When people come to me for a consult, one of the first steps I take is to get their medical history. As I’ve stated before, osteoporosis doesn’t happen in isolation — there’s always a reason for bone loss. If I see someone who’s losing bone at a rapid rate but doesn’t know why, I’ll encourage him or her to work with a physician to determine what’s causing the bone loss. In many instances, solving the hidden health issue puts an end to bone loss and helps to restore bone health more rapidly.
But working with a physician is challenging for some of my clients. Many of us grew up in an era where doctors were considered the unquestioned (and maybe unquestionable) authorities when it came to our health. And why not? It takes years of hard work and study to earn an MD or DO, and even once they have their degree, physicians keep studying and learning. Surely a doctor knows better how to handle a health issue than someone who doesn’t have that level of education… right?
While it’s true that medical professionals dedicate a great deal of time and energy to understanding how to treat diseases of the body, it defies common sense that any health professional, no matter how caring or dedicated, should be “in charge” of the decisions affecting a patient’s day-to-day health. Doctors aren’t mind readers; without a patient’s input, they can’t possibly know what their patients consider acceptable (or unacceptable) when it comes to health. I find that when clients work with their practitioners, the partnership between doctor and patient is often productive. But it’s important to realize that what the doctor does — treating the illness — is not the same as healing the patient. A doctor may suggest treatments, but is up to the patient to decide if the treatment is something they want to try as part of their healing process — and it’s also the patient’s responsibility to speak up if they don’t like what’s being offered.
I know this isn’t always easy. Not only are some people reluctant to speak up — physicians can be intimidating for those used to following “doctor’s orders” — but they may feel as though they lack sufficient information to make a decision. But what I tell my clients is, if you don’t feel you know enough to make an informed decision, then don’t make the decision until you do know enough.
Now, sometimes even well-informed patients encounter closed-minded resistance to their suggestions and input. I had one client who, after experiencing a nasty leg fracture, asked her doctor to perform some of the medical tests for osteoporosis that I commonly suggest, only to have her request dismissed. She was told, “You don’t need all these tests,” and when she tried to explain that she believed that they might uncover the reason for her weak bones, the doctor responded, “Who’s driving this bus, anyway?”
I see this sort of thing too often to be surprised by it, but the reality is that the patient, not the doctor, “drives the bus.” To her credit, my client was not happy with her doctor’s attitude, so she went and got a second opinion. When she told the new practitioner what the first had said, she got a much better answer. “Well, of course you’re the driver,” said the physician. “I’m really more like a tour guide.”
I always urge clients who encounter such obstacles to keep one thing firmly in mind: YOU are in the driver’s seat. If you have a “tour guide” who insists on taking the wheel from you, or who tries to guide you in a direction you believe to be wrong for your health, listen to your inner voice and put on the brakes! As the driver, you are responsible for what direction you take, and how fast you travel. It’s your journey — so don’t let anyone send you somewhere you don’t want to go.