I will preface this article by stating that in no way am I an animal biologist, nor do I have any advanced knowledge of animal behaviour. However, I believe that nearly all of us have at some time or another watched a cartoon or two.
In cartoon form, the ostrich is somewhat of a cowardly creature. At the first sign of danger or harm, the ostrich promptly buries its head in the sand in an attempt to hide and escape. Therein lies the humour of our cartoon ostrich, as its faulty attempts at hiding are ridiculous and ultimately result in failure.
Let us take the example of the ostrich and apply it to the modern world of health care.
When you feel a pain or discomfort or illness in any region of your body, what do you do? Do you address it right away? Do you seek out advice or treatment? Do you research and discuss different means of managing your problem? Or, do you attempt to ignore what your body is telling you and move forward without addressing what might be wrong?
I would wager that there is a significant percentage of the population that would identify more with the “ignore it and it will go away” mindset as opposed to the other options presented. In fact, in my years of practice I have noted that the majority of individuals fall into the ignore the pain category. In essence, the majority of the population have become the cartoon ostriches, burying our heads in the sand to hide from what our bodies are telling us.
Why is this?
The simple answer is fear. The myriad of anatomical and physiological processes that occur in our bodies over the years are performed with such efficiency that we naturally take them for granted. Thus, when there is a problem or difficulty with one or more of these processes, we often choose to believe that we could not possibly be ill or injured.
Nowhere is the ostrich phenomenon more prevalent than in the case of prostate cancer. 27% of new cancer cases recorded and 10% of all cancer deaths per year are attributed to prostate cancer according to the Canadian Cancer Society. These statistics are for a type of cancer that may take up to thirteen years to progress, and can be detectable early with a simple test! Yet the fear and discomfort over a simple and quick to perform digital examination leads to statistics like those mentioned above.
At Queen Street Chiropractic Centre, we have experienced the ostrich phenomenon regarding musculoskeletal pain. The following are common examples of the ostrich phenomenon in phrase form;
“I have never had back pain before!”
“My knee has been locking up for a few years, but it is no big deal”
“I have always had trouble sleeping, so I do not worry about it”
“I do not know why this happened!”
In my opinion, the adage about an ounce of prevention equalling a pound of cure is a healthier way to approach life. Instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending nothing is wrong, let us address the problem and find a solution. Knowledge is power, and being educated and informed about your body affords you the opportunity to manage whatever problems arise.
Don’t feed the ostrich!