Authored by Dr. Roger Mignosa – Rightful Educator
Does healthcare focus on enhancing the body’s ability to heal itself? In order to investigate this question, let’s evaluate the language that medicine uses to address injury and disease.
High blood pressure is a worrisome symptom that can result in a stroke leading to loss of speech, paralysis, and death. As a result, blood pressure is closely monitored and treated in people who are at risk of a stroke. Yet when a person suffers from a stroke and has elevated blood pressure, it is not treated. Why is this?
In a stroke, the brain is suffering from a lack of oxygen. The body responds by elevating the blood pressure in an attempt to maintain oxygenation of the brain to protect the tissue from damage. Healthcare has come to understand this adaptive response as beneficial and physicians “allow” the blood pressure to be elevated. This action is called “permissive hypertension” (hypertension = high blood pressure).
Instead of honoring the fact that the body is acting appropriately in an attempt to adapt, the language used to describe the condition disrespects the innate healing response. “Allowing” high blood pressure after a stroke should not be called “permissive hypertension.” Respecting high blood pressure after a stroke should be called “adaptive hypertension.”
What is true for a stroke is true for pain. When the body is in pain, we should respect the body’s ability to heal itself. We should listen to the signs and symptoms of pain and investigate what can be done to support the healing process.
Pain demands respect because of its protective nature. What would happen if we did not experience pain when we got burnt by boiling water, had chronically poor posture, ate an inflammatory diet, or were deprived of sleep? The answer is that we may continue to do what is causing harm to the body. Pain is a signal that our nervous system is struggling to adapt and feel safe in the environment.
Pain is a sensation identifying that something needs attention. Pain is like the whiskers of a cat that helps to identify danger and to navigate the environment. A cat’s whiskers are packed with nerves that enable a cat to identify the shapes and textures of objects. When a cat is guarded and frightened the whiskers are taut and pulled back across the face. When a cat is relaxed the whiskers soften and point away from the face. When we feel unsafe and guarded we must listen to the messages within pain and change the conversation from a fear of pain to an understanding of the environment.
Language is critically important in healthcare. A great deal of fear surrounds symptoms that are not explained. This fear is addressed when healthcare providers explain and honor the adaptive mechanisms of the body while supporting the education and resources of people who are suffering. The body is always attempting to restore balance and establish safety. The inborn mechanisms of adaptation are the most powerful medicine to restore health. Acknowledging and respecting these mechanisms by providing the appropriate medical support enhances the body’s ability to heal itself. By respecting nature, the true focus of healthcare is health.
Dr. Roger Mignosa
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Rightful Educator