You’ve probably heard it before: the story of a “perfectly healthy” person who is suddenly diagnosed with a life-altering or even terminal disease. They are shocked. They didn’t feel sick, they weren’t in pain, and they had no warning signs that something was terribly wrong.
How does this happen? How do we not know when something is not working properly in our bodies? How do we know if we are actually healthy?
Health is defined as “being free from illness or injury.” Health does not mean we are free from pain and it doesn’t mean we simply feel like everything is okay.
There is a huge difference between how we feel and how our bodies are actually functioning, as many have seen when hearing a story similar to the one above. So why is this concept of “feeling versus function” actually important? Why does it matter in our lives and in our health?
#1 Your Feelings Are Unreliable
As with your emotional feelings, our bodily feelings are not reliable. Just because you feel scared doesn’t mean there is actually something to be scared about. And just because you feel okay health-wise doesn’t mean that everything actually is okay. Different people have different thresholds of pain and different reactions to discomfort in their bodies. How you feel is not a reliable indication of how healthy you actually are.
#2 Your Nerves Don’t Always Feel Pain
The human body has over 41 miles of nerves in it, and only about 18% of those nerves can feel pain. Pain is a very infrequent symptom, and it’s often the last symptom to appear when something is amiss.
#3 Fixing “Feelings” Doesn’t Resolve Problems Long-Term
If you go to a medical doctor with a complaint that something feels wrong, the first line of defense is typically medication. This takes care of the feeling—you won’t be in pain, you’ll go to the bathroom normally, or you won’t experience severe anxiety. But that medication doesn’t fix the problem; it doesn’t improve the function of your body. It simply covers up the underlying issue, likely leading to more problems down the road.
#4 Function Has to Be the Focus of Actual Health Care
For you to actually be healthy, function has to be the focus. It’s not about just feeling good, but it’s about your body actually functioning properly. We are striving for health and optimal function, so we look to the spine, which dictates body function in the form of protecting the nervous system. When you focus on the function of your body, you don’t get sick care. Rather, you get actual health care—care that is focused on making you free from illness and injury, in addition to helping you feel great.