Your perspective of your control over your health influences how you respond to illness and symptoms. It is likely that if you are middle-aged or older, you might consider a chronic joint condition or joint pain to be a natural sign of aging. This perspective means that you are likely accepting it as fate, where you have little or no ability to naturally control it.
So, exactly what is perspective? According to Merriam-Webster, perspective has several meanings. A few are, mental view or prospect, the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed (also point of view), and the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.
Perspectives of chronic joint pain involve an understanding of the interrelation of triggers of the specific joint condition, the health behaviors contributing to the condition, the opportunities for natural and traditional therapies to help manage the condition, and the individual’s beliefs and commitment to taking actions to influence positive health outcomes. While for some joint conditions, there may be no permanent cure, a collaborative and personalized plan between the provider(s) and the patient can help to manage the inflammation and pain.
Chronic joint pain-Chronic joint pain is a signal of one or more imbalances within your body. Living with chronic joint pain can significantly impact your ability to participate in daily activities or social functions, as well as place you at a higher risk for falling. Exercise and movement are important parts of managing inflammation and joint pain. A study of knee and hip arthritis patients reported that without adequate information and advice from healthcare professionals, people do not know what they should and should not do, and, as a consequence, avoid activity for fear of causing harm.1 Another study identified that kinesiophobia (fear of movement) was a significant problem in patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and that fatigue scores, depression scores, and disability scores were higher and quality of life scores were lower in the RA group than in the control group.2 Lack of movement and participation in social activities can ultimately lead to increased social isolation and feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression.
Managing chronic joint pain can be challenging. A study examined the patient perspective on the benefits and risks of pain treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) and chronic lower back pain (CLBP). The objective of this study was to examine OA and CLBP patient satisfaction with current pain treatment options, perceptions of treatment side effects, and the trade-offs patients are willing to make when weighing the potential risks and benefits of various pain treatments in order to reduce or eliminate their pain. The authors recommended future research that would allow OA and CLBP patients to determine which level of potential benefit they would require in order to tolerate the most commonly experienced and bothersome side effects of pain treatment.3
Perspectives and Health Locus of Control-Sometimes, getting stuck in a perspective of being unable to influence a health problem can prevent you from taking personal actions that can help you move forward with your health. This may show up as a victim mentality, where you may feel that you have no control at all. A concept in the health literature, called your health locus of control (HLOC), is defined as a person’s beliefs regarding where control over his/her health lies. With a high internal HLOC, a person believes that their behaviors influence their health, whereas those with a high external HLOC attribute their health outcomes to chance or fate. With a high internal LOC, more information-seeking, and evaluation are done by the individual. A study indicated that measuring HLOC and patients’ preferences could help with the decision-making process of personalized medicine fostering the involvement of patients in health care.4
Unfortunately, giving up all personal control to your provider, may not only lead to a lack of compliance with a treatment plan but may in situations of relying on traditional medication or surgery, lead to long-term complications or adverse effects. Taking personal responsibility in treatment decision-making as well as taking actions to influence your own health behaviors such as diet, rest, exercise, stress management, and appropriate supplementation is important to achieving positive health outcomes and supports putting you in the driver’s seat of your health.
My story-As a nurse, I did not want to be dependent on medication, but I was experiencing chronic joint pain and difficulty walking. I did a lot of soul-searching in addition to researching my health issues from both traditional and natural methods. One perspective that I chose was whatever you believe, you achieve. Another was that I could impact my chronic joint pain by changing my diet and lifestyle.
Through this process of looking at various perspectives of my arthritis, and maximizing my internal locus of health control, I was convinced that there were health behaviors that could help me overcome inflammation and pain. With functional lab testing and evaluation, I learned that:
- My cortisol was imbalanced, meaning that stress hormones were contributing to inflammation in my joints.
- Food sensitivities were contributing to my joint inflammation and pain that I was unaware of. Testing for specific food sensitivities, helped me to go on a 90-day elimination diet and specifically eliminate foods that were contributing to my joint inflammation in addition to key inflammation triggers of wheat (gluten), dairy, sugar, soy, and corn.
- I had fibrin that accumulated in my joints which was restricting movement and contributing to my pain.
- I had an imbalanced gut microbiome (dysbiosis) as well as some pathogenic bacteria which were contributing to more inflammation in my body.
- I had a high level of specific toxins that had accumulated in my body and needed to be eliminated.
- My micronutrients were imbalanced meaning that I had deficiencies that were likely contributing to my inflammation and pain.
- I had a leaky gut which was contributing to my inflammation, my autoimmune disease, and my pain.
- Focusing on a positive mental attitude in making diet and lifestyle changes was a part of my personal responsibility for my health recovery.
While it took time to figure out these imbalances and to rebalance my body, the broader perspective was that I wasn’t just putting band-aids on the problem with medication and surgery but was actively participating in my own health care. Using natural therapies, I was able to reduce inflammation (as measured by specific markers) and rebalance my gut. I worked on improving my sleep habits and reduced stress with meditation, EFT, and Qi Gong. I also did specific physical therapy exercises to increase my joint mobility which were restricted and limited high-impact exercises that were contributing to inflammation. Ultimately, rebalancing my body and my mind, helped my body recover and work like it was supposed to.
So how can you take your perspective of joint pain to new heights? My husband and I were recently traveling in Switzerland with friends. I’ll use illustrations of my paragliding experience to share how perspective and an internal locus of control can help your approach to chronic inflammation and pain.
The Narrow Perspective: Here I am at ground zero. I haven’t yet taken off. From a narrow perspective, this is where I might become fearful to take action and back out of my quest. This is very similar to when you first get diagnosed with a health condition or experience chronic symptoms. You may give up all your personal health control to a practitioner(s), meaning that you have an external locus of health control. From your viewpoint, you may see only one or two traditional options to manage your chronic joint pain and no opportunity for you to influence the outcome.
This narrow approach may often be a band-aid to temporarily reduce inflammation and pain. As a result of this, you are not only limited to seeing the possibility of other opportunities to help solve your health issues, but you are at risk of your health condition worsening or a new health condition arising because the underlying problem(s) has not been identified or resolved. When ignoring problematic health behaviors, you may be just fueling the triggers for inflammation and pain. Maybe you have even gone from doctor to doctor but are not seeing your health condition improve. This is where many individuals get stuck in the cycle of trial and error.
The Midview Perspective: When you take personal action, this is where things begin to get a bit exciting. You have decided to take personal responsibility for your health and have chosen to take an action to improve your health behaviors. You may be encouraged and hopeful that making a decision to take personal action will provide momentum to achieve positive results. Maybe you saw that there were some alternatives other than passively relying on traditional methods such as pain medication or surgery to help manage your inflammation and joint pain. You may have heard from friends or a support community, or read something on the internet and are willing to try to see if this may help to resolve your chronic joint inflammation and pain.
Maybe you decided to eliminate certain trigger foods from your diet, change the way you exercise, or improve your sleep habits. While small, manageable steps can be significant and may help you gain some momentum, you may not be addressing your underlying triggers of chronic inflammation and pain. In this perspective, while you are trying to exert some personal control, it can feel like taking shots in the dark…just like the constant dieter who is looking to the next popular diet fad to fix their metabolism and weight issues…or looking for the next pain relief treatment and not seeing success.
The Broad Perspective: Next, is where the broad view perspective happens. When you have the lens of the broad perspective, just like the aperture of a camera, your lens is more open, allowing more light to enter the frame. You are looking at all options, considering all that is around you. Here is where your perspective and lens widen so that you are open to more possibilities.
At this level, you have a broader view and can see that by taking control of your own health and finding the right information, resources, and support, you hold the potential to help your body work the way it’s supposed to. This is called maximizing your internal LOC.
When you have a high internal LOC, it is more likely that you will take action to learn about all potential treatment options, as well as natural ways to identify and solve the trigger(s) of your inflammation and pain. You have learned that by taking a broad approach and considering natural alternatives, you can potentially remove triggers and rebalance your body. It’s in this perspective that you have the greatest capability to resolve your health issues.
The successful approach: A successful approach will land you in a new place, where chronic inflammation and joint pain are gradually resolving and the plan is collaborative with the individual and practitioner, includes appropriate changes in diet and lifestyle, and places you in the best position to land successfully. For each individual, the plan should be personalized and not limited to just one approach. A broad approach includes multiple perspectives, the individual’s preferences and goals, and maximizes their internal locus of control.
For some, the plan may include behavior, lifestyle, and natural approaches. For others, a combination of traditional and natural approaches may be the answer. Take your perspective on chronic joint pain to new heights. Take a broad perspective, and take control of your health, and if you approach it with patience, persistence, and resilience this will be your greatest opportunity for success.
1. Hurley M, Dickson K, Hallett R, et al. Exercise interventions and patient beliefs for people with hip, knee or hip and knee osteoarthritis: A mixed methods review. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018;2018(4). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010842.pub2
2. Baday-Keskin D, Ekinci B. The relationship between kinesiophobia and health-related quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A controlled cross-sectional study. Joint Bone Spine. 2022;89(2). doi:10.1016/j.jbspin.2021.105275
3. Gavigan K, Stradford L, Booth K, et al. Understanding the Patient Perspective: Benefits and Risks of Pain Treatment for Osteoarthritis and Chronic Lower Back Pain. Postgrad Med. 2019;131(SUPPL 1).
4. Marton G, Pizzoli SFM, Vergani L, et al. Patients’ health locus of control and preferences about the role that they want to play in the medical decision-making process. Psychol Health Med. 2021;26(2). doi:10.1080/13548506.2020.1748211
I am a Master’s prepared RN, National Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Board-Certified Functional Wellness Coach, and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. I help people fix their chronic inflammation & pain with in-home lab testing, client assessments, personalized natural healing protocols, and online coaching to help them move from pain to peace so that they feel better, move better, and live better.