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‘Wrong’ path, ‘right’ path, we all have our own paths

June 22, 2008
By MATT GOODEMOTE, For The Leader-Herald
Over the last few days I have had several people come to me asking me to write about a particular topic.

Although each person has a different reason for why they want me to write about something in particular, I will try and combine what people are asking into one column.

Wish me luck.

Recently, a patient asked me for more clarification on how to know when she was heading down the “wrong” path.

She told me I did not tell her specifically what to do. She was frustrated because she felt like her doctor was not hearing her problem, but wasn’t sure if this was the “wrong” path.

My response was this.

First of all, we all have our own paths to travel and we all have to find out for ourselves if the path was the one we wanted to be on or not.

I also told her that for me, the choice has become more and more easy to make.

If I feel bad about a choice I have made, then I know that there is something I need to look into.

If I feel peaceful inside, then all is well. It is that simple.

So I told this woman that she in fact had already decided to travel a new road.

She is persistent (number one), and she told her doctor what she wanted (number two). It did not feel good to her to feel like her doctor was not listening, so she told him so.

He listened. She felt better.

It sounds almost too easy, but all she needed to do was to be honest and ask for what she wanted.

There is peace in acting this way. The more clear you are about what you want, the more likely it is you will get it.

Let me expand on this a little bit. This patient and others just like her contribute to their own stress by being vague in their interactions with their doctors. A lot of us try so hard to say the right thing that we forget to say specifically what we want.

I have mentioned this before and it is worth repeating: go as prepared as you can to the medical practitioners you are seeing for your health. If you tell your doctor you “hurt all over,” or that you “hurt from your head to your toes,” your caring doctor wants to help you with your pain. This may mean recommending medicine. If you are not interested in taking medicine, try this technique: tell your doctor you are not interested in taking medicine.

If you are interested in having your questions answered try this approach: tell them you want your questions answered.

Come to your appointment with specific information.

So, if you have back pain, neck pain and knee pain, tell your doctor specifically what hurts. You might say something like this:

“Doctor, I know that you are busy and I do not want to hold you up. What I need from you today is for you to listen to, and answer my questions. Today I am not interested in any new medicines, I only want to find out three things:

• Why does my lower back hurt?

• Do I need any more tests like an MRI?

• Do I need to be concerned about this situation?

Now you have provided your doctor with specific information so that he knows why you are there to see him/her and what your expectations are.

This opens up the room for dialog. This is to the point and yet non-confrontational.

This works a lot better than demanding tests, medicines and answers.

The expectations are clear and manageable.

This gives your doctor room to clarify through questions, what is specifically going on with you.

It is also important to be clear about your pain. If you have multiple areas of pain, the more specific you can be the easier it is to diagnose the problem. Answers like, “everything I do hu rts,” gives no clear information and confuses the situation that much more. First of all “everything” is not truthful. Does it hurt your lower back to wink your left eye? Does moving your pinky hurt your knee?

I make it so absurd because it is important to be specific. For example, “when I get up out of a kitchen chair I am OK, but getting out of the car or from the sofa hurts in my right lower back.” Or, “when I walk my back starts hurting first and if I keep going my leg starts to feel like pins and needles.”

This kind of specific information clarifies serious medical conditions from lower back pain.

This change to be honest about what you want and to be specific about what you expect from someone is a hard road to travel for a lot of us. But from my experience it has made all the difference in my life.

A patient came in a week or so ago a tad grumpy. He was hurting and had been for a few years. He started by launching into what he wanted from me and what his expectations were. I listened and it was easy to give him what he wanted. Specifically he wanted help to feel better. He expected to hurt for the rest of his life, but he wanted some help to improve enough that he could make it through his day a little easier.

I was excited to get started. As is typical for me, I establish my own guidelines. As many of you know, one of my favorite sayings is, “go to the pain, not through the pain.” This man asked me for help and specifically asked for guidance. I explained what, “go to the pain, not through the pain,” means and he immediately told me, "I know, I have to push myself. No pain, no gain.”

This was not at all what I said. Specifically I said, “No, no. Pushing through will not work." He told me that he refused to give up and would keep pushing through, because he needed to in order to get well. I asked him a question I would like to ask a lot of you out there to consider, “If you knew what you were doing, then how come you still hurt?”

When you ask this question, almost immediately people will launch into how they know their bodies and if they didn’t push through then they wouldn't be as good as they are currently. Or some read into this, “don’t do anything.”

Which is also not what I wrote.

Specifically, if you are asking for help, then take the advice, or at least ask for an explanation. Please don't keep doing what you have always done and expect a new response.

You decide the road you should travel on, choose wisely. If you knew what to do then you would feel better already.

If you feel bad physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually from an activity, this is the sign you are looking for to change your direction.

Hop on the new path that leads to your wellness.

Consider that these situations are for you to recognize the road you’re on is not the right one for you.

Making a change in the path you travel on will make a huge difference in your life.

If you have been praying for help, please receive that gift when it comes to you.

One patient told me how she prayed daily to have God help her with her situation. Then she told me how guilty she felt that her family had to help her all the time.

Do you see the irony? Here she was asking for help.

People all around her were helping and all she saw was guilt for being a burden.

She got exactly what she prayed for, but refused the help that was willingly, lovingly offered to her.

Take a minute right now to consider your path.

Are you filled with stress? If so choose a new path. Do you hurt?

Take a look at a different path to travel on. Have you asked for help? Receive the gift and take the help.

If you were so successful at it, you wouldn't need to ask for help.

Matthew Goodemote, a Gloversville native, owns Community Physical Therapy & Wellness. His Health & Wellness column will answer your questions and discuss topics that are relevant to your everyday way of life. If you would like to ask a question, e-mail Matthew at


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