This week's blog post was written by Leah Zinnert, Clinical Director of Neuro Therapy. I think she did a really great job with it - hope you enjoy!
I was working with a client the other morning, and the session started like any other at Premier - with a conversation. After a longer than usual discussion about his recent concerns, we got to talking deeper about his frustrations surrounding what had started to feel like a lifetime of pain.
In the midst of this conversation I asked him “How would you feel if you didn’t have pain?”
His answer gave me chills... and maybe some of you can relate.
“Terrified,” he responded, “the world would be too big.”
I then asked him to envision a typical day if he woke up and no longer had his pain. He told me he would have to re-evaluate almost every action and activity.
As long as he can remember, even back to college, he has had some form of pain.
He bounced around between medical professionals, who gave him an array of diagnoses or suggested that if he just did this "one thing" the pain would go away (sound familiar?...)
Eventually, it got to the point where he underwent complex surgeries on bilateral shoulders in an attempt to alleviate the painful sensations down his arms.
Unfortunately, the surgeries were met with little success.
What was interesting to me is that because he had been in pain for such a long time, it had become something that he described as being able to fall back on. He could use it as a way out of certain situations, almost like a crutch.
So much so that he was fearful of the pain going away. Could this thought process be what is keeping his body from letting go of the pain?
Let's break this down a little further...
The traditional biomedical health care model focuses on purely biological factors and excludes psychological, environmental, and social influences.
In this model, pain has nothing to do with how you think about it (which we know is incorrect).
For certain people, especially those who receive a wide variety of diagnoses and are repeatedly told their bodies are "damaged", this traditional model can wreak havoc, and often times leads to and endless cycle of frustration and failed attempts at a solution.
Simply put - this traditional model leaves people suffering from chronic pain feeling lost, hopeless, and fearful.
The conversation highlighted above raised my awareness to the idea that everyone sees life (and pain) through a different lens.
Therefore, it's important to have an awareness of how all aspects of health (some of them highlighted above as biological, psychological, and sociological) impact pain.
In this client's case, there were clear psychological factors affecting his pain.
Healthcare needs to be patient-centered, holistic, and focused on individualized clinical reasoning and communication.
Your health professional must take in not only what is being said, but how, and when, and in what environment. They must take the time needed to listen to you and hear what you are saying.
I bet there are so many people reading this that can relate to my client’s response about being fearful of being pain-free, and have felt unheard by provider's in the past.
Your healthcare professionals are doing you a disservice if they do not strive to better understand the individuality of your situation AND help you to let go of those fears surrounding it.
We hear it all the time… “I have X every few days, but that’s pretty normal. I just take a Y and it goes away within a few hours.”
Insert any of the following for X:
Headaches, back pain, tightness, numbness, digestive problems, heart burn, anxiety attacks, fatigue/lack of energy, bouts of depression, etc…
And the following for Y:
Aleve, Advil, Tylenol, Tums, Xanax, Coffee, Red Bull, Testosterone, etc…
And this is very normal in modern living.... but should it be?
Isn’t the idea that we have to take medication to manage symptoms on a regular basis just giving in to mediocre health?
I have no issues with medication in general, provided all other avenues have been pursued.
There’s a time and place for them, but I don’t believe they should be regularly used to manage minor symptoms until all lifestyle factors have been optimized.
Keep in mind that medications are altering the chemistries in your body and come with a host of side effects. You may never actually “feel” any of these side effects, but they may be altering your long term health outcomes.
It’s important that before turning to regular does of medication, we consider alternatives.
Before turning to medication, we need to stop and ask ourselves:
Most times, optimizing lifestyle factors comes down to the “boring” things we already know about:
If you’re dealing with any of the problems listed above, here’s a few quick pieces of advice on each of them.
My challenge to you is to pick one and start working towards optimizing it to your needs.
It’s time to stop settling for mediocre health!
