I see quite a few runners in my practice, and it appears that they are comforted by the fact that I too am a runner. However, these patients can be both the most rewarding and challenging patients to treat. The reward is to see them back running healthy again. The difficult part is dealing with some of the more unique personality types that make our encounters more of an adventure. Here are some of the more colorful types of patients I have run into in practice.
- The “I’ve-Watched-Every-Episode-of-‘House’- and-I-Know-How-to-Google-My-Injury” patient. The presumed clinical and diagnostic expertise gleaned from watching TV or doing searches on the internet is unfortunately not anchored by the years of formal training and board certification it takes to be learned in the healing arts. I generally realize this when a vacant glazed look appears on the persons face when our academic discussion delves into areas such as pathology or biomechanics they neglected to find online or missed during primetime.
- The “Flavor-of-the-Month” patient. These people are always seeking the latest treatment fad. Unfortunately many of these “new and improved” treatments have little or no evidence to support their use. They generally are more costly than conventional treatments, and may inadvertently do more harm than good.
- The “Black-is-White” patient. These patients simply disagree with every thing you say. Possibly this is a control issue they have, but they did come to see me. What’s up with that?
- The “I-Can-Contravene-the-Natural-Laws-that- Govern-the-Universe” patient. These people can understand that it may take anywhere from four months to a year to properly build up to run a marathon, but when they are injured, if they are not 100 percent better within days they are devastated.
- The “Denial-is-a-River-in-Africa” patient. These people simply refuse to accept that they are injured. Obvious issues with treatment and down time arise with these folks, since they usually arrive at the clinic with an injury that has had time to really set in and do some damage.
The point is not to gripe about these traits, because I think we all have some elements of these quirks in all of us. I for one can think of at least two or three of the above that I am guilty of.
What I want runners to see, is that they must strive to moderate these quirks and if they are receiving care, recognize that it is a cooperative effort between patient and clinician that often yields the best result.
Clear communication, realistic expectations and a openness to explore which factors—may they be training issues, biomechanical issues or otherwise—that are at fault for an injury are essential in building the foundation for a successful outcome.