Category Archives: treatments

The summer of my frozen shoulder *

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

In 2014 I stumbled on a staircase, reached out to balance myself against the wall, and was rewarded with a breathtaking pain in my left shoulder that I tried to ignore for a year. For all that time I was unable to raise my hands over my head to wash my hair, but because of the chronic exhaustion that colored my life for a good two decades, the idea of simply arranging a doctor’s appointment was overwhelming, never mind a series of physical therapy sessions.

By the summer of 2016 I had moved out of my moldy apartment and regained enough mental and physical stamina that I felt I could tackle the issue. I went to the local pride-of-the-town clinic — globally-recognized, POTUS-praised, and nicknamed “The Machine” by my acupuncturist — where a doctor explained that the offending muscle was either just tweaked, or actually torn like the meat on a piece of bacon separating from the fat, drying out, and shrivelling up. She also said that “the policy” was not to use an MRI to determine which type of injury was involved, because the treatment for both injuries would be the same, mostly stretching.

I found this disturbing. To keep such information from a patient seems shitty to me. I paid for the MRI myself in order to know what I was dealing with and to minimize the mental energy I’d have to expend on wondering how bad it is or will get. Luckily the muscle was not torn.

I was sent to a compassionate, patient and articulate physical therapist who ran me through exercises that revealed that the majority of the muscles were tight and needed stretching, but two in particular produced a different kind of pain and felt more wrong with each session.

After receiving a bill for $700 for just two of the sessions, I bailed on the PT and looked for a new acupuncturist, since my old one had left town. Such a search is usually pretty frustrating, especially when your state government has a history of changing certification laws every other year. I lucked out and found a good one ten minutes from me, who trained at hard-core acupuncture schools and has a calming zen kinda vibe.

At $90 an hour, I could afford to follow the recommended treatment schedule of twice a week for six weeks. In the first treatment, I realized that the focal point of the pain was underneath the left shoulder blade, which I believe is one of the spots on either side of the spine where a bunch of nerves traverse like a huge freeway interchange. That pain turns out to be a not-uncommon complaint amongst the mold-afflicted. I can remember it bothering me for at least 25 years.

Stabbing sharp pointy things into that messed-up cesspool of nerves felt horrible and good all at the same time — one of the joys of acupuncture. You give the acupuncturist directions to where it hurts the most and when the needle gets to the right place you’re all, “KILLLL IT KILL IIIIITTT KILL OHHHHHH aahhhhhh.”

Within the first five treatments, I learned to recognize and release tension in my shoulder and neck area as I went about my day. I changed my sitting habits so that I am as symmetrical as possible, with both feet on the floor, elbows not resting on anything, and leaning back a little rather than forward. On airplanes I use a rolled-up blanket behind my back and sit as symmetrically as possible for as long as I can in the torture chamber known as Economy. These changes had a definite effect on the shoulder pain.

18 months later, I wouldn’t say I was limber or strong in the shoulders, but I’m not favoring one side any longer, and there is no pain. I was supposed to keep stretching at home and to get regular massages, but I was pretty lazy about the former and my two experiences with the latter were at a franchise retail massage outfit staffed by idiots and reeking of microwaved fast food so I quit that.

If I take a large dose of the anti-inflammatory herb boswellin, my other various aches and pains go away completely for a day, but after two days on it, the frozen-shoulder-related area starts to hurt as if things were rubbing against each other. This is one of the reasons I’ve concluded that the big-picture view of my health is that I’ve got major inflammation in a lot of places and have for years, but it has since been reduced on a large scale. Knock on wood.
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*Ten points if you get the reference.

I tried to detox lead and all I got was this stupid vertigo

Adventures in Nutritional TherapyI developed vertigo after my second dose of DMSA treatment for lead chelation. For the next four weeks I had trouble moving quickly, standing up, going down stairs, etc., with no signs of it abating.

