I remember the exact moment that would change my health history for the next 3.5+ years. It was May 25th 2013 and it was one golf swing on the 9th hole. Right after my tee shot, I felt this immediate sharp knife pain in my back that radiated down my leg into my big toe. I felt tingling and numbness and knew this wasn’t a good sign. So I of course started googling all the things that could have happened and came up with the self diagnosis of a bulged, perhaps herniated disc. I drove myself home (less than 4 minutes) and laid on the couch thinking to myself: here comes another serious injury. You see, I was born hypermobile which basically means double-jointedness. All of my joints stretch further than normal making me more prone to injury. My body is completely elastic. So this golf swing on anyone without this syndrome would have been a normal golf swing. For me, it was the golf swing that turned into my health saga, which I am about to share. It is long, I am warning you. But…I promise there is a happy ending.
After the pain became consistently worse, I went to see a specialist at NYU Hospital, who prescribed me with anti-inflammatories and physical therapy for three weeks. Up next: an MRI, which showed a minimal bulged disc. So the next step was a cortisone injection which did take the numbness away from my big toe but the pain was still radiating in my back. I waited and waited, as the doctors suggested, and still no relief. Another cortisone injection was their answer and yet, there was no relief after that either. They told me time. After two months of time, I went for a second opinion and their response was more physical therapy, muscle relaxers and time. I started doing some of my own research (I am known for this) and decided to try some alternative types of therapy, since modern medicine wasn’t helping at the moment. I first started with acupuncture but did not have any relief. Someone had suggested dry needling, which is a form of therapy that uses a needle to penetrate the skin. In doing this, it stimulates myofascial trigger points, muscular and connective tissues in hopes of managing neuromusculoskeletal pain. After my fourth session, the pain in my back subsided but suddenly I had groin pain. I was in tears when the needles were going into my groin area and the doctor felt I should go see a doctor about my pain. This seemed to be an issue that had not been addressed.
So the doctors visits and tests started. I saw 7 doctors including: my GP, a general surgeon, two orthopedists, my gynecologist, an endocrinologist and a gastroenterologist. They ordered multiple x-rays, an ultrasound, a catscan and an MRI. Prescriptions were written for multiple drugs ranging from Lyrica to Flexeril, Skelaxin, Naproxen, the list goes on and on, many of which I couldn’t even pronounce. No one was exactly sure why I was in the pain I was in so I was just going from doctor to doctor, searching for answers. I ended up at the University of Maryland in the care of someone who still didn’t have an exact answer but believed I had a sports hernia, which is a tear to the oblique abdominal muscles. This injury is typical among males and college or professional level athletes, so it was kind of a long shot but it was the “only” educated guess as to why I had this groin pain. On October 27th, 2013, I was scheduled for an “exploratory” surgery. Post operation, I finally had a diagnosis: Athletic Pubalgia (aka sports hernia). Now that my case was solved and was surgically fixed, I would finally be on the mend. However, that was not the case. I was going to physical therapy, I was doing everything the doctor recommended, yet I was still in the exact SAME pain. I kept waiting and waiting for the relief that the surgeon said I was going to have and it just wasn’t happening.
After going back to the surgeon in December, she felt that there was most likely an issue with the repair so recommended a second surgery to re-repair the hernia and suggested cutting the round ligament to relieve some of the pressure in my groin. 6 days prior to my surgery she was put on maternity bed rest, but her colleague had just done this surgery on a female with a similar history to me and it was a success. So I put my faith in this surgeon and felt confident that he could help. On January 19th, 2014 I went in for my second surgery. All went well. I thought I would finally be on the mend. However, I was still in the EXACT SAME PAIN. I was a medical mystery. No one could figure