Why empowerment is a powerful prescription

We were 40 minutes into our session and the dreaded words spilled out. ”I just want you to take the pain away”. I appreciated the honestly because I had been observing this trajectory after 10 minutes of conversation. This was primarily due to physical pain but there was also emotional pain, driven by the constant physical discomfort and uncertainty that partners a long term condition.

The irony wasn’t lost on me. Seeking support with a tangle of repeat prescriptions that no longer worked. Medication prescribed for the side effects of medication. Layering drugs to mask an ever accumulating set of symptoms. A health service supporting the idea that pain could be admonished with yet another pill. When all avenues were exhausted and further solutions sought, the Dr simply suggested ‘losing weight’. This was like recommending a face towel to clean up an oil spill. Of course it wasn’t bad advice, simply ill placed given the biggest weight gain was a side effect of a recent nerve pain medication. This was one of 12 drugs contributing to falls, difficulties with breathing, brain fog, depression and extreme fatigue. None of which had worked. It was impossible to decipher the original problem and how to manage the mess. One thing was clear nobody could simply take away the pain, as ever this would require the patient to be a proactive and willing participant.   

It is a common notion that our health and wellbeing is something we refer over to the experts. Should a problem arise we present ourselves with the expectation of a solution, issued in a white paper bag from a window in the waiting room. A willing surrender of power that supports a system of illness care.  In truth, the more responsibility we take for our health the better. This applies to long term physical and mental health alongside disease prevention.   

There is not enough emphasis on lifestyle in the treatment of patients. Medical support often does not address the whole person, essential in tackling preventable disease.

“Preventable ill-health accounts for an estimated 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of outpatient appointments and 70% of all inpatient bed days. Moreover, it is estimated that 40% of the uptake of health services in England may be preventable through action on smoking, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and poor diet.” British Medical Association

There is also the maze of medication issued for mental health. Medicalising our minds is the biggest disservice in health. Protocol is a million miles away from the reality. Resources simply do not allow for the recommended staged process inside GP practice. Instead, plugging a gaping hole with pills on first or second visit. The wait for therapy is long and many resort to self-medication in the interim. 

The most effective treatment plan is not isolated to a particular physical system but considers the whole person. Addressing our interconnecting systems, personal habits, environment and lifestyle.

 Empowerment is a powerful prescription.

In my work the greatest outcomes are always with patients that assume self-responsibility. Those that listen to their intuitive nudges and tune into physical signals from the body. People that research, set achievable goals and remain an active part of the treatment process. When a patient asks me to fix them I ask the question ‘where do you think we should start’.      


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