Do you know how an ecosystem operates? Without ALL the working parts NONE of the animals or plants survive. The big predators feed on smaller prey. It's not pretty but if we didn’t have the large predators, there would be an overpopulation of small animals that would obliterate vegetation. If we didn’t have any trees there would be no home for many small insects or oxygen for every living organism to breathe. Without the plants, animals, and insects we would have no food. Without the bees and insects to pollinate the flowers the trees couldn’t exist. On and on the cycle continues!
In Medicine, a similar ecosystem is required to survive. We need surgeons to save human lives after severe accidents. We need nutritionists to help us make sure we are eating a proper diet. We need trainers to help us maintain proper body weight and to build strength. Primary care physicians are vital in so many different ways. Each medical and healthcare provider has their place. The challenge lies in the question of what therapy should be used for each individual circumstance?
First, you must determine how severe your symptoms are. If you just got into a car accident would you go to your nutritionist? No! If you had minor acid reflux would you visit your surgeon? Probably not. I like to start at the bottom. Although I refer to this as the bottom, these therapies are more like ankles. They hold up the entire body. They’re the base. Without them, nothing else can function. So even though, they’re the “bottom” they’re very important. These first base level providers include nutritionists, pastors, and spiritual healers or meditation practitioners, and massage therapists. If you have a minor or new symptom try one of these options. If those don’t seem to quell your problem you go to the next step up.
The next group in the medical ecosystem is Acupuncturist's, Chiropractor's, Functional Medicine Practitioner's, and physical therapist's. These treatments are more comprehensive. If you still continue to have problems you might want to consider another step up. This might include seeing an Osteopathic Doctor for injections, a Primary Care Provider for mild medications, or a Naturopathic Doctor for extensive testing and treatment. The final step up for this would be a specialist or a surgeon. Surgery and harsh medications are lifesaving for the people who need them. If your symptoms are new and severe it is recommended to be evaluated by someone in the top tier to make sure there are no life-threatening issues.
One problem I have run into in the past is patients who don’t always want to be evaluated by someone in that top or bottom tier. They don’t want surgery but they don’t want to change their diet either. I have had patients who refused my referral to go see a specialist which led to the severity of their condition cascading into a life-threatening event. On the other hand, I have had patients who skipped the first two tiers of the healthcare ecosystem. They jumped directly to the surgeon which made their condition permanent. Without the team of people with all different expertise, you might be missing something in your path to health. We all have our own expertise and very few practitioners and doctors understand all three tiers. When in doubt, get recommendations from many types of practitioners and track your results and see what gets you better. Using this ecosystem correctly is vital for your financial well-being and for your health overall.
Dr. Christina Fick