Ideal nutrition varies from person to person. What causes an inflammatory reaction in your body may not be the same foods that cause an inflammatory reaction in another person’s body.
If you suffer with chronic health problems (even minor ones), consult a registered dietician or functional medicine specialist. Ask them how they can help to identify the foods that cause inflammatory reactions (and your symptoms) in your body. If they don’t have a good answer, call another person.
If you’re already active and exercising regularly, think critically about what activities and movements seem to make you feel worse versus better. If you can identify these, you don’t need to cut them out, but should modify them and try to determine which part of the movement is causing symptoms.
If you’re not already active, start with something as simple as walking 10 min/day a build from there.
An adult should target sleeping 7-9 hours per night. At a bare minimum, you need 6 hours of sleep/night. If you’re unable to sleep, try seeing a sleep coach or undergoing a sleep study in order to optimize your life for a good night’s sleep.
Try to drink between half to all of your body weight in ounces of water each day. For instance, if you’re 150 lbs, you should target 75-150 oz of water.
If you constantly feel stressed out (and don’t enjoy being stressed), optimize your lifestyle for less of it. I know this easier said than done, but remember this is all about NOT accepting mediocre health.
If you don't know where to start, consult a mental health coach or psychologist - no, this doesn't meant you're crazy!
Yes, genetics do play a role in our health, and no, there isn’t much you can do about them.
However, in large part, genetics only predispose us to certain health conditions – they do not guarantee those conditions.
If you work to optimize all other aspects of your lifestyle (and find someone who can help you account for your genetics), you will have a lower likelihood of getting the worst of your genetic predispositions.
Ladies and gentleman, it is time. Time to stop settling for mediocre health, time to stop “managing” our everyday symptoms or making excuses for them.
What can you start doing today in one of the areas above to optimize your health?
This week, Zach, Leah, and I started wearing a device called the “Biostrap.” If you’ve ever heard of or worn a FitBit, it’s a very similar piece of equipment.
The most data collected by the Biostrap (and reason we’re most excited about it) is Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
When most people hear this term, their minds’ immediately jump to traditional Heart Rate. However, HRV is measuring something completely different than heart rate.
Rather than measure the average times your heart beats in a minute, HRV measures the average time between heart beats.
For instance, let’s say your heart beats 3 times. The time between beats 1 and 2 is 980 milliseconds, and the time between beats 2 and 3 is 1050 milliseconds. Your HRV for those 3 beats would be 70 milliseconds (the difference between 1050 and 980 milliseconds).
So why is this important, and how does it relate to the nervous system?
Heart rate Variability is lower when the sympathetic nervous system is activated. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” state, and it’s great to have…
But only when we need it.
If your body spends too much time in a sympathetic dominant state, it can be a sign of poor health or future poor health.
Thus, heart rate variability is a great way to monitor where you sit on that spectrum from day to day.
Things that might decrease your heart rate variability include:
If your HRV decreases for a day or two, that’s ok – it’s just a sign that you need to start thinking about how you can help your body to promote a state of recovery and relaxation.
For example, if your HRV decreases after an intense cardio circuit, your body probably needs a day off of exercise to recover. It’s also possible you aren’t optimizing your nutrition for the intensity of those types of workouts.
As another example, a night of moderate drinking will significantly decrease your HRV. Once you see how much it plummets, you may think twice about ordering that extra round ;-)
If your HRV is persistently lower than what’s normal for your age and sex, you’ll need to take a hard look at the stresses in your life, whether they are physical, social, or work related, and ways you can manage them.
Zach, Leah, and I have already gained significant insight to our health through tracking HRV data – if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out this great article at:
and more information about the Biostrap here:
About the Author
Evan Lewis is a nationwide leader in Neuro Therapy and founded the Baltimore area's only specialist Neuro Therapy facility.
Download now: 7 Quick & Easy Tips To Reduce Back Pain (without painkillers,, injections, or seeing the doctor)!