Don’t Ask: Does it Work?

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There is currently no cure for most chronic health conditions so treatments are focused on reducing symptoms.

I live with a condition called dystonia, a painful neurological movement disorder. Like many other conditions, dystonia symptoms are highly variable, as are treatments. A treatment that helps one may not help another, or help as much, so there is no cookie cutter approach.

Thus, finding the right treatment/symptom management program can take some trial and error…and the right questions.

Whatever your treatment of choice, it is important to know beforehand how you will evaluate its usefulness; in other words, your expectations. When discussing a particular treatment, I often hear people ask, “Does it work?” This is a vague question.

“Work” in what way? Reduce specific symptoms, reduce or eliminate pain, eliminate dystonia (or whatever condition) altogether?

Anything might “work” so we need to be more specific to satisfy our personal definition of the word “work.” Plus, what works for one may not work for someone else so we have to experiment to find what is best for us based on our desired outcome.

Perhaps a better question is, “Does it help?” Better yet, asking something even more specific such as “Does it reduce pain?” or “Does it ease muscle contractions?” would be more appropriate. We all experience similar symptoms, but what is most significant to us differs. Thus, our questions should pertain to the specific symptom we are most concerned about.

“Does it work?” doesn’t fit the bill.

Every treatment and symptom management protocol available to us has the potential of helping so it is best to be open-minded to every possibility. If we get 20% help from one treatment, 10% from another, and 15% from another, it starts to add up. Use anything and everything that helps.

Also keep in mind that just because something has not been approved as a treatment for your particular condition does not mean it is ineffective. There are plenty of FDA approved treatments that are ineffective for some of us, just as there are treatments not approved that are helpful, so this standard is not absolute. This being the case, especially with all of the complex disorders people live with, every single thing that may help manage our symptoms deserves our attention.

It is just so important to ask the right questions, and ask them in the context of what you, as a unique individual, are experiencing.

Tom Seaman Headshot (2)About the Author: Tom Seaman is a dystonia awareness advocate and certified professional life coach in the area of health and wellness. He is also the author of the book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015). To learn more about Tom and get a copy of his book, visit www.diagnosisdystonia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dystoniabook1

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