To Tell or To Teach


One of the most important concepts in medicine is patient education. What good is it to tell a patient to do something if they don’t truly understand why. The term “doctor” means “teacher” in Latin, deriving from the word “docere” or “to teach”. With learning should come the desire and responsibility to spread that knowledge.

Thorough patient education only helps with their care. For example, look at the following examples. Which patients do you think will understand and follow their medical directions more?

Ex 1)

Patient A: Told to use a Lumbar roll.

Patient B: Taught that the use of a lumbar roll will help keep the patient’s back away from excessive flexion, which will help relieve their disc-pain while sitting for a long period of time.

Ex 2)

Patient A: Told to take medicine 3x/day until it runs out.

Patient B: Taught that the point of taking this medication 3x/day is to increase the levels of it in the blood stream throughout the day for a prolonged period. If it’s not done that way, then the blood levels won’t be high enough to be in the therapeutic range, resulting in it not being effective.

Ex 3)

Patient A: Told to do 3 sets of “Bird dogs”.

Patient B: Taught that the bird dog is an exercise that effectively strengthens the core and reinforces proper movement mechanics, which will provide a lot of carry-over into their current exercise program.

Patient A was just given straight directions, but patient B was taught the reason for these directions. They now know much more thoroughly what they should be doing and why, and will be more apt to following the instructions. This concept of telling vs. teaching applies to every area in life. “You give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime”.



Want more? Check out our other blogs here!



Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS

Check us out at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *