Nineteen years ago I joined the ranks of my patients, experiencing my first episode of back pain. Suddenly I had both empathy and a renewed motivation to find “the answer.” How did I find myself in such a predicament? As a highly trained, aggressive orthopedic physical therapist I knew all of the physical “parts” and how to move those parts, yet my condition continued to deteriorate. The first 15 years of my career focused on a biomechanical understanding of back pain. The prescriptive exercises needed the right answer for both my patients’ and my condition, such as how long, how much pressure, or how many repetitions. When no part could be identified, or the part had been literally removed and thrown away, other components were then examined including mental health, socioeconomic variables and mechanical demands placed on the spine. Now I understand that I was a product of the context of my profession and our shared mechanistic worldview. Our focus was on finding and fixing the offending part. In effect, I was both the expert and the patient seeking the right thing to “do” or have “done” to me. I was not aware of alternative approaches that addressed additional factors such as emotions or spiritual concerns
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