Have you ever needed a kick in the butt? Some type of push that motivates change is what a kick in the butt is meant to do. Sometimes the push works, sometimes the push backfires. Most of the time, a push, a nudge or a shove in the right direction is what someone needs. However, the one who does the pushing is usually risking retaliation. Is the risk worth it? Absolutely, especially when it comes to getting someone to quit a destructive addiction, a kick in the butt can be a life saver.
Recently, I kicked a patient’s butt. She came into my office smelling like an ashtray. I said to her, “How do you expect to feel better if you continue to smoke?” Her immediate response was that she did not smoke that much, only “8 per day”. I responded by saying , “Well, that is more than most people like me who do not smoke.” After pondering what I just said, she left rubbing her butt a little after that good, stiff kick. The next visit (yes, she did come back to see me) she gave me a huge hug and thanked me for pushing her to quit smoking. “See, I do not smell like an ashtray” she said. That lifestyle change is the most important one she will ever make. Each day of abstinence from smoking is a step towards being pain free.
That’s right; smokers cannot expect to be pain free because smoking causes pain. Smoking damages discs in the spine, cartilage in the joints, nerves in the limbs. All this damage makes smoking the single most common denominator in my chronic pain population. I would even venture to guess that if it was not for smoking (and obesity) I would be out of business as a pain specialist. Surprisingly, most people do not connect smoking with pain. People connect smoking with cancer, lung disease, and maybe heart disease. But when I tell a patient that his/her spinal discs have rapidly degenerated because of smoking, that person gets a deer-in-the- headlights look of shock on his/her face. The next thing out of his/her mouth is usually, “Really, no one has ever told me that”. After being in and out of doctor’s office because of a painful condition, I find it hard to believe that “no one” has ever suggested to this patient to quit smoking in an effort to stop the painful process. Maybe the patient chose not to hear the suggestion or maybe “no one” ever risked giving a patient a kick in the butt. Either way, the time has come to get tough on smokers. No more excuses.
Here in California, the public health department has a “No Butts” program which includes a smoker’s hotline and information for the public and health personnel about kickin’ the butts. Help is out there. Locally, community hospitals often have “quit smoking” classes and support groups. However, unless someone is pushing a smoker in the right direction, these addicts have little motivation to stop the behavior of destruction. With a new year approaching, now is the perfect time to give someone you know a kick in the butt. Tell a friend or family member to “kick the butts now because the New Year can bring a New You”. Kick hard, kick often, and share the knowledge.