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You don’t feel well. Something hurts; it’s not going away, and you don’t know why. So when OTC remedies, acupuncture, or some holistic stuff your chiropractor recommends doesn’t work, you break down and go to your doctor. If you’re one of the lucky few, your internist is like Sherlock Holmes. They look at your malady as a crime to be solved. In fact, they take it personally. They take all the time necessary to ask you the right questions, to go down every possible road, and then either treat you or get you to the right test that might confirm or deny their suspicions. Then they either fix it, or send you to the exact right specialist for the correct treatment.

At least that’s how it should be in a perfect world. Before I had a dedicated internist like I described above, I trusted that my previous doctors were doing the right thing when they spent about eight minutes listening to my story, but as I was speaking, they were gaming the possibilities: i.e. deciding which specialists to pawn you off on. And just to cover their butts, it might be a couple of specialists. That’s called treating by algorithm.

So the specialists send you for multiple tests: X-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, Ultra-Sound, Joint Aspirations, Nerve Conduction Studies, Electromyography, etc. etc. Even with decent health insurance, you’re wracking up a whole lot of co-pays. And forget about the tests that are not approved by your insurer, and you have to pay the whole thing; or the tests that are done by specialists “Out Of Network” and you have to pay for most of it.

All the specialists say that they look upon surgery as “A last resort.” Hence, the myriad tests, the months of Physical Therapy, (more co-pays), and when you’re still hurting—sometimes even worse than before—they perform the “Least Possible Invasive Procedures.”

But, too often, when all is said and done, you’re still in that original place of something’s hurting you, it’s not going away, and it’s completely messed up your life.

That’s when the specialist reluctantly tells you that you need surgery. So does the second opinion guy. (This is probably after both of them had worked out at the gym together). You have the surgery and hopefully it works. But what do you do when the damn surgery doesn’t work, and has to be “tweaked?” In other words, a surgery to fix the surgery?

Me, I have a buddy who trains thoroughbred racehorses. He doesn’t run them a lot, because he want them to be at 100% health when he does run them; he’ll never enter a horse that’s sore, or has a breathing issue, or just seems down in the dumps. Maybe he’s in the wrong business, because racehorse trainers don’t make a lot of money unless they send a lot of horses, ready or not, out onto the track, and hope for a few winners.

The reason my horse trainer friend has a reputation of running healthy horses is because he takes the time to “listen” to his horses, and get them the right tests and the right treatment, and if necessary rest them six months or even a year so they can get over whatever it was that ailed them. Not a great business plan, but a great way to live an honorable life.

Through that experience, he’s learned a whole lot about physiology, biology, orthopedics, kinesthetics. So he’s got a pretty good idea of how to fix what’s hurting you.

That’s why my first stop for medical advice when something hurts is to go to my horse trainer friend. The advice is free, generally accurate, and I get a lot of free oats.