As a patient going through recovery, I realized the importance of having a PLAN.
There are some things that doctors just can’t learn in medical school. Bedside manner is one of them. You can only learn how to talk to patients through the experience of treating them. But what is it like to experience surgery – first hand? What’s it like to experience postoperative recovery?
That’s one of the reasons I can connect with many of my patients in a deep and personal way. I’ve experienced back and neck surgery – first with a cervical fusion, then later with artificial disc replacement. I know what it’s like to go home as a recovering patient and deal with postop pain and discomfort. When I explain the recovery process, my patients know that I’m not just reading from a script: I am speaking from personal knowledge.
I’m not entirely at the level of talking to my patients as a patient. My primary concern is as a doctor at my private practice in Beverly Hills, CA and for my patients at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. And what my patients expect is that I’m using ALL of my experience to give them the best possible treatment options. They like that I can speak from experience what surgery is like, but they want me to think about how THEY will see the best possible outcome well after the surgery.
That’s how I first recognized a need for a systemic treatment methodology I call the “4D Health Process” that includes nutrition, fitness, biologic intelligence, and disease screening. Why is this important? As I went through my recovery, I sought ways to improve all other aspects of my health. I needed focus resources for my body: to heal it, strengthen it, prepare the body for living to the fullest. These four “dimensions” kept coming back as essential elements for my full recovery.
My treatment philosophy is focused on an all-out effort to preserve as much of our natural function and movement as possible. But this why you need a plan. First, we must recognize that it often takes months to a year to heal from back surgery if you choose to have fusion. Following your doctor’s instructions is important, but you also need to take personal responsibility for how you heal. After more than twenty years of practice, I have found that patients who have the best outcomes are often the ones who are best prepared and are fully engaged in a pre and postoperative rehabilitation program.
Why nutrition? This may sound cliché, but it’s true: your body is a machine. It needs fuel to sustain functionality and healthy balance. But you can’t support good health with just anything. There are vital minerals and nutrients that your body needs to maintain your natural abilities and efficient healing. For that reason, what works for one person may not work for another. What works best is to get a personal assessment and evaluation that reveals all the mean nutritional values (and deficits) you may have. I work with professional nutritionists who help my patients get to this level of granular understanding.
Why fitness? A strong musculoskeletal system is a key to maintaining natural functionality and movement. We want layers of strong muscles wrapped around the whole length of the spine. We want joints held together by flexible and durable tissue. I don’t mean that my patients have to be bodybuilders – I’m not. But we do need to pay very close attention to how weakness leads to injury. Here again, I bring in professional fitness consultants who can design smart exercise programs that raise the basal metabolic rate (so that you can burn off more fat), but also to build that muscle strength that helps us keep all our bones together!
Why biologic intelligence? Knowing your body chemical balance gives us a clear picture of your state of health. By peering inside all the chemical processes that are going on, we get the most precise picture possible of how your body metabolizes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Not only do we need to learn how you burn fat off, but what it takes to build healthy muscle. Like nutrition, there’s no formula for what works for everyone. A good biologic analysis takes on hormonal balance, genetic history, your personal history, and your environment.
Why disease screening? We’ve known for DECADES that asymptomatic disease screening is essential for extended health. We screen “asymptomatically” long before symptoms emerge. If you wait until a disease has had the opportunity to produce noticeable symptoms, considerable damage may have already occurred. The disease has already produced measurable a negative impact on our quality of life. By screening for disease early, we can fine tune our 4D Health plan. So we look for any potential disease – coronary artery calcification, possible aneurysm, early stage cysts that can lead to cancer.
This is the plan that worked for me. When you’re focused on recovery, it helps to look forward to a simple set of actions like the four-dimensional health process I’ve designed. Again, with my personal experience as a guide, I am better able to stave off additional injury and heal faster when I suffer injury. That’s why all my patients undergo this process, whether surgery is needed or not.
Personal experience has taught me that the process of “getting better” is far more efficient when you plan to get there.