For all of my low back pain patients and any of you out there reading this who might be considering coming to see me at neurOasis for low back pain, I was riding my bike today and stopped to fill the tires with air. Pretty simple, huh? As I stood with the bike and reached to my right to grab the air hose I gently twisted my torso and bent about 20 degrees. At that very moment traffic up and down the street and several passersby heard a loud cry of agony! I knew instantly that I had done "something" in my low back and the muscles seized up like a block of cement on a winter day. I'm telling you, it WAS painful and almost took my breath away.
OK, I can hear the chuckles from all the patients I have treated for this very same problem...and yes, now I know what it feels like! It took me several minutes of rubbing the area and cursing before I could put the darn air in my tires and get on the bike to ride home. That was several hours ago and after two doses of advil I am better but still quite uncomfortable.
The whole experience reminds me of my first migraine headache. It was about 6 years ago and lasted three days with vomiting, dizziness and wanting to just die. I have had several since then and one day looked to the heavens and said, "OK God, I get it, you want me to know what my patients go through so I can be a better doctor. Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." In all seriousness, I really do believe that physicians can only be better physicians if they really understand what it means to be a patient. To understand the vulnerability and fear that patients sit with as they wait for me to finish with a patient and then call them into my office.
I always try to remember those feelings - the experience of myself being a frightened patient in pain - when I am with my own patients. Hopefully it brings me down off the pedestal that I am placed upon when sitting behind my desk (a concept that is inherent in the doctor-patient relationship) and sets me with my patient in a way that I can truly empathize with their physical and emotional angst. Because then, and only then, is when the magic of healing begins.