The patient: “Bonnie,” a professional dancer in town for a series of performances.
Why she came to see me: This event occurred when I was in my residency in naturopathic medical school in Oregon. I was helping to support myself by working with the Stagehands Union (Local 28 of the IATSE) as a Union Member, and was notified by the Director of the nationally renowned ballet company that I had been working with during their local stay that one of their lead ballerinas had come down with sudden excruciating sciatic pain. I offered to see her the following morning, knowing that she was supposed to perform that evening and for the next few days in our city.
How I evaluated her: During my examination, I found that there was a slight, but obviously significant, misalignment of a joint where her hip met her sacrum, causing a nerve that ran from her hip down into her foot—the sciatic nerve—to feel “like it was on fire.” (Body misalignments can cause such diverse pains, as you can see in my last blog.) Because of her profession and extreme athletic activity, the area was extraordinarily developed and thus the tissue surrounding the joint and the point of exit of the nerve from her hip was involved in a debilitating spasm.
How we addressed her problem: In order to reduce the joint misalignment, or “subluxation,” I used a combination of physical therapy and “parenteral” (injection) techniques including: electro-acupuncture, phonophoresis (using ultrasound to move botanical extracts through the skin into underlying tissue), and “trigger-point” injections where I would introduce a 1% buffered lidocaine solution into the areas surrounding the affected area around the hip joint (the posterior superior iliac spine) and the musculotendinous junction areas of the piriformis muscle that had swollen and was impinging against the sciatic nerve. She appreciated the detailed explanation as she told me that ballet dancers were quite aware of physical anatomy and she was curious as to the cause of her pain.
After allowing the local anesthesia to take hold and the physical medicine to further relax the area, I performed a series of quite aggressive adjustments causing her hip to move slightly back and into proper alignment with her sacrum. I thanked her for allowing me to “twist her up like a pretzel” and she forgave me, saying that it was her own fault for being so flexible!
Note that not all states allow naturopathic doctors to give injections. I would not have been able to provide this level of relief if Bonnie came to see me in my office in Connecticut today.
The patient’s progress: After allowing her 10 minutes of hot packs to allow her to settle out, she got off the table, did some rather astounding and seemingly unnatural bending of her torso and legs and broke out into a broad smile announcing to me that I had “cured her.”