The patient reported on her first visit having leg symptoms of an achy nature that has been persistent for more than a year. She could not recall a specific event that initially seemed to cause the problem, nor could she recall anything that aggravated the leg symptoms. She advised me she experiences the leg achiness daily and it’sbeginning to affect her ability to work. She indicated have been seen by her medical doctor with no relief of her achiness. She reported being referred for a neurological consult for further evaluation. She relayed that the neurologist was unable to find a reason for her symptoms. She indicated that she had heard chiropractic care could help with her problem and made an appointment with my clinic.
I relayed to the patient that I believed chiropractic manipulation should be the first step in her care to help alleviate any nerve irritation that may be causing or contributing to her leg problems. In addition, we began soft tissue work on the leg musculature to help relax tight muscles and alleviate any trigger points that could be causing the symptoms. After explaining to the patient my treatment plan, she agreed to it and we began care. In her case, I wanted to see some type of improvement in her symptoms within the initial two-week period. Although she indicated her back and neck had more mobility after a few weeks of care, she reported having no relief of her leg achiness. I began to think what else could we do to help her. I asked myself what could be the underlying cause of her symptoms. Using the philosophy of functional medicine I reviewed her file. Based on her case and financial situation I asked her to do one thing and go on a gluten free diet then return a few times over the next six weeks to see how she was doing.
I am going to take a moment to mention a method of approaching health and disease referred to as functional medicine. The focus of functional medicine is to look for the root cause of symptoms by looking at the way key body systems function. Finding imbalances in key body systems and then working towards correcting them is at the center of functional medicine. Although this way of approaching medicine is growing in popularity, it is currently considered an alternative approach to allopathic care. Naturopaths, chiropractors and some medical doctors use functional medicine to look for the root cause of symptoms. They often use different types of laboratory work to look for the underlying cause of problems. It can be a powerful tool to help patients since treatment often involves healthy lifestyle changes as well as other remedies to bring systems back into balance.
Ok, back to our patient.
I remember not hearing from her for about three months. She returned to my office indicating that her leg achiness was 100% gone. She reported that the only thing different she did since her last visit was the gluten free diet plan I had asked her to strictly adhere too. She reported the diet change was tough at first, but became easier as she began to progressively feel better.
I wanted to tell this story to help illustrate a direct cause effect relationship may be missed if we do not continue looking for a reason behind symptoms. Sometimes it can be one thing that drives symptoms. Of course, it is not always this easy. Finding the underlying problem will most likely take patience on the part of the patient and the doctor. I could have stopped trying to figure out the problem after manipulation failed this patient. However, it is as one of my mentors, Dr. William Timmons, N.D. always used to say, “you always have to ask why?….why?….why?… to get to the underlying cause”. Dr. Timmons did not like to treat the symptom by masking over it with various herbs and other modalities. He would instead strive to look for the cause. Then he would treat the cause not the symptom. As practitioners we must always ask ourselves why is the patient experiencing these problems. Functional medicine is one approach to health that helps practitioners find answers by asking why… why… why? This time, it was intolerance to gluten. To see how gluten intolerance could be associated with symptoms such as leg achiness, read my post; Could this one thing be making you sick?
As always, you should consult with your health care professional for any health concerns. Because your health affects everything you do and everyone you know, I encourage my readers continue to educate themselves as much as possible on their own well-being.
Yours in Health,
Sean Ripp, D.C.