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Thursday, May 28, 2015

brain integration and new acupuncture

I've written and deleted at least 10 opening sentences to this post...and have decided there's no better way to say, "headache unchanged". I hate writing that for a lot of reasons, but there it is.

On a positive note, the progress I've made in physical therapy over the last few months has finally allowed me to get back into a normal workout schedule again without feeling like I'm just plowing through biomechanical dysfunction. Getting out on my bike and back in the weight room after months of trying out all kinds of modification strategies feels pretty f-ing great. I've said this a million times before but worth repeating: pushing myself physically doesn't change my headache, but it changes my ability to mentally deal with it in a way that I can't fully articulate. Anyone who works out can tell you that exercise makes you feel good, but when your baseline is chronic pain, "feeling good" takes on an entirely new meaning. It makes every extra effort - every pull up, every sprint, every climb, worth it. And reaching physical milestones as a result of that effort gives me sustained hope that in time, everything I do for my headache will pay off.

On the treatment front, the last few weeks have been busy with a new therapy called Brain Integration.

Brain Integration Therapy (BIT) is a non-invasive approach to permanently correcting the neuro-pathway blockages in the brain that can be the root cause of a variety of neurological problems - including ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, emotional control issues, PTSD, and the debilitating after-effects of certain head injuries, especially post concussive syndrome. BIT identifies and corrects the areas of the brain that are not working properly by using muscle monitoring, acupressure, left/right brain integration, and emotional memory stress release.

Although the bulk of BIT seems to be focused more on behavioral/cognitive issues than chronic pain, we decided, based on what we know about neuroplasticity, that we couldn't afford not to give it a go. So I've been working with a local practitioner a few times a week. Tomorrow will be my last session, which will bring me to a grand total of about 16 hours of treatment.

The sessions themselves are pretty passive on my part, with the exception of some muscle energy testing and basic balance exercises. The only treatment that was uncomfortable was this past Tuesday's, which consisted of a lot of eye movement exercises. After a few months of chiropractic neurology earlier this spring, it didn't surprise me to experience a massive pain spike afterwards.

So far though, I haven't felt any positive changes. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed or discouraged, but I'm really making a conscious effort not to get bogged down by that. I think theoretically it could take some time too.

We also decided to seek out a new acupuncturist who had some specialization in scalp acupuncture. This morning I had my first visit with Dr. Jing Liu at Eastern Medicine Center. Craig and I were both super encouraged by this morning's session. It's always interesting to tell the same story to different practitioners and understand all of the different lenses through which they see it. Not that one is right or wrong, just different.

Dr. Liu seems confident that soft-tissue "tightness" is impairing my circulation and lack of circulation is causing dehydration of my brain. She pointed out (which you can see in the photo below) the red area around the base of my skull and under my hair as an indication of the poor circulation. I have to say, just based on the congestion and tenderness and even nature of pain I feel, it does makes sense to me.

After my first treatment today, Dr. Liu sent me home with a regimen of Chinese herbs that I'll be taking twice a day to facilitate the healing process. Next week, I'll go back for three more treatments, and that will likely continue for the next few weeks. I'll plan to post an update in the next few weeks (hopefully with encouraging news!)

Ok, one last thing. As shitty as my headache is, I can't deny that positive has come from it. It's been such a part of my life for the last 3.5 years...how could there not be bright spots? When I started this blog in 2013, I had no idea how fulfilling it would be to publicly tell my story. At the time, my number one motivator was really just to organize my treatment history so my head didn't feel like it was going to explode every time I walked into a new doctors office and was asked, "so what brings you in today?"...that, and to keep my close friends and family updated on my treatments.

Through the process, though, I've realized how much I love writing (even if the subject matter could use an upgrade). Recently, I connected with a reader of my blog from Niagara Falls, who had stumbled upon it during his own quest to overcome a chronic headache. He ended up going to see a doctor in New York - who uses upright MRI to study impaired cerebral spinal fluid flow at the cranio-cervical junction caused by misalignment of the upper cervical vertebra - after reading about him in one of my previous posts.

Knowing that a stranger in Canada had been offered a glimmer of hope, a nudge in the right direction as he searched desperately for answers just like I was...made a year and a half of writing this blog worth it. And it's the reason why I'll keep writing it until my headache is gone, despite how painfully (pun intended) lame and redundant I sometimes feel my posts have become.

And that leads me to my sort-of-unrelated but also totally-related-at-the-same-time project I'm excited to share with anyone who actually reads all the way to the bottom. A few weeks ago, I launched a new blog and website dedicated to environmental health. ALO is an educational platform committed to arming you with compelling, scientifically-driven information about the toxins in your everyday environment and empowering you to eliminate or reduce your exposure with practical, accessible solutions. I'm only a few blog entries deep, but am working hard to build content that will resonate with people looking to make positive changes in their health and lives. If there's one thing this damn headache has taught me, it's that there's no impact too small. Please check it out and feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested. Feedback is welcome and appreciated!


1 comment:

  1. The acupuncture sounds really interesting. I don't have a chronic headache or chronic pain, but lately I have been getting more and more headaches. The pain will just start at the base of my skull and move to envelop it completely. I haven't gone to a professional yet, but from what I've read on your post seeing an acupuncturist might just help in identifying the cause of my headaches. So thanks for sharing.

    Hannah Holland @ Berkeley Community ACU