Lessons From an Oil Change

I have always had Tuesday’s off from seeing patients, so that tends to be the day I schedule all of my own body maintenance, appointments, errands, etc. On this past Tuesday’s agenda was to get a massage and an oil change. As I was sitting at the shop, waiting for my car to be done (in my greasy hotmess-ness), I started to think about how the two appointments I had that day weren’t too different from one another. I knew I needed an oil change because it was around 3,000 miles since my last one. Was there a noise that sent me running to the shop? Nope. Was there a sensor telling me my oil was sludge? Nope. Then really, how did I know? Because we know that oil has a lifespan and that lifespan (depending on the oil) is around 3k miles or 3 months. What would happen if I waited until my car was throwing symptom after symptom at me that something was up? I may have actually waited TOO LONG to JUST need an oil change!
My massage wasn’t really much different. Did I have an ache, a pain, a problem? Nope. Did I have a “reason” to see the massage therapist? Nope. What I did have was a consistent timeline in my body that knows every month is good maintenance. There are so many benefits to massage that I won’t go into, but what I can tell you is that many times people go in for a massage and during the session, they realize how tight a certain muscle is, or notice a random spot of soreness. These things weren’t screaming in need, they simply had adhesions or stagnant blood flow. You never would’ve been aware they existed unless the massage therapist ran across them. Oh wait, you likely may have known a few months later when something started nagging at you. At that point, you are not getting maintenance, you are in need of acute care that requires multiple appointments within a short time frame.

Let’s look at it from another point of view because my mind does this; therefore, I am bringing you inside of my mind for that 10 minute break I had during the oil change. What happens when you have a check engine light come on on the dashboard? Do you take it to the shop for diagnostics? I would like to hope so. Would you be satisfied if they just put some electrical tape over the light or went in to the computer system and just turned it off without truly diagnosing the problem? What if they came back after that and said “All better! No more check engine light!” I sure as heck wouldn’t want that type of mechanic! Then why do you let the doctor give you a medication for your symptoms? It’s essentially the same thing. You have a joint pain? Take this anti-inflammatory. It will “cover up your check engine light.” What if the problem is actually an overuse pathology, a bone tumor, or a side effect to the cholesterol meds you’ve been taking? Have you fixed the problem? Nope. What if you have heartburn because your stomach isn’t producing enough stomach acid for your sphincter to get the message to close? You reach for a pill that is alkaline (like tums) to neutralize the hydrochloric acid coming up into the esophagus which dampens the symptom of burning; however, it did NOTHING for the underlying reason why the “check engine light” came on. The reason you had the symptom of heartburn is likely because there isn’t ENOUGH stomach acid.

You see, doctors are just like mechanics. However, you hold your mechanic to a higher standard in many situations. You would never put up with a mechanic just covering up a light or telling you to turn up your music so you can’t hear the clunk! Those solutions would be nothing more than covering up the symptom that brought you in. However, you often let the doctor give you a pill for a symptom that comes right back if you don’t take it. You want your body to last your lifetime? Then you must put a standard for it’s care at the same level as your car. At least you can replace a car; you only get one body.

*Thank you to my favorite mechanic, Patrick, at SAS Auto for always DIAGNOSING the problem, giving me all of my options, and doing what’s right for my good ‘ole car that gives me the ability to travel to all my patients near and far!

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