Edna’s $18,000 Headache
When Edna first came to my office, she was in severe pain and had contemplated suicide. The seemingly unrelated chief complaints of left ear pain, severe right upper and lower tooth pain, severe left facial pain, chronic neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, and pains in both feet brought Edna to her peak of pain tolerance. Fate apparently was on Edna’s side because the day she visited her family dentist to check out the tooth pain, he received my TMJ brochure in the morning mail. The dentist x-rayed the involved teeth but found no decay or abscessed teeth. He then referred Edna to my office for evaluation.
Edna’s story of woe began in August of 1980 when she was treated by a podiatrist. The original complaint was pain in both feet. After a thorough examination of the localized areas of the pain, the podiatrist recommended surgery to reconstruct the bone to alleviate the pressure on the nerves and thus eliminate the pain. Following surgery, the patient was instructed to wear custom-designed shoe inserts.
Within a week, Edna began experiencing lots of pain, first in her legs, then in her hips, and finally it settled in the lower back. Approximately two weeks following this episode, the pains subsided and her body entered the resistant stage of stress which required a myriad of structural and physiologic compensations.
Chaos began on March 5, 1981. Edna was suddenly struck with severe pains in the stomach, chest, and upper arms, and she began experiencing weakness in both legs. The family doctor immediately put Edna on the drug, Tagamet, for what first appeared to be an ulcer problem. To confirm his tentative diagnosis, an upper gastrointestinal test was performed. The results were negative. On March 18th, Edna was sent home from work because of severe chest pains and increased blood pressure. Her physician ordered a complete blood work-up and electrocardiogram and placed Edna in the hospital for four days for observation. On March 22nd, she was dismissed from the hospital and instructed to take eight extra strength Tylenol per day, Sorbitrate four times per day (used for angina attacks) and Nitrostat when needed for angina attacks. The extensive series of tests conducted by the hospital were all negative. These included stress test, SMA-25 blood workup, gall bladder, liver, and pancreas studies. During April and May Edna’s symptoms subsided again.
In June of 1981, Edna’s symptoms exacerbated. The cervical pains worsened and the leg weakness became so severe she could hardly walk. A neurologist was consulted. X-rays of the involved areas revealed only a slight arthritic condition in the cervical area but proved negative regarding any structural abnormality or frank pathology. It was becoming apparent to everyone involved that Edna’s situation was deteriorating. In July of 1981, an osteopathic physician was consulted for possible relief of the severe pains in the back, jaw, ear and arms. The diagnosis was lumbosacral strain and osteopathic manipulation was provided. The manipulative techniques brought relief for the first time since the whole incident started. However, with the relief of the back pain came exacerbation of severe pain in upper and lower right tooth segments. Edna was now coming to the realization that she may have to live with this pain.
In October of 1981, the family dentist was consulted to evaluate the increased intensity of the pain as well as other facial areas that were being affected. Edna was now experiencing pains under the border of the right side of the jaw, bilateral pains behind the ears, right side facial pain and pain behind the right eye. Accompanying these symptoms was paresthesia which began affecting the right side of the face intermittently. All basic dental problems were ruled out. In desperation, the patient went back to the podiatrist for an evaluation. His observations proved fruitless and he stated that he could find nothing wrong.
On November 3, 1981, Edna presented herself to me for evaluation. She was at her lowest point, suffering from frustration, depression, and hopelessness and was in severe facial pain. Because of Edna’s obvious state of desperation, a dental orthopedic appliance was fabricated out of silicon putty. The patient was instructed to wear the appliance as much as possible. Another appointment was scheduled to continue the examination and try to solve the puzzle.
Edna returned for her next scheduled appointment. During the period of one week, 75 per cent of the facial pain had resolved. The patient was ecstatic but was made to understand that a cure was not at hand. The examination revealed some interesting findings. Although the bite appeared normal, x-rays of the temporomandibular joint showed the jaw joint to be displaced upward within the confines of the joint space. In addition, the cranium had jammed sutures and cranial bone distortions.
Compounding the problem was the existence of an unstable, weak sacroiliac joint with hypermobile ligaments. Accompanying the structural imbalances were organ and nutritional problems. The prolonged stress to the entire system had caused the adrenal glands to be in hypofunction. There was a liver-gall bladder problem as evidenced by the patient’s inability to handle fatty foods. There was an overconsumption of refined foods, too much protein, and a lack of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc. If one case ever had to be selected from my files as a model representing an all-encompassing dysfunction of the five major areas (cranial, dental, pelvic, physiological and psychological complexes) Edna’s would have to be the one.
With the assistance of Dr. Steven Lesse of Marlton, New Jersey we assisted Edna’s body to heal itself over a period of a year. To help stabilize the jaw posture, an orthopedic appliance, a bionator, was used. Concomitantly, cranial adjustments were performed. In addition, Sacro-Occipital blocking techniques were used to re-establish stability to the sacroiliac. Dr. Lesse also corrected cervical and thoracic vertebrae distortions. The patient was put on an exercise program to be carried out at home. Diet modification was recommended and carried out with a high degree of compliance. Nutritional supplementation provided support for the adrenal glands, liver and gall bladder, weak ligaments, mineral deficiency and poor digestion. After about six months of treatment, Edna began to stabilize; however, adjustments to the sacroiliac would only hold for a period of several weeks and some of the symptoms would reappear. Out of frustration, I called my good friend Dr. Nelson DeCamp in Lakeland, Florida. After explaining our predicament, he suggested that foot levelers be fabricated to help stabilize the pelvis. This man’s chiropractic genius solved the puzzle by providing the key factor that served to stabilize the entire structural frame.
In retrospect, Edna’s scenario unfolded like a textbook case. The multitude of complaints definitely interrelated with the structural domino effect which occurred in her body. Edna’s primary structural problems focused on a lowered vertical jaw position and a weakened sacroiliac joint. Prior to the appearance of foot pain, Edna’s body was able to adapt to these structural imbalances. Interestingly, one of the first clinical signs of an unstable sacroiliac joint involves pains in the knees, ankles, and feet. What the podiatrist diagnosed as a local problem was in reality a major area of compensation. The invasive surgical procedure served only to upset the total body structure by traumatizing the area of compensation. The patient’s problems progressively worsened. This resulted from other compensatory areas having to bear the burden of the original weakness plus the overlay of the disturbed balancing ability caused by surgery on the feet. Distortion of the spine and torquing of the dural tube forced the cranial bones to further compensate. Pressure on the fifth cranial nerve (trigeminal) which supplies the upper and lower teeth, gums, and jaw bone caused the previously unexplained pains. The seventh cranial nerve (facial) also became involved, thus accounting for the facial pain. The patient’s body was in chaos and incapable of adapting. Only through a truly holistic approach utilizing the efforts of a well trained SOT chiropractor, dental orthopedics, nutritional support, dietary changes, and the cooperation of the patient, was success achieved.
Edna has once again become a productive human being. She has been able to return to full-time employment and now leads a normal life. The irony of this case is the fact that the insurance companies paid $18,000 in workman’s compensation, diagnostic tests, doctor, hospital, and drug bills but refused to pay the dental fee of $950.00 to get the patient well. To add insult to injury, the final physician’s report for the workman’s compensation board purposely deleted both the dental and chiropractic findings and therapeutic procedures. Incidences like this one certainly give one the impression that the establishment healers do not want to recognize unconventional approaches to healing, especially when they are successful.