Dr. Doug Pooley
When change is inevitable
Did you ever wake up thinking, “I just don’t feel good,” then you realize that you had been saying this to yourself for days, weeks, months or even years?
If you are over 50 you have probably been in practice for more than 20 years, and chances are that your low back, neck or shoulders are showing the effects of full contact chiropractic.
The average chiropractor is working later into life and this trend will, in all likelihood, continue. As Dr. Bob Warnock once said, “Chiropractic is the only profession where you interview a person and then wrestle with them 20, 30, 50 or more times a day.”
Mechanically, chiropractors break down; you just can’t help it – or can you?
I am 64 years old and I don’t mind being that age – I just don’t necessarily want to look it or certainly, feel it. Three months before my 50th year, I reached a point where I was in so much discomfort that I questioned whether I would be able to continue to practice. I had, over time, suffered various bouts of neck, back and shoulder pain that improved, but never really got better.
Then one day, a bothersome episode of sciatica – which I had been half-heartedly treating but mostly ignoring – exploded with pain severe enough that I passed out and ended up in the hospital emergency department. This proved to be a waste of time, but did serve as a massive catalyst for personal change. It forced me to reflect back over my career, and with shocking clarity I realized that so much of what I had preached to patients I did not practice. I had deluded myself into the belief that since I was active and not obese, I must be healthy and fit. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
As I looked back, I realized my diet was less than ideal, my exercise routine was sporadic and my quality of life on a good day was actually not good. I was, in fact – just like most middle-aged North American males – pre-diabetic, overweight and deconditioned. I realized that my sciatica was not so much the result of a bad patient lift but rather the accumulation of circumstances and decisions that I had made over the previous 20 plus years. I also realized that I was the only person who could do anything about it. So I did.
I remember clearly sitting between patients with ice on my lower back thinking I had just entered the back half of my life and on my current course, the future looked anything but rosy. I decided that very day to change my life and do whatever it took to reclaim my health. I spent a week establishing a game plan and started my program to rebuild my body. It was a fascinatingly insightful process and once I started, I found out that there was as much a need for an attitude adjustment as there was for physical change.
In the first month, I set up appointments with my general practitioner for a full physical with all the necessary blood work, cardiac work-up and other related procedures. I had no idea what the exact status of my health was. How could I possibly fix what I don’t know? I then set up an appointment with a colleague for a complete biomechanical assessment and agreed to a treatment plan designed to correct deficiencies in my spine, pelvis and shoulders. I started a low carb diet, eliminated dairy and any GMO (genetically modified organism) products from my program and sourced out the best personal trainer in the area.
I immediately felt better just in making the decision to change my lifestyle. I followed my plan and never looked back. Two years later, I won the “old guy” division of a body building competition.
In complete honesty, I can say that I can do things now that I couldn’t do when I was in my 40s. Practice is wonderfully fulfilling, fun and profitable. I have great satisfaction in my life and no interest in retiring.
If this little testimonial has at all struck a chord and you feel the urge for change, let me suggest the following guidelines – because they work.
Put it in writing. Draft a contract with yourself that sets out well-defined goals, timelines and objectives. Be as specific as possible. No arbitrary thoughts here. Take inventory of where you are and where you want to be. Write the story of your life complete with all warts. It is proven that the average person spends more time reading the newspaper than planning their lives. Taking control of your life is deliciously liberating. Share your game-plan with a close friend and ask them to keep you accountable.
Get motivated. Become inspired and make your life purposeful again. We all have had goals, but as we mature, often those goals have been met, change or become redundant. The biggest part of aging is intellectual. As we stop planning, we stop growing. It’s quite simple: if you are not growing you are dying. It is a fact that the people who live the longest have a purpose. I recommend reading the works of authors Steven Covey, Brian Tracy, Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins or James Allen to help you rediscover your greatness.
People power. Choose your team of health-care providers like you would choose your “fantasy football team.” Surround yourself with the most skilled advisors possible. Take the time to source out the best professionals in your area to be your health coaches. It is almost pathetic to have to say this: get adjusted. Mobility is the key to health.
Diet and exercise. Without these, you can never achieve a fulfilling life plan. You need the best fuel for the machine, and you need to rebuild and modify the mind and body to maximize performance. The latest research favours a diet with high fats, moderate protein and low carbohydrates. It has been my experience that this works best for those of us over the age of 50. There are lots of good programs out there that will work for you. Go online and find the choices that best suit your lifestyle. The one you like the best is usually the one that you will stick to. Hire a trainer. If you do not already know a good one, source one out and plan to be with them for at least six months. I have worked with an excellent trainer for over 10 years, three days per week and it is the best money I have ever spent. If, for whatever reason you cannot work with a trainer, I would be happy to provide you with sample workouts to get you going.
Invest in yourself. Learn something new. Lifelong learning is a privilege that should be used as often as possible. Take five to 10 per cent of what you learn and turn it back into improving your skills and knowledge. This will not only keep you current but will also go a long way toward keeping your practice fresh and exciting. The best of the best in any profession knows that the key to success and happiness is found in constantly growing and challenging yourself. The alternative is that you can become redundant pretty quick.
Keep a journal. This will allow you to follow your progress and reflect on the little wins as well as the big ones.
Finally, reward yourself large and often. Behaviour is always reward-based. The better you perform, the bigger the rewards.
If you have read this far then you are in all likelihood over the age of 50 and realize that there may be a need or two for change in your life. You also understand the old adage, “Life is a self-fulfilling prophesy,” where you get out of it exactly what you put in.
Your health and the quality of life you desire are within your grasp, but never without effort. I want to leave you with some sage words from a personality you will all remember, Jerry Garcia, the lead singer from The Grateful Dead. “Somebody has to do something. It is just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”
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