Eventually I happened upon a comment on a heavy metal detox forum (on Yahoo, where untold gazillabytes of valuable information are inaccessible due to craptastic design) indicating that some people can’t process sulfur due to insufficient body stores of molybdenum. Most approaches to lead detox involve sulfur, and DMSA is a walloping dose of sulfur. In fact, one study I found says that eating a whole lotta garlic can chelate lead. So I took 2,000 mcgs (2 mgs) of Mo the next day and the vertigo was gone the following evening.

More notes on molybdenum:

  • It is used to reduce copper in the brain, which is a problem in some mental illnesses.
  • It is used to break down acetaldehyde produced by candida and which causes brain fog, fatigue, malaise, etc. For about 18 months I used it regularly for that. I later ran across a few self-experimenters who’d discovered that once they got to a certain place in their heavy metal detox treatments, their longstanding candida issues disappeared.
  • Resist the urge to call it “molly”, the street name for MDMA aka Ecstasy. Those of us on the supplement-popping path are fighting enough suspicion and misperception as it is.

Three months of reiki

Adventures in Nutritional Therapy

More and more health writers and bloggers, including the Low-Histamine Chef and Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of The Last Best Cure, have found stress reduction to play a big part in their health recovery, and since my stress tolerance is pretty much in the toilet and getting worse, I decided to go get me some.

I needed something reeeeallly passive. Meditation, yoga, and nature walks were too much for me. So were about half the service offerings at my local spa. Infrared sauna, various types of massage, and the flotation tank all require removing my contacts without a sink or mirror, or doffing and donning winter clothes in a tiny space, or showering in a tiny shower. I couldn’t deal with any of that.

I decided on reiki, which in theory moves and rebalances energy in the body. Sometimes the reiki practitioner’s hands are touching the (clothed) body, sometimes not. I had two sessions a week for two months, then switched to once a week. It’s a lot of money, and as far as I know no health insurance company covers it. But I do believe it got me through the winter without killing anyone. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • First and foremost, it’s basic human touch free of expectations or strings or weirdness — y’all know what I’m talkin’ about — which is therapeutic right there.

  • I always look forward to it, but more so if I have nothing else scheduled for the day.

  • My sleep has not improved, but I do almost fall asleep on the table. I can’t nap, either, so that’s saying something. What happens is a lot like the sensation you get on a plane where you’re about to fall asleep and there’s a WHOOSH-CLICK and your body wakes you up again, presumably to spare you the humiliation of drooling in front of strangers. I find that I nod off only when Reiki Lady is holding her hands above a particular foot-long strip of my torso, which I discover when I open my eyes.

  • I can completely relax my body much more quickly than before. If you’re into meditation you might be familiar with the concept of relaxing to the point where you go numb. Now I can do it in about 10 minutes, where before it would take 40.

  • Reiki Lady occasionally incorporates craniosacral therapy to my head. I can now not only feel how the muscles in my shoulders, neck, and jaw are connected, pulling, and relaxing, I can also feel pressure and tension patterns throughout my skull. Imagine a May pole, where all the streamers are muscles or tension patterns that have gotten wound up and distorted and twisted, due in part to the stupid way I sit at my desk. During reiki sessions, I become more and more aware of the presence, movement, and release of each streamer. This took a lot of sessions, however.

  • As for energy movement … Of course where you’re being touched (through your clothes) you feel tingly. But there is something else, too, that I didn’t start to feel until my fifth ? session, although I don’t think reiki practitioners believe you have to feel it in order for reiki to do whatever reiki does. It was subtle and fleeting, but occurred at each session after that. After about four more sessions, it changed a bit. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe it. Somewhere in and across my upper body, a pulse or wave changed position, angle, and amplitude. How’s that? It could be that you could get this experience just from meditating regularly. I don’t know.

  • As for my stress response … Last winter I overextended myself in terms of physical, emotional, and cognitive energy, and I was still angry and stressed well into summer. I swore I would not go through that again. I overbooked myself again this winter, mostly with home repair projects that couldn’t be put off, but am rallying much more quickly after each annoying task.

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Image: Still from The Phantom of the Opera (1925) by Universal Pictures. Film is in the public domain.

If you have insomnia and are interested in homeopathy

On an online discussion on insomnia I ran across a commenter who had combined homeopathy with the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the 24-hour organ Qi cycle — that is, the idea that each organ goes into maintenance mode at a certain time of day, and if the organ is in particular need of repair, the activity might affect your nervous system. The commenter used the homeopathic formulas that treat those organs corresponding with the hours she found herself awake.

Forgive me if this is a basic tenet of homeopathy that even newbie homeopaths know. I am almost completely clueless about the subject, although I can say that choosing formulations based on their descriptions on the package in the store never did diddly for me. For all that it is maligned in the press and even in alternative health circles, however, I’ve come across enough people who used it that I’m not going to nay-say it. Who cares why it works. If it works for you, it works.

Here are insomnia-related Qi cycle hours:

7-9 pm – pericardium
9-11 pm – Triple Burner. This is not actually a specific organ. The commenter used pineal gland and hypothalamus preparations for the 6-10 pm time.
11pm-1am – gallbladder
1-3 am – liver
3-5 am – lung
5-7 am- large intestine
7-9 am – stomach
9-11 am – spleen

Wake therapy for depression adnuther.com

Bright light therapy requirements changing over time

I’ve mentioned this in passing a few times on the site — the exposure length and timing of the bright light therapy I use to control carb cravings, insomnia, low mood, and zombie brain changes over the years. I used to need it only from October to April, for 30 minutes, and it wouldn’t work after 9 am. Then I switched to 60 minutes for quite a while, until it started to make me antsy. Now I’m down to 20 minutes, it won’t work after 7:15 am, and I seem to need it all year. I consider this further proof that some chicks are not meant to live further north than a palm tree.

Here are a few references I’ve used to figure out timing and “dosage.”

Other interesting info:

ANT - light therapy

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Illustration: Remix by MRhea.

Wake therapy (staying up all night) for depression

After a reader pointed me to a New York Times article on chronotherapy — using light exposure and waking times to affect mood — I ordered one of the publications it referred to: Chronotherapeutics for Affective Disorders: A Clinician’s Manual for Light and Wake Therapy. The manual’s authors, three clinical researchers/professors in psychiatric neuro-stuff in Italy, Switzerland, and New York, have been experimenting with chronotherapy on hospitalized bipolar and depressive patients. They themselves do not use prescription drugs in their treatment, but their patients’ other psychiatrists and doctors often do, so the manual includes guidelines on how to incorporate meds into each treatment.

Among the many topics the authors cover — bright light therapy, melatonin, and generally futzing with a person’s circadian rhythms in multiple ways — they mention that they’ve found that their depressed patients often benefit from staying awake all night once or twice a week. Specifically, the second half of the night seems to be key — you stay awake from about 2 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. You can actually go to bed early and wake up at 2 a.m.

The therapy calls for a well-lit environment, moving around a lot to stay awake, coffee or caffeine if necessary, and eating whenever you’re hungry.

The authors say that “the clinical improvement after a single night of wake therapy is remarkable,” but some patients need two or even three nights in a week (not sure if they have to be in a row) to see results. However, a good response seems to be pretty long-lasting. Patients can maintain the effect using light therapy alone or occasional nights of wake therapy.

I recommend this book if you’re looking for non-Rx ways to treat mood disorders. It’s written in normal language and the authors seem to care a lot about their patients. They cover all kinds of depression, all kinds of treatments, and all kinds of combinations of treatments. They cover blue-blocking lenses and something called social rhythm therapy, which involves paying attention to your daily activities and how they affect your internal clock. (That reminds me of Seth Roberts’ discovery that his mood was noticeably better on days when he watched TV shows featuring large faces — that is, with the camera zoomed in, as on talk shows — in the morning.)

Here’s a link to the table of contents on the Swiss publisher’s website, although it’s weirdly formatted. You can get to the order form from that page, too. The manual was about $52, including shipping from Switzerland.

Wake therapy for depression adnuther.com