On the day after I met with the Lyme disease doctor in California, I made an appointment to see my internist to tell her the news about the Lyme disease tests and to get help with my sudden bout of back pain. I believe it’s the result of riding in the car too long without getting out and stretching my muscles. Extended car rides are known to be problematic for me, but Hubby and I were too preoccupied with being on time for my doctor appointment that we just didn’t think about taking our normal precautions.
I’d hoped it wasn’t my kidneys acting up, so she ran a urinalysis, which was fine. It was definitely my back. She said she could even feel the spasms as she touched my thoracic spine.
So, as much as I’ve been avoiding it, I had no choice but to finally meet with the chiropractor that she recommended, Dr. R.
First: The Measurements
Within a day, I found myself in Dr. R’s office. Our session started out with the doctor’s assistant asking me to stand on what looked like a weight scale, but where you put one foot on one side and the other foot on the other side. This “scale” measures how evenly your weight is distributed on each side. She said that if you’re within five pounds of even weight distribution, you’re considered to be balanced in the way your spine handles your weight. She told me that there was a 14-pound difference in my weight distribution from left to right. Weird, but probably due my use of a walking cane.
Next, she used what’s called a neuromuscular scanner to take readings from each of my vertebrae. The scanner measures three areas: the electrical/nerve activity of the spine, muscle tension along the spine, and the balance of muscle pull from one side to another along the spine.
Second: Meeting with Dr. R
After the scan was complete, Dr. R came in and asked me about my medical history, my diet, my pain levels. I gave him my MRI reports of my spine and hips from the last few years. His initial response was that he wasn’t even sure if he could help me because of the Lupus and because he wasn’t sure if the damage to my spine was too far along. He then examined me, putting me through several physical maneuvers to test my range of motion, leg length, etc.
After the exam, Dr. R ordered x-rays (done in his office), and he asked me to give him time to review my MRI reports before he could come up with a treatment plan. I made an appointment for later that day to return with Hubby to go over the results of the x-rays and get Dr. R’s assessment.
Third: The Results
So, when Hubby and I returned for the second appointment, the receptionist gave me a folder with the results of my tests, and then Hubby and I, along with another couple and a lady with a baby, were ushered into a room for a “presentation.” I was so angry, fearing that this was just some kind of sales pitch. I don’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But, I stayed so that I could see the doctor and get my results. Dammit!
Suspicious, I listened to what the chiropractor (a different doctor) had to say. What he said made a lot of sense to me, and it reminded me of my friend, Carol, a bit. She’s a chiropractor, too, and she has a holistic approach to everything. He said that current treatment protocol for spine pain and abnormalities is to give you pain killers and muscle relaxants, then progress to muscle trigger point shots and epidural cortisone injections, and finally surgery. Nine times out of 10, the protocol progression does not help the patient at all. In fact, it often leaves the patient in more pain than they had before. That rang a bell with me because the trigger point muscle injections that I had in 2012 were so very painful that I vowed never to do them again. How could something that’s supposed to help me make me feel so bad?
Continuing on… The presentation was short and sweet. They talked about nutrition and whole body wellness and how the spine plays a big part in that. Yada, yada, yada. Yep, I got it. Then, they took us to our respective doctors to discuss our test results and a recommended treatment plan. Finally. The results are as follows:
Neuromuscular Scan Results
The first electrical/nerve activity section of the report (top left) showed that my cervical vertebrae #1 or C1, is off the charts with severe nerve activity. Dr. R says that’s from the Lupus. The other areas of elevated nerve activity are the C3, T9, T10, T12, L3, and L4. (The T stands for thoracic spine, and the L stands for lumbar spine.)
The second muscle tension section (top right) showed that my L5 and T10 were areas of the worst muscle tension. The legend of the chart showed green for mild, blue for moderate, and red for severe. My L5 reading was black, and Dr. R said that meant that the tension was so bad there that it was beyond what the readings consider “severe.”
The final area of the report, the balance of muscle pull from each side of my spine, showed another “beyond severe” black reading at the L5 vertebrae on the right side. The L3 also on right side had a severe reading. Those two are due to the avascular necrosis of my femoral heads of my hips. I had varying degrees of muscle pull imbalance ranging from mild to moderate — the C1, T6, T12, and L1 on my left side, and the C3, T1, T2, and T10 on my right.
The x-rays supported the diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of my spine in my lower back). Nothing new there.
What was new is the fact that my cervical spine is SO bad. I mean, I knew I had problems, but the level of compression and nerve damage to the C1 vertebrae is pretty scary. He said I had calcification and severely compressed discs all along my cervical spine. Thankfully, no discs were herniated yet. Also, the normal curvature of the cervical spine is about 35 degrees. Mine was nearly straight up and down. Dr. R said that my cervical spinal distortions were partly responsible for the troubles I was having all along my spine. The other muscles were compensating for the imbalance at the top.
Also, new was the area of disc compression at the T10 vertebrae. That’s the pain that really sent me in to see him, finally. I’ve had two doctors, my internist and my orthopedist, recommend him specifically. I ignored them until last week when I saw my internist, complaining about my awful back pain that started during our visit to the Lyme disease doctor.
The Bottom Line
Dr. R said he could help me, mainly because none of my discs had herniated. If that had happened, I would not be a candidate for chiropractic care. His treatment plan is to use spinal manipulation (manual and with instruments) to release the compression of the discs in my cervical and thoracic spine first. Then, whatever wasn’t corrected in the lumbar spine, he would address with massage and other methods of decompression so as not to aggravate the avascular necrosis of my hips.
He said that because of the Lupus, my system is overreactive to everything that touches it. That’s why I had such a bad experience with the previous chiropractors, who did no diagnostic tests and just went at me hard with a manipulation instruments or manual adjustments. I told him that it felt like my system went into shock after their treatments. He said it probably did.
So, he promised that his plan is to go very slowly. It’s going to take more time, but it’s going be more effective and helpful to me that way.
I asked him whether or not it would be beneficial to continue seeing my “go-to team” for pain—my acupuncturist and my physical therapist. He said yes, and he would be an adjunct to their support. He just wanted to be sure that my acupuncturist didn’t only focus on pain reduction because pain is a helpful indicator. I told him that she’s definitely been treating me holistically—as evidenced by her suggestion to get tested for Lyme disease.
So, all in all, the news is promising. But, even with the treatment, he expects that I’ll only get about 50 percent reduction in pain. It’s sad that I’m happy to settle for that at this point. Oh well….