“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
Meditations on a flat tyre.
A few years ago, I was driving home from grocery shopping. I'd taken the freeway - there was nobody out that early and I wanted to take the opportunity and get a nice trip in. I was at speed, one hundred kilometers per hour, and driving in the middle lane. There was a truck in front of me, some few hundred meters off my right, but otherwise the road was clear.
Then my left rear tyre burst.
The first thing I heard was a dull bang, and then the car started fighting me. The steering wheel shuddered as the nose swung left, and the traction control kicked in. It took me a moment to realise what was going on - my hands clenched on the wheel and my arms went stiff when I felt the turn - I honestly felt it in my chest as the car lurched before my brain woke up. I was fighting the front two wheels as they went sideways, wrenching me in the driver's seat as I fumbled with my feet and my hands to get some control. The car slid across one lane, then back through the middle into another, eventually screeching to a standstill on the shoulder as a combination of the ABS brakes and my own fear brought everything to a halt. I'd pushed my foot against the brake pedal so firmly I'd torn a groove into the sole of my shoe, and there were black streaks of rubber painted across three lanes of the Eastlink freeway which ended underneath the smoking wheels of my 1999 Holden Astra.
Thank God I hadn't rolled, or I'd be dead. The whole episode took less than a minute, but I aged a year in that time.
When I called roadside assistance for a spare tyre, they told me that the puncture had most likely been caused by something on the road that had stabbed into the wheel, and then slid out. They also said my tyres were bald. I was new to driving, and didn't know anything about wheel wear or replacing tyres, and the news that I needed to shell out for four new riders came hard. It was like salt in the wound - I'd almost died and now I needed to spend a thousand dollars or more on new tyres, as well as enduring the drive to the shop and then home with a boot full of broken eggs and spilled dairy products.
It wasn't like I could drive on those tyres forever, even though I thought I could. I didn't understand that then, but I do now that I've had some experience driving, racing, and working on cars.
I understand now that as you drive, even over short distances, the wheels of a car wear down. The tread becomes less and less pronounced, leading to less grip during wet conditions, as well as less rubber between the air bladder inside the wheel and whatever might be outside. Wear a tire down enough, and all it takes is one nail, one screw sticking up out of the road to puncture it, and then it's a roll of the dice as to how things shake out.
It's something I see a lot in clinic as well.
Our relationship with our bodies is like our relationship with our cars. Both our bodies and our autos can be used for pleasure, for work, for travel, and both of them wear down over time. The important difference is that the body is self-repairing to an extent, while a car needs regular servicing. Similar to the Iceberg idea that we've written on before, our bodies can deal with a certain amount of strain, beyond which we experience problems.
Slow build-up, fast breakdown.
Like a car's tyres getting worn down as the kilometers pile on, our bodies also experience wear and tear as we go through life. We can replenish ourselves with sleep, diet, and exercise modifications, but as time goes on the stress accumulates, building up in the background. Sometime's it's feeling a little stiff when standing up from a chair, a little extra tightness in joints that you didn't feel before, or a little more difficulty performing physical tasks that previously used to be easy. This is the slow build-up - the gradual increases of physical strain that, like the hidden mass of the iceberg, grows and waxes out of sight until it makes itself known.
Problems happen very quickly and sometimes dramatically, like a tyre exploding under a car going a hundred kilometers an hour, or the feeling of a pulled muscle in your back. Suddenly, one of the intrinsic systems you relied on to keep you going has failed, and you end up losing control of that element of yourself, even if you have your hands on the wheel. This is the fast breakdown - the problem you feel in the moment that was growing out of sight, out of mind, made greater by all of those moments you lived before in slight discomfort, all of a sudden brought to full fruition.
It isn't like you can go without experiencing problems forever, even though you think you can.
As we live, we wear down, and sometimes we have blowouts.
Luckily, physical blowouts don't usually happen going at full speed on the freeway, though sometimes they feel like they do. A muscle spasm, joint pain, torn ligament or pinched nerve can be as debilitating to us individually as a burst tyre, cracked gasket, dyno failure or broken timing belt. It's just one small part - how can it have such a huge impact? Just like a car, our bodies function because all of the parts, big and small, work together to produce results. If one part starts rattling, we can still get by. If that part breaks down, we have to pull over.
Being proactive about servicing can help you get more mileage out of your car. Being proactive about your health can help you get more mileage out of your body. Your body doesn't come with an odometer and a logbook that tells it when to get serviced or warning lights that flash when you're not wearing your belt, but it does have its own signals. Little aches and pains that stick around are always worth getting checked out ahead of time before they grow into big problems. Sure, they may be nothing of importance, just like that weird rattle in your door when you turn left going down a hill at just under fifty-five - but peace of mind is priceless.
Most Australians don't have a regular physician. This is due in part to the increased renterization of young professionals who have to move to follow work, as well as the increasingly prohibitive costs of primary contact medicine that make it difficult attend. How can you pay to get something checked out, unless you've got something in your chequing account? That's saying nothing of the more opportunistic professionals, who can turn simple problems into an obtuse, abstruse web of issues that'll keep you coming back in for just one more adjustment every time. There are social, economic, and geographical factors that stop people from attending doctors' offices unless there's something really wrong, and that's a problem we need to fix through legislation and better access to primary care. But in the short term, it's always better to speak to a clinician to get your problem checked out.
It may be nothing, but it's best to find that out in the shop, rather than running the risk of losing control at full speed.
Tune-ups stop blow-ups. It's that simple.
A good mechanic will tell you how to get the best out of your car. A good physiotherapist will tell you how to get the most out of your body. In both cases, the difference is empowerment and education - do you feel like you're walking out of your appointment armed with knowledge, or do you feel lost between more questions? It's important to remember - healthcare is there to empower you, not enfeeble you, and if you want to be empowered, give us a ring.
We are a Fairield based allied health practise offering in-clinic and home-visit physiotherapy, to all local Fairfield residents and surrounding communities including; Ivanhoe, Darebin, Hurstbridge, Preston, Epping, Camberwell, Brunswick & Coburg.
For more information on how we can help you, or to book an appointment contact us on 0400 174 015.