Dr. Edward Kita, BSc., DC
After high school, I went to the University of Guelph. I majored in kinesiology and football … neither went well. I lasted three semesters before dropping out and heading west to Edmonton, Alberta. That’s what you did as a teenager in the late 70’s.
I got a job in a steel mill, starting in production and then accepting an apprenticeship as a millwright (industrial mechanic). Three years later, a recession hit and the layoffs followed. I enlisted in the Canadian Navy. During my five years there I obtained diplomas in Marine and Mechanical Engineering Technology from St. Lawrence College. I was posted to Halifax, NS and spent most of my time at sea on the HMCS Onondaga, an Oberon class submarine, as a stoker (marine mechanic).
After an honourable discharge from the Navy in 1988, I once again headed west only to end up in the Canadian north. I got a job as a power plant operator/maintainer in a lead/zinc mine in Nanisivic, a small mining town about 700 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. After about 8 years, in need of a change, I decided to go back to school to carry on the mechanical trajectory. Industrial mechanics, marine mechanics, biomechanics, they all have to follow the same laws of physics. The most valuable insight I brought to the halls of academia, beyond an in-depth knowledge of mechanics and physics, was an understanding that all things were interconnected. On a submarine or in a mine in the high Arctic, it was hardwired into your psyche that small problems have the potential to domino very quickly into big, life-threatening scenarios. Knowing how everything was interconnected was a survival imperative.
With that in mind, memorizing and just getting through school was not a part of the game plan. First, I needed to understand how things worked. Second, I needed to understand how things worked together. All other valid information would fall into the template.
Over the next 8 years, I earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology (University of Guelph/Logan University) and a Doctorate in Chiropractic Studies (magna cum laude, Logan University). I was a very good bad student. I always tell people that I believe I received the best available education in contemporary health care while clinically modifying everything I was taught.
Upon graduation I returned to Halifax, NS to start a practice. Shortly after arriving I attended a health fair to see what was happening in the area. Upon entering the exhibition, the first booth I came to was a massage therapy school, where I subsequently got a job teaching clinical assessment and gross anatomy.
While speaking with the owner of the massage school another fellow joined the conversation. He was a long-term chronic pain sufferer and he invited me to the public Workers Compensation Tribunals that were ongoing that week. I sat in on the Tribunals for two days. An injured worker would sit in a chair in front of a long table with 7 or 8 officials seated behind it. Each injured worker would tell their story usually finishing in tears or yelling at the officials who would try not to look bored or annoyed. At the end of each presentation, one of these officials would blather out some nonsensical platitudes and the process would continue. This was my first glimpse into the world of chronic pain.
The same fellow also invited me to a local chronic pain support group meeting. When a new person attends a support group meeting, they will usually “tell their story”. I had no story. I had played football and worked for 15 years in heavy industry in very toxic environments. I’d had my share of injuries but had never experienced chronic pain. There was always a light at the end of the tunnel. I told the group this and also noted that in over eight years of schooling I had received absolutely no training in chronic pain. I had nothing to offer. I was there to listen and, hopefully, learn. I sat quietly at the back of the room, not missing a meeting for three years.
During that period, while listening to each person’s story, I noticed patterns and progressions of chronic pain. Although different for each individual, the stories revealed similar patterns. For example, if fibromyalgia was the final destination, each story would be a stop along that road. I learned to watch the crowd when people spoke.
• As an individual told their story, there would be words spoken that would cause 90% of the crowd to make eye contact with the speaker and nod their heads supportively. These words would identify common points on roads well travelled. Common points on the highway to chronic pain.
• At other times, there would be words spoken that would cause 50% of the crowd to make eye contact and nod supportively. These words would identify common points on roads less travelled. Common points on the secondary highways to chronic pain.
• There were also times when words would be spoken that would cause only 1 or 2 individuals to make eye contact, nod supportively then quickly look around the room to see if anybody else could relate, (ie: “when people walk by, the breeze increases my pain”). These words would identify points on roads rarely travelled. Common points on the service roads to chronic pain.
I also had the opportunity to listen to outside speakers, practitioners and salespeople. Again, it wasn’t the speakers I was watching but the crowds’ reactions to them. What resonated, what drew attention, what was ignored? These were all pieces of the puzzle that would make up the map.
Sitting in on the chronic pain meetings, along with taking the histories of thousands of patients, has led me to the conclusion that chronic pain is not a diagnosis or a destination. It’s a journey. And it’s the journey that brings us wisdom and understanding. Chronic pain is not a thousand subjective descriptions explained by a thousand objective theories. It is actually a fairly clear progression of events. There are a finite number of things that can go wrong in the human body. Tracing these out will give us a template or map onto which individual journeys can be transcribed. Knowing where we are on the map gives us a starting point for action.
Concurrent to the chronic pain meetings/education, I was teaching and trying to start a practice. It was at the massage school that I met Sheila. She was like me, a good bad student. Sharp mind, great hands and an ability to integrate and mold information from multiple disciplines. It would take us about 3 years to figure out our base protocols of treatment and another 3 years to hone, add or tweak what we are presently doing. As all techniques have validity, we would draw from them and integrate them into our protocols. Our patients would identify holes in our game. This would send us back to the books to study and design additional techniques to fill the holes. We have been running an aggressive soft tissue injury shop for the last 16 years.