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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tucson for Cranial Osteopath Visit #1

Every now and then, I sneak a peak at my blog stats to check out page views and demographics. This morning it looks like I've had just over 10,000 views from 10 different countries, including the U.S., Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Brazil, Ireland, India, and the Dominican Republic since I started writing in October. I'm no expert in the blogosphere so maybe 10K isn't that many, but given that my story is seriously lacking in yummy recipes, DIY projects, fashion tips, or yoga photos (which I'll be the first to admit, all sounds just a bit more enticing than the chronicle of a 24/7 headache), I'll take it. If chronic pain (and it's ripple effect) touches an estimated 116 million people in the U.S. alone, it's a statistical certainty that at least someone who's stumbled upon my blog can relate (and hopefully, learn from) my journey through pain.

So, now for the update...

Last Friday was my fifth visit with Dr. Gerald Martin, the NUCCA chiropractor who's been working on realigning my C1 vertebra. He re-xrayed me to check the progress we've made over the past few weeks and was happy to see that I have in fact made some positive changes. Feeling discouraged and confused as to why those changes haven't translated to a pain decrease (oh right, didn't mention that I haven't felt any changes in pain), I asked him whether that was cause for concern. He assured me that since the slightest deviation in alignment (we're talking half a millimeter) is significant, it does make sense that I'm still in pain. He interpreted the imaging as confirmation that we're moving in the right direction. I've also experienced some nerve pain down my left arm over the past week or so, made worse by lateral neck flexion to the right. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but I've chose to interpret it as an indication of the new position of my atlas (why not?).

Logically, it makes sense to me (as so many treatment approaches have) but emotionally, it's a whole different story. When I arrive at my appointments pre or post workout, Dr. Martin will say things to me like, "You can work out with the headache you have now? I couldn't do that. I'd be laying down." I know his intent certainly isn't to evoke a mid-treatment breakdown (which, believe me, there are plenty of), but I can't help but tear up when he or anyone else says things like this. I mean...shit, what am I supposed to do...lie down on the couch all f-ing day, day after day? I can't imagine how physically and mentally worse I would feel if I didn't value and prioritize exercise...regardless of my pain levels. And maybe this isn't the healthiest mindset, but it's become so easy for me to push through any discomfort of working out in pain simply because I know the discomfort is temporary. As soon as the workout ends, it's over...whereas my headache is there whether I'm working out or not. Feeling like the pain I'm in isn't temporary is probably the worst feeling I've ever felt. So I guess the concept of discomfort in general is all relative...if that makes sense?

So, my plan is to keep up with the NUCCA treatments at least until the x-rays show that my atlas is where it needs to be, and then we'll re-evaluate how to proceed based on whether any changes in pain have been made.

You might remember from a few posts ago that the PT I saw in Newport Beach recommended we find a cranial osteopath. Cranial osteopathy is said to stimulate healing by using gentle hand pressure to manipulate the skeleton and connective tissues, especially the skull and sacrum. It's based on the (controversial) theory that the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, has subtle, rhythmic pulsations that are vital to health and can be detected and modified. Manual D.O.s are sort of a dying breed in the U.S. Only about 5% of physicians here are doctors of osteopathy (DOs), and fewer than 10% of them rely on manipulation as a main method of treatment.

Since Craig and I are past the point of dialing the first practitioner to pop up in our Google search, it took a bit of time before we were able to get in to see one that we know carries a renowned reputation. Her name is Theresa Cisler, D.O. and she practices out of a small office in Tucson, AZ. Craig and I made the 2.5 hour drive down to see her yesterday for my first visit (don't worry, we were able to at least listen to the USA-Ghana game). As is the case with any initial appointment, we spent a good chunk of time rehashing the details of my bike accident and the last 3 years of treatment. Theresa is a very kind practitioner, and listened intently to us...well, mostly to Craig since he does most of the talking for me so I don't unravel completely (have I mentioned yet that this is a tear-inducing process for me? haha).

Based on everything she heard, interpretation of my imaging, and her physical evaluation, Dr. Cisler suspected that the source of my pain is related to my brain stem. She explained that stress bands can form on the dura (remembering that the dura mater is the outermost layer of the meninges which cover the brain and spinal cord and is composed of thick, dense, white, inelastic, fibrous connective tissue), which actually aligns with what several other PTs have felt. She said she felt like there was a blow to the base of my skull...perhaps from the bottom of my helmet during the whiplash motion of the wreck (though we'll never know for sure).

Dr. Cisler opted to spend yesterday's session performing more gentle work on my body. At my next session in a few weeks, she'll try a more specific and aggressive brain protocol. Because of how sick I got in response to one of my cranial sacral sessions back in the fall (the one that made us think I might have had a dural tear and cerebral spinal fluid leak) and because she is going out of town, she didn't want to risk me having an adverse reaction to yesterday's treatment and then not be available to help with it. She was also aligned with me continuing the NUCCA adjustments as planned.

So Craig and I will go back to Tucson in a few weeks and in between sessions with her, I'll see another manual D.O. here in Phoenix, Dr. Gailius at Midwestern University. Dr. Cisler also advised I start taking oral Arnica for 3-5 days post-treatment (a homeopathic anti-inflammatory).

So...yeah. It's probably time for me to post a photo of Charlie right? Hey, gotta give the readers what they want ;)

(Convinced that she sleeps that way just to give Craig and I an extra reason to laugh every night.)


  1. I also had pain in my L1 lumbego because I had carried lot of weight a week ago and did use some muscle relaxant as well but it id not work and some of my friend advised me to consult to Chiropractor North Ryde, I went there and he told me some of exercises, did massage me and I am totally fine now to continue my daily routine .

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