So yesterday the lead up and theme of this years World physiotherapy day struck me as a particularly curious, yet characteristic moment for physiotherapy. It’s a moment in which I really wish I was an illustrator, because if I was, I would have drawn the following picture:
Somewhere in the middle of a map of the world stands a client bent over from (chronic low back) pain, leaning on a cane. Next there is a whole bunch of physiotherapist standing very closely around her/him in a circle, genuinely concerned, but also proud as Punch, listening, giving advice, recommending exercise, showing off statistics about costs, likelihoods, irrelevant imaging findings etc. And all the while that is happening, and with their backs turned to it, a huge cloud of smoke is slowly encroaching on them from the Amazon fires on one side, hurricanes are flooding landmasses on another such that the little island our physios are standing on is becoming even smaller, people on deck chairs with Mojitos (with plastic straws) in their hands are enjoying summer holidays in the Arctic, another landmass is being chiselled to death for more of its rare metals, slaughtered whales (who contribute to carbon drawdown by the way..) are piling up on Japans, Norway’s, and Iceland’s surfaces, Equinor has claimed the sea around Australia, which now looks like a single, huge drilling platform, cows have finally taken over New Zealand for good, and so forth, you get the picture.
So what is the story with this I wonder. Sure, it has something to do with what we have historically focussed on an built our profession around. But it seems so crazy now. That same client standing in the middle of the circle we have built around him is (at risk of) not having much healthy air left to breathe, suffering a perpetual heat stroke, living on a diet of plastic served in multiple forms, never mind having back pain.
And just to be clear, I’m not trying to downplay anyone’s pain and suffering here. I’m just struck by the blinders that we seem to wear AS A PROFESSION (because we are celebrating this day as such, on a global scale).
Sure, we are good at what we do and wearing blinders and focussing on one thing to get really good at it is and will continue to be really important AT TIMES. And sure, the treatment of chronic pain is a hot topic, and for good reasons. But that hot dish is standing on a stove that is currently going into overdrive. Could we not at least pay a little attention to that as well and maybe help turn down the flame a little? What’s the client with chronic pain going to do when there is no cool ground to stand on, no food left to eat, and no air to breathe? And maybe if we help improve one or the other aspect of this, we might end up reducing some of our clients back pain as well in some wonderfully interdependent (i.e. the way life actually is) way?
I’m a bit torn about posting this. I’m not trying to rant and this is not to point fingers. It’s just an observation about an issue that I’m very interested in and am trying to learn more about, and ok, I also like thinking in pictures. And I know we need positive approaches and communication to solve the problems we are facing, environmental and biopsychosocial alike. Maybe we could at least consider some aspect of this as an already globally warming topic for next years world physiotherapy day. And I don’t think we should shy away from it just because we know less about it, or don’t feel as familiar, experienced and comfortable in dealing with it, or else. We’ve done great things before.