The problem of hyper specialization in pain / orthopedics
Our modern system of hyper-specialization is broken – got neck pain then you’re referred to a neck guy who only looks at your neck. Got big toe pain then you’re referred to the big toe guy who only looks at your big toe. You get my point, right? It’s funny (not really) the specialist doesn’t have a clue what’s going on outside of their little focused world, which is a huge problem!
I’m going to use an example from Dr. Centeno, a well renowned regenerative orthopedic doctor. He says, “Our modern medical care system reminds me of a bunch of blind men examining an elephant. The guy at the front believes it’s a fire hose, the guy at the leg thinks it’s a tree trunk, and the guy at the back thinks he has a rope (tail).”
You can’t do a great job in orthopedic care unless you’re as comfortable examining the neck as the big toe (or any area).
Let me give you a personal example to help really drive this idea home. Before my back flares up I start to get a little numbness in my bigtoe when I sit in my car for too long. I also notice it’s harder for me to do lunges on my right side – my knee feels a little more wobbly than my left side and it has a slight dull ache. Are the two things connected – my toe numbness and knee instability and ache? Of course they are!
How are they connected? As the nerves in my low back got more annoyed, it caused bad chemicals to get dumped into my knee. These chemicals can feed the fire of a degenerative cascade and chew up cartilage. In addition, the muscles that drive this joint that are powered by the nerve also began to misfire. While my back and nerve are dramatically better because of an amazing electro-acupuncture treatment from a friend, I know that if I do too much or irritate those nerves again, things can come back.
The real problem
The concept that my back could have caused this toe numbness and knee pain is completely foreign to most physicians because everyone is so hyper focused and refers so quickly to specialists. The system would have two different doctors responsible for my back and my big toe.
The same concept of back & lower extremity problems also happens with every other area of the body – your tennis or golfer’s elbow, shoulder problems, and carpal tunnel could be coming from your neck. Your hip pain could be coming from your low back. Your knee pain could be coming from your hip or ankle.
Since doctors almost never make these connections, patients been conditioned to not connect the dots.
The good news
The body is one big machine and we can make some serious improvements with a comprehensive treatment using electro-acupuncture and dry needling! We use terms like knee and big toe for convenience, but the implication is that they are separate machines. They are not. The whole body and all of it’s little parts are one complex but finely tuned machine. What happens in one part of that kinetic chain impacts the others. So if you have neck issues and your shoulder or elbow or hand has problems, the first place to look for the cause is usually the neck! If you have back issues and your hip, knee, ankle or foot has problems the first place to look for the cause is usually the back!