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Health vs Wellness

We all need to be more proactive about our health and wellness

Do we live in a society where we focus on our health only when we have pain or symptoms that indicate a problem, or are we a wellness-driven society?

First, let’s consider what these two terms – “health” and “wellness” – really mean. Many of us tend to think they are interchangeable, but that’s not true.

To be “healthy” means your body is free of illness or disease. “Wellness,” on the other hand, is a much more holistic term that can include your physical, social, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

Consider it this way: How many people do you know are physically healthy, but are always complaining, or are always negative about things, or are under stress because of issues in their life that always seem to be in control of them? Then there are those people who serve as an inspiration to us all, who despite personal loss, tragedy, or a battle against a serious illness, maintain a positive and upbeat attitude.

More proactive, less reactive

Putting health and wellness in this perspective, it’s easy to see what can be considered a “health” focus – things like trying to lose weight, get in shape, reduce your blood pressure. Wellness, on other hand, is a much more complex concept to master that is rooted in your outlook on life and your emotional capacity to cope with stress and life’s challenges, in addition to your physical state.

But we are not a society with a positive and proactive focus on either health or wellness.
Think about it, if it were our societal norm to live in a balanced way meant to ensure optimal health and wellness throughout our lifetimes, we wouldn’t be dealing with rampant opioid over use and misuse to battle chronic pain. We wouldn’t be dealing with surging rates of childhood obesity, or chronic challenges around heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and elder care due to our sedentary habits and fondness for fast foods and sugar. We wouldn’t be in the habit of staying up late to binge-watch a favourite show on Netflix when we know darn well we’ll pay for it the rest of the week.

Most of us are instead reactive. We only act when confronted with an unavoidable truth, such as a medical diagnosis for high blood pressure, or when pain/discomfort passes a critical threshold.

We don’t want you to need us

Last week, we had an older patient who told us she had no choice but to be under Chiropractic care for the rest of her life because of her symptoms and the deteriorated condition of her spine. This is an unfortunate reality for many of our patients. Instead of acting to address a health issue at an earlier stage when it could have been corrected, the patient waited. Their condition worsened. Now they are trapped by a chronic problem they can never escape.

In the same week, a younger patient opted to stop care because they are feeling great. They even admitted they never did the spinal exercises they were asked to do at home. We’ve talked about this before – patients who come to us with a symptom, usually pain, and then discontinue care as soon as that pain is alleviated.

It’s no different than making a New Year’s Resolution to eat better and get in shape. Many people will only stick with it for a couple of months. Once they see some improvement, they lose their sense of urgency and fall off the wagon. Their focus was on the short-term health goal instead of on making a sustainable change of habit for their long-term wellness.

What’s the likely outcome for that person who abandons their resolution, as well as our patient who decided they didn’t need care anymore? Both will likely slip back into the same old bad habits that drove them to the gym or to our door in the first place. Their health issues will reoccur and the cycle will start all over again.

It’s never too late to start making changes

A fellow Chiropractor made a great point recently: If a person coughed up blood the first time they took a cigarette, they would never smoke. But because the repercussions are not obvious in the beginning, the person continues.

It’s no different with eating empty calories full of bad fats and sugars – the damage from that creeps up slow and quiet over months and years. And then it becomes an uphill battle to change a lifetime of bad habits and reverse the damage.

Wouldn’t it be much easier to just get it right from the start? Make choices that have our long-term best interests at heart?

It’s not easy. We are all constantly bombarded with temptation. But we’re not suggesting turning your life upside down overnight. It’s staying consistent with little changes over time that will ultimately make a big difference.

The best time to start is always now. Just say no when that box of Timbits gets passed around the office. Take that walk at lunch. Always go to bed at the same time. Opt for decaf on that next coffee.

And if you find yourself repeatedly reaching for those pain medications, come see if we can help you identify and address the root cause.

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