In 1977, Dr. George Engel came up with a new way to look at illness. He wanted to use a more holistic approach: seeing the forest and not just looking at its trees. He called this model the BioPsychoSocial approach to illness.
Decades ago, the idea was already starting to spread that there is so much more to pain and illness than we once thought. In healthcare today, there are so many factors one can look at which contribute to a person’s experience of pain. In my realm of musculoskeletal disorders, or conditions which effect the nerves, muscles, joints, and bones, this couldn’t ring truer.
This is the idea being taught in almost all circles of healthcare today – that no conditions or illnesses exist in isolation. That to treat a person to the highest standard you must know the person – even just a little bit.
Let’s look at low back pain and start with this biopsychosocial approach Dr. Engel proposed. You must know the biology of the low back – all the muscles, joints, and ligaments that can be affected. You must know the psychology – how this affects your patient’s state of mind. Does this pain frustrate them or if vice vera – they have a frustration in life that could be causing them pain. You must also understand the sociology – does this pain stop your patient from playing hockey? From picking up their kids or grandkids?
Of course, most importantly, a modern healthcare practitioner should pay attention to how all these factors interact – they should look at the forest, not just its trees.
Theo Ramsdale – Chiropractor & Owner of The Wellness Zone