“Vonnie, I have to get up.” said Dennis Engler, 50, rancher and rail switchman from North Platte, Nebraska. Vonnie pulled over the van, which she had purchased so her husband could travel lying on a mattress. Car riding had become just too painful for Dennis. A year ago he had to stop his three day a week job at the rail yard as the car switching and door opening was just too difficult. He was forced to be on disability. When Vonnie stopped, Dennis would slowly get out without her touching him. If Vonnie touched his head it would hurt him and start severe spasms.
They were on their way to Milwaukee, a 16 hour trip which would take 21 hours due to the stops Dennis required to walk which helped the spasms and severe pulling sensations in his spine. This was the 21st doctor they would see trying to get relief of the severe pain and disability which became a major element in his life starting in 1982. His family doctor was carefully watching the back and leg pain. He told Dennis, “Back surgery should not be rushed into. One has a 1/3 chance of being worse, 1/3 chance of no change and 1/3 chance of getting help.” In 1985 the family doctor had referred Dennis to the surgeon who operated and noted the disk surgery could have been done sooner. The results were that Dennis could move his leg better so he could climb stairs again. Prior to this he had to literally crawl up the steps into his house.
He saw the back surgeon after the surgery and reported severe spasms in the shoulders, a band-like tightness around his head causing severe headaches, tingling and numbness in the arms and hands, pain and grinding in neck, pain in the mid-back and some pain in the low spine and right leg. The spasms were the worst. They would be started by Vonnie’s lightest touch, his movements or for no apparent reason at all. He would have to stand or kneel to eat. Sitting was the worst, and he just could not do it.
Vonnie had made an appointment at an internationally famous clinic 6 hours closer to North Platte just prior to coming to Milwaukee, but cancelled to see a solo osteopathic physician instead of going to the 1000 physician clinic. Vonnie believed in God and felt that there was someone who could help their shattered lives. Vonnie had taken over the ranch where they raised hogs, acted as sole parent to 3 young children, chauffeuring to basketball, soccer and football as well as maintaining the house and working as a speech therapist. Dennis missed many of the kids’ sport, school parent-teacher conferences, church attendance, hunting and vacations. All the medications the doctors gave him actually scared Vonnie as Dennis was clearly out of it at times.
During the 21 hour trip in which Vonnie chauffeured (or rather drove medical transport) she had plenty of time to think of their 15 year nightmare. One thought was that air, train, bus or car transportation was out of the question for Dennis as he could only lie on a mat, precluding other types of transport. She also thought she had no qualms about canceling the consultations at the huge international clinic. She had faith her prayers for help in had been answered. Dennis saw Scott Hoffmann, massage therapist, who mentioned Ernest Huhta, a massage therapist in Minnesota who had experienced success in sending difficult patients to Dr. Faber. They obtained a copy of Dr. Faber’s book Pain, Pain Go Away and felt that the prolotherapy described in the book might be what Dennis needed. Vonnie thought that after 20 doctors she knew what the large clinic would do, which would be more scans and medications which never helped before. In fact, Vonnie lost faith in this type of diagnosis and treatment.
After the nearly 24 hour road trip and a night in the motel, Vonnie and Dennis came for a 2:00 pm visit with Dr. Faber. His office was in a modest part of Milwaukee a few blocks from a shopping center on a street of small businesses which included a gas station, grocery store, and used car dealer next door. The clinic was not in a medical building, but a single story building with no other doctors or hospitals nearby. The clinic was quite spacious for a solo doctor, clean and orderly, but not pretentious. They brought the medical history forms, which had previously been sent out and completed, as well as x-rays, reports and MRI and CAT scans from previous doctors. The medical assistant took the vital measures and reviewed the records for completeness. Dr. Faber soon came in and introduced himself. He seemed calm and casual. He took the seat at the desk and Vonnie sat in the side chair. Dennis stood as sitting was too painful. Dr. Faber said he would review the medical history form, review the records they brought and review the x-rays with them. Then he would conduct a physical examination, inform them of the diagnosis and explain the treatment. He would perform the treatment if they wished and if he felt it would be of benefit. Dennis felt more at ease knowing what would be done.
Dr. Faber started with the physical complaints. He questioned further so he would know the particulars of each symptom, such as how long could he sit, walk or stand before it became too painful. He learned that Dennis would have to change positions frequently. He learned that the spasms were the thing that plagued him the worst. He learned that they were mostly in the head, neck and upper shoulders. He learned the fact that when Dennis reported to the surgeon after the back surgery that the head, neck and shoulders, and arms were the worst areas of spasm and pain that the surgeon said, “That’s a long way from the low back surgery.” (Dennis confided later that he understood that the surgeon was stating that the problem was outside of the surgeon’s practice.) Dr. Faber read and noted everything Vonnie marked on the 5 page history form. She thought, “Well he certainly wants to know exactly what has happened in Dennis’ life.” He asked about all the surgeries, treatments and medications and what were the results of doing them. He reviewed every injury and asked about its severity. Then he asked about all dental procedures, wisdom teeth removal, root canals and others. He asked about Dennis’ labor and delivery and birth weight. He asked if there were any head injuries, falls and illnesses that were forgotten in filling out the forms and noted them. Dr. Faber reviewed all the reports they brought and explained. He reviewed the x-rays and scans, pointing them out on the actual pictures, not just reading the radiologists’ reports.
The physical examination actually started when Dr. Faber observed Dennis walking down the hall before he was brought into the examination room. Dr. Faber noted his walk had no particular limp, but his head and shoulders were slightly forward. In addition Dennis was placed in front of a full-length mirror on the examination room door and it was shown to him by the Missouri osteopathic-trained doctor that his right shoulder was ½ inch lower than his left and his eyes were not level as his head tilted to the right. Dr. Faber explained that the body has a self-leveling mechanism to keep the eyes level with the ground. This imbalance could be a reason for his unsteadiness and occasional falls. He demonstrated Dennis’ multiple losses of range of motion throughout his entire spine. Careful use of trained, knowing, sensing, feeling, understanding osteopathic hands revealed much. In fact after the meticulous life history review, this examination revealed the “mother lode” of Dennis’ spasms, lack of endurance, pain, constant pulling and inability to sit. The head examination revealed an extremely tight scalp, particularly at the occiput (the skull base). The neck had multiple restrictions and a grinding sensation of movement indicating joint wear and tear. He had multiple areas of defects of his spinal ligaments throughout his entire spine. He had tenderness to light touch on his vertex (top of skull) and coccyx (tailbone). His lumbar surgical scars were swollen and tender a full 12 years since the surgery. Vonnie noted this exam was far more detailed and careful than the previous 20 physicians. Their examinations were non-existent; they didn’t touch Dennis or gave the most cursory if exams consisting of hitting a couple of reflex tendons with a rubber hammer and bringing his leg up. Dennis said that when they saw he could get on the examination table this indicated to them that he was okay. On one occasion this prompted the physician’s referral to a psychiatrist.
Dr. Faber announced after completing the history and examinations that Dennis had two major problems which were causing his pain, suffering and misery. One was that his surgery and multiple injuries had caused dramatic pulling, shortening adhesions of his fascia. He explained that fascia is a tough connective tissue that envelops the entire body from the toes to the top of the head. There are layers of this fascia in the skin and surrounding all the internal organs, muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments. So if an area of fascia is shortened, kinked, adhered by injuries, birth trauma, surgery, infections, fractures, burns and falls, the person essentially has lost space. The body abhors loss of space. Have you ever had a wedgie or had your clothes fit too tightly? It is misery. One finds himself changing positions and holding a position like Dennis did. The nerves are pulled in these tightened fascia conditions and produce pain, lack of circulation, spasms, all of which produce lactic acidosis which results in more pain. One becomes helpless as Dennis was. It was like Gulliver when he was tied down by the Lilliputians with dozens of small ropes.
Dr. Faber applied tiny injections to Dennis’ head, neck, top of shoulders and his low back surgical scar. What happened was immediate, dramatic and permanent. Dennis could immediately sit without unbearable tugging pain. He stated, “I felt like a weight was taken off my head and neck.” He could move around so much easier. Witnessing the whole event, Vonnie was on the edge of tears of joy, but she thought, “Is this going to last?” The answer came quickly and in the minutes, hours and days later, Dennis was sitting – something he previously just couldn’t do. It was evident to her, Dennis and their young children that their long lost Dad was back to stay.
The explanation is that in addition to the fascial continuity described previously it is an osteopathic medical principle that the body is a unit. Analogously, if one takes a rope and pulls on one end, it produces tension throughout the entire rope but most of it is felt at the other end. It follows from Newton’s laws: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
The second major problem was that Dennis’ spine was weakened, torn and unstable which caused further spasms, lack of endurance and pain. Dr. Faber explained that the fascial tightening dimension needed to be dealt with first and that Dennis’ improvements in pain, range of motion and function would most likely occur immediately with the treatment as indeed they did. He explained that the treatment would involve injections around the circumference of the head (occipital-bregma circumference). This is the wide circumference of the head. The injections consist of spinal grade (preservative-free and epinephrine-free) diluted lidocaine. The injections are frequently placed down to the bone, but may be done very superficial just below the cutaneous layer of outer skin or deeper layers depending on where the hang-ups or tightness is felt. He also treated at the skull base or occiput as there are many tissue/tendon attachments to the skull that frequently collect the excess tensions. There are 4 nerves, 2 on either side of the skull base, which may be irritated from excessive pulling/torque/tension on the fascia. These are the greater and lesser occipital nerves. It is the opinion of German neural therapy physicians that these nerves are firing off from the previously mentioned reasons. The local anesthetic is not given to block, numb, or anesthetize the nerves but rather to re-establish the nerves electrical balance potential. It is known that local anesthetics will re-establish the normal electric balance of nerves. This is why they are used in cardiac arrhythmias. Further his spinal surgical scar was treated in this manner even though it healed 12 years previously. Also, the vertex, or highest point of the skull, was treated as this is the long end of the body and thus a collection point of high tension.
Dennis had an immediate relief of pain, his range of motions dramatically improved, and he could sit in the chair. Dennis had what is termed a lightning reaction. This phenomenon was possibly first discovered by Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O. in the post Civil War days. His professional cards stated, “Lightning bone setter”. He obtained freedom from pain and restoration of function by restoring structure to its normal position. This principle and others he named “osteopathic medicine” on June 22, 1874.
It was over 50 years later in 1925 that the German physicians Walter and Ferdinand Hueneke described remote effects of pain relief and return of function. They feel there is the bio-electrical component of the treatment and they refer to it as a “bloodless surgery”. Dr. Faber feels that both bio-electric and structural factors are involved. The lightning reaction is said to have occurred when pain and function remain markedly improved for 18 hours or longer after injections. It can be permanent. Dennis’ improvement lasted over 14 years at the time of this writing.
Information is for educational use only. Data is from clinical experience. Individual results may vary. Consult your physician for all medical advice.