Sunday, June 17, 2018

Et tu Brute?

We all know I live with pain.

Pain from small fiber neuropathy in my feet, legs, arms and back.  Pain from corneal abrasions in my eyes.  Pain from rheumatoid arthritis in my toes and my fingers, my ankles, knees and wrists.  Pain in my arms and elbows from carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes.   Pain in my right shoulder from tendonitis, bursitis, synovitis and rotator cuff tears.   And the agonizing pain in my neck, chest, and right arm from thoracic outlet syndrome.

So what is the one body part that has not yet caused me problems?  If you guessed my left shoulder, you were right!.

Although I had some problems with the shoulder itself two years ago, a couple of cortisone shots did the trick and I've been relatively pain free since.  And because the carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists is due to inflammation that comes with autoimmunity, I've often silently wondered (with fingers crossed) why my thoracic outlet syndrome hasn't hit my left side.

Until today.   At approximately 4:30 a.m.  It began with a ping that woke me up.  A ping that carried intensity with it.

Keep in mind that the pain on my right side is deep and thick and projecting and hurty.  It is accompanied by swelling and familiarity.  It has been subject to months of acupuncture, physical therapy, and OMT.   

This pain - on the other hand - was thin and singular and wire-like.  A pain newly hatched - looking to find its way in the world.


All all I could think of was that famous line in Shakespeare's play uttered by Julius Caesar as his childhood friend, Brutus, picks up a knife and gets ready to stab him along with the other conspiritors:  "Et tu, Brute?"

And you, too, left shoulder?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gratitude as Medicine

I know it may seem surprising to list gratitude in with forms of complementary medicine, but it shouldn't be.

I realize I have spoken about the important of gratitude on health and well-being before, but this time I have some science to back me up.  While I was at the Vatican Conference, Deepak Chopra spoke about a study which documented that just two weeks after participants began a gratitude journal, their inflammation levels were shown to be reduced.  Now consider the breadth and depth of following article which I found on the UC Davis Health website reporting on the results of a study that psychology professor, Robert A. Emmons ran on the effects of employing a simple gratitude practice:

The science of gratitude:

  • Keeping a gratitude diary for two weeks produced sustained reductions in perceived stress (28 percent) and depression (16 percent) in health-care practitioners.
  • Gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones (cortisol).
  • Practicing gratitude led to a 7-percent reduction in biomarkers of inflammation in patients with congestive heart failure.
  • Two gratitude activities (counting blessings and gratitude letter writing) reduced the risk of depression in at-risk patients by 41 percent over a six month period.
  • Dietary fat intake is reduced by as much as 25 percent when people are keeping a gratitude journal.
  • A daily gratitude practice can decelerate the effects of neurodegeneration (as measured by a 9 percent increase in verbal fluency) that occurs with increasing age.
  • Grateful people have 16 percent lower diastolic blood pressure and 10 percent lower systolic blood pressure compared to those less grateful.
  • Grateful patients with Stage B asymptomatic heart failure were 16 percent less depressed, 20 percent less fatigued and 18 percent more likely to believe they could control the symptoms of their illness compared to those less grateful.
  • Older adults administered the neuropeptide oxytocin showed a 12 percent increase in gratitude compared to those given a placebo
  • Writing a letter of gratitude reduced feelings of hopelessness in 88 percent of suicidal inpatients and increased levels of optimism in 94 percent of them.
  • Grateful people (including people grateful to God) have between 9-13 percent lower levels of Hemoglobin A1c, a key marker of glucose control that plays a significant role in the diagnosis of diabetes.
  • Gratitude is related to a 10 percent improvement in sleep quality in patients with chronic pain, 76 percent of whom had insomnia, and 19 percent lower depression levels.
Once again, I encourage you to read the full article here.

Needless to say, since reading this I have renewed my old practice of keeping a gratitude jar, where I scribble down a thought, item, or name of something I am grateful for each morning and place the folded paper in a mason jar.  I try to use multicolor paper so that it looks pleasing to my eye as those notes build up and I have a visual reminder of all of the many blessings in my life.

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Osteopathic Medical Manipulation and Myofascial Release

A Doctor of Osteopathy is a physician who has received extra  training in the musculoskeletal system and the interconnection of muscles, joints, and nerves within the body.  An Allopathic doctor is one who has received an M.D. at the end of medical school, while an Osteopathic doctor receives a D.O. upon graduation.  They both then go on to residencies and fellowships, etc.   Some D.O. practitioners incorporate Osteopathic Manipulation Treatment (OMT) to treat pain and also promote healing in various parts of the body. OMT is not technically considered complementary medicine, although not many D.O.'s opt to practice it.

I recently received my third of these "hands on" treatments - each spaced about a month apart - and have found them all to be beneficial.  For my particular chronic shoulder pain and thoracic outlet syndrome, the treatments, which were performed right in a primary care doctor's office, consisted in large part of using myofascial release to get rid of the tightness and sensitivity in the tissues surrounding my muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  He also employed a muscle energy technique which was similar to isometric pressure also used by my acupuncturist.  OMT differs from chiropractic therapy, physical therapy and deep tissue massage because the practitioner is a genuine physician who knows and understands the working of the musculoskeletal system in detail and is following a method developed by Dr. Andrew Still in 1874.

Enough of that stuff. .  . I only want to say that it just FEELS right to me.  It feels like he is moving my joints in exactly the right way and releasing exactly the right tension and energy.

So I will let you in on a little secret.

My oldest daughter is currently in her third year of osteopathic medical school.  When I returned home from my treatment, I begged her to work on me the next day; for I had come home with a list of maneuvers that the doctor suggested she do.  And as she worked on me, something unusual happened.  Her hands, normally ice-cold to the touch, became extremely warm.  When I pointed this out to her she was a bit shocked, but I wasn't.

It was energy.

We are being of energy, and her hands had corralled healing energy while working on me - perhaps because I have had a lot of energy work done on me through various modalities.

Neat.  Huh?