Rethinking the Word Chronic

awareness chronic guiudance happiness pain practice


Google the word “chronic”. What pops up? Fatigue, Pain, Alcoholism, Gambling Addiction, even Indigestion. 


Those are some serious things, and they are not to be taken lightly. 


But is the word “chronic” the serious thing or is it those words attached to it? I am spending a minute of your time to rethink “chronic” and, maybe, just maybe, find better attachments. What if chronic was good? 


Going old-school dictionary, Merriam Webster sort of adds light to the point. The first definition explains chronic as  “ a continuing or as occurring again, and again for a long time” but then Merriam adds some serious words to make it sound so negative. The second definition goes even more serious with the word “suffering”  from something ‘a long time”, and other words like vexing, and troubling.


Ok, that is admittedly the primary role of using the word chronic. 


But if you give me permission I’d like to challenge the status quo. 

You see, until you add the second word to chronic, it really has no seriousness. It’s an adjective, ( I hope … English teachers feel free to correct me ) but the attached nouns are of the serious, difficult flavor. You can combine the word chronic with hundreds of words, and all of them weigh the soul down.  


You can call it guilt by association. 


For a minute, what if we experiment and reassociate  the word chronic? 

As a physical therapist who has talked with people in pain or vexing troubles for 30 years,  it is ‘normal’ to start talking about ‘chronic’ things. It takes about a New York second before our conversations dive into the past. Negative things like ‘repetitive’ ankle sprains, fear of a spine going out, returning headaches or arthritis and wear and tear are quickly labeled chronic. Technically, in the medical world anything persisting over 6 months is labeled chronic, and in some professional circles, anything over 3 months is labeled chronic. It is our PT job, daily, to try to connect the dots and discover ‘why’ it has become so chronic. Like detectives, we try to sleuth our way to what started the downward spiral.

So, now my turn. What if we used the word chronic with positive words. How does chronic joy sound? What if you chronically feel good. Or, if you had chronic confidence that your body could handle some twists and turns. Or think of this, what if you chronically tried new things that surprised you and made you want to “regenerate”,  not degenerate, new abilities. 


I know it’s a mind twist. Maybe it’s slight of words of stretching the rules of a dictionary. So be it. My point is this : What if , over time, with practice, seeking guidance, learning awareness, and trickles of encouragement along the path we could associate the word chronic with words that help us achieve the life we aspire to, rather than so entrenched in the things that tell us we can’t. 


The PT Lab concept has a mission to help with that. It’s a long road. Nothing happens over night. Chronic pain, gambling and alcoholism didn’t occur in 24 hours or even a week. Coming out of Covid, as we are able, looking forward to new openings, and soul searching about “what do we really want for ourselves?” Over the next 12, 24, 36 months, the staff of Evergreen, with its new PT Lab want to build a membership community vested in smarter health, and making some good things more chronic. 


Email me, Dave, at [email protected], if you have any thoughts  / responses, or are curious about our PT Lab combating the negatives of chronicity. Also, follow and like us on Facebook, IG, or go to our website to stay in the know about how this re-engineering of chronic goes. 


Cheers to a lifetime of smarter health 


Dave is the owner and founder of Evergreen Physical Therapy Specialists. He and his wife Tammy, an RN at CHLA, opened Evergreen over 15 years ago to provide the community of Pasadena with specialized and compassionate care. David has over 25 years of experience in orthopedics, neuro-rehabilitation, and pediatric physical therapy. 



Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.