My favorite part of being a chiropractor is working with patients – helping them get better and seeing the changes in their lives. My least favorite is writing reports and doing the paperwork that seems to come with any sort of modern healthcare practice.
I recently started using a voice dictation software, called Dragon Naturally Speaking, that works quite well. I can simply speak into a microphone and it gets dictated onto the computer. The more you use it the more it recognizes your voice and becomes more accurate. It had one quirk that they seem to have fixed now. If I left the computer for a while, such that the computer went on standby, the program would freeze up and lose its data regarding my voice. I had called tech support about it 6 months ago when I was having the problem. Their advice was simple; I should go through the effort of shutting down the program each time I left the computer. Seriously! That was their solution! It’s like that old joke about the patient who goes to the doctor complaining, “Doc, it hurts when I play the piano” to which the doctor responds, “then don’t play the piano”.
And yet, many people subconsciously do just that in their daily lives. As they begin to experience pain, they start to limit the activities that worsen that pain. As this progresses, sometimes slowly over years, their function becomes less and less as they avoid things that cause more pain. Often this happens without their being fully aware of the process. Eventually it gets to the point where they are doing very little and then that begins to hurt.
So when a patient comes in for care, their main complaint is usually pain. But I also try to learn about how that pain is inhibiting the patient’s life. What would they like to be able to do that they currently cannot? In doing so, I try to establish some functional goals for the patient. This can vary quite a bit because they are unique to that person. Some people just want to be able little walk around, maybe do some shopping, without limitation. Others want to be able to return to the gym and engage in extensive exercise again. As I work with patients, I encourage them, as they begin to improve, to push the envelope a little bit. The rate of progress depends very much on a patient’s motivation, as well as, how long the condition has been present before they start care. But establishing a clear goal is an important part of the process.