourselves that we are sick and broken. Even worse, we can start to act like we are and lose the motivation to care for ourselves and others. By seeing a healthcare professional we can know we are looking to understand and reverse the problem. We can begin to shape a story of recovery, healing, and restoring our well-being.
So, I’ll ask you the same question I asked myself, “What is delaying your care really accomplishing?”
With the right knowledge, right healthcare team, and a recovery game plan in place we are empowered to take charge of our health. While our comeback will undoubtedly will take time, by seeking timely medical care and acting upon it we can begin to assemble ourselves a tiny healthcare army that will guide us in putting one proactive foot in front of the other towards recovery.
And friend, I know it isn't easy to walk into our doctor's office knowing we may hear bad news. I'll be honest, I wrote this article the morning of own doctor's appointment so I could motivate myself to keep a proactive perspective. I was then given the news of inconclusive results and the need for additional testing. It's definitely NOT fun or easy! But I also believe our attitude and the approach we choose to take will ultimately shape our results. We are perfectly capable of maintaining our well-being during a potentially stressful and painful time.
I don’t want a bum knee forever, nor do I have to have one. Seeing my doctor is the first step in my comeback journey, a journey which I have only myself to hold me accountable to seeing through.
Wishing you and anyone you love in need of healing an empowered recovery journey!
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