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Habits: The Ultimate Cause and the Ultimate Cure

Our habits are both the ultimate cause and cure for stress and most disease.

It is estimated that 75–90 % of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems* due to our lifestyle. Breathing, postural, and movement habits are the building blocks of our lifestyle. And, we create the conditions to stress or rejuvenate ourselves through our daily routines. 

That’s why it just doesn’t make sense to fix something caused by our habits with a pill or surgery. I call that catch-up medicine. It addresses symptoms rather than the underlying causes of illness, pain, and recurring injuries. Worse yet, catch-up medicine is fueling our current opioid-abuse epidemic and is the cause behind many unnecessary surgeries. It also promotes overmedication, which often leads to many harmful side effects. Then you are stuck with even more problems than your original symptoms. Lifestyle Medicine, on the other hand, helps you resolve your pain and symptoms by modifying your habits that are often the true culprit behind the illness. The New Year is a perfect time to address your habits. 

During the 1950’s a physical therapist from New Zealand, Robin McKenzie developed a classic example of lifestyle medicine for treating musculoskeletal problems.

I was profoundly influenced by his method when I was trained in it during my physical therapy doctoral program. This method is well researched and has been proven to be a very effective method for treating musculoskeletal pain. It is most famous for successfully treating low back pain.

An essential ingredient of the McKenzie Method is finding what movements relieve or aggravate your symptoms. A movement that provides relief from your symptoms is called your direction of preference. In the example of low back pain, back bending is the most common direction of preference. Most patients with low back pain are taught how to add back bending into their daily routine and to avoid bending forward that typically worsens their low back pain.

Patients also learn a traffic-light pain management system to modify their daily movements. A “red” movement causes pain during and after the exercise. Patients are trained to avoid this motion. A “yellow” movement causes pain while performing the motion, but the pain disappears afterward. Patients learn to monitor their “yellow” movements. A “green” movement feels good and provides relief afterward. Patients are encouraged to perform green movements as often as possible. The McKenzie Method empowers patients to practice Lifestyle Medicine by modifying their movements to relieve pain and to enhance healing.

In my own Lifestyle Medicine practice, on top of movement habits, I also address my patients’ breathing and postural habits.

These three behaviors reinforce each other. For example, mindful breathing has been shown to reinforce good posture and efficient movement. In future blogs, I will say more about Lifestyle Medicine and try to inspire you to upgrade your breathing, postural, and movement habits.


To learn more about Lifestyle Medicine, please visit my page here. Interested in implementing Lifestyle Medicine in the office? Visit my website for information on Lifestyle Medicine for Groups here, or contact me to learn more.

*Research by Perkins (1994) cited in the Harvard Business Review showed that 60% to 90% of doctor visits were stress-related.