Monday, May 4, 2020

Fibromyalgia and American Healthcare's Diagnosis Problem

Everyone is different.  That phrase gets thrown around with increasing frequency, does it not?  If you study our society, though, it becomes apparent that people truly believe that phrase about as often as they commit to the classic health tenets of nutrition and exercise (statistically, about one in ten people).  Everyone is indeed unique, but our society also seems uniquely set on labeling everybody, then forming opinions based on those labels.  Sociologically, labels regarding race and sexual orientation are two examples of very prominent topics piercing our consciousness and forcing us to further examine our perspectives.  With modern American healthcare, interestingly, we have been slower to recognize comparable patterns of labeling.

A diagnosis is a label too, and it has the same dangerous potential to follow a person around, altering both the perception of that person by others and that person's own perception of his/herself.  Perception is reality; it has been scientifically verified that people generally struggle to break free from the bias of labels.  People can watch a video of a girl playing in front of a garbage-strewn street in the city and draw the conclusion that she is not as intelligent as the exact same girl shown, in a separate video, playing in front of a suburban home with an abundance of well-manicured trees and a nice picket fence.  Similarly, as happens all the time in healthcare, a person can be given a diagnosis based on a series of symptoms that strips their every individual characteristic away in order to fit them into a treatment-specific generalization bubble. 

Fibromyalgia is a prime example of the dangers of labeling.  Though its symptoms are quite real, Fibromyalgia is merely a title applied to the increasingly common health problem of experiencing muscular pain throughout the body more intensely.  Most traditional physicians will tell you that the condition has no cause and no cure, but that is as bold and over-generalized a statement as suggesting that a girl from a challenging socioeconomic background cannot become a game-changing entrepreneur who debunks many of these diagnostic myths. 

There are numerous known causes for severe widespread muscle pain due to chemical imbalances in the brain (aka Fibromyalgia), nutritional deficiencies and the brainstem subluxation / misalignment of the anatomy (cervical vertebrae 1 and 2) that protects the nerve system's hub, to name two examples.  The upper neck misalignment also makes the head shift forward over the shoulders, consequently prompting the natural curve in the neck to be lost and decreasing normal motion among the vertebrae throughout the cervical spine; normal motion is the catalyst for pain-relieving endorphin production in the central nervous system, and deficient endorphin levels make it more likely to experience pain. 

Unfortunately, diagnosing (labeling) has become the clinical end game for traditional medicine, a stimulus not for fundamental change but for symptom treatment through drug therapy.  Traditionalists trained predominantly in pathology struggle to connect to information beyond their training, which is in diagnosing and treating symptoms and disease, even if they maintain a basic knowledge that most of the 10,000 possible diagnoses are attributable to poor health habits.  These labels, such as Fibromyalgia, do not characterize cause, just effect, but people often hold them up as gospel, living their lives around the diagnosis and its associated medical treatments, fear struck so deeply into their hearts and minds that they come to think of the label as being as specific to them as their fingerprints. 

The modern medical system teaches its doctors to label and prescribe, and to place an otherworldly amount of faith in randomized, clinically controlled trials which are designed to eliminate the complexities of the people they are diagnosing.  Traditionalists then pass the modern medical mindset down to the people that they treat. 

When a person gets diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, a label attached to the gradual decrease in ability to produce blood sugar-regulating insulin, rather than learn the physiology (and neurology and biochemistry) of how it develops and be encouraged to address the underlying causes specific to him/her individually, inaction and/or drugs are emphasized as if fate had already been sealed.  If another person is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a fancy nickname for multiple areas of scarring on the brain and spinal cord from lesions prompted by an autoimmune response, multi-system destroying immune suppressants are given instead of addressing the various causes of the immune system attacking the body.  Given the label of osteoarthritis, also known as degeneration, people are unknowingly made to assume that it is an age-specific process uninfluenced by anything else (like structural balance, which determines structural integrity), and accordingly are shielded from the options that can slow it down and dramatically ease its associated symptoms. 

If you alter various physiological and psychological patterns accumulated over time, then labels may no longer apply, but diagnoses are not used as a starting point to awaken in a person's mind an understanding that it is time to do things differently (to optimize the brain and body's internal communication network, to perform regular constructive exercise, to overhaul nutritional habits, to value stress management as a life skill, to re-balance the body physically to remove constant muscular strain, to fully address mental trauma, etc.).  Lifestyle change, the key to restoring health, is not a fundamental goal of the modern medical system, neither in regular clinical practice nor in laboratory research.

Labeling has, to borrow a common medical term, a lot of side effects, bottom line.  It can make you feel defeated, and its common treatments can further your health decline.  None of the above even broaches the subject of misdiagnosis (another way of stating the improper application to a person of a particular label), which sadly is as typical as it is both extremely dangerous and economically inefficient, major concerns considering American healthcare's last place standing among its industrialized peers in outcomes despite ranking first in spending.  If we want to change healthcare, it is time we start re-assessing the same labeling issues found in other parts of our society. 

Thinking good things for you, as always,

-Dr. Chad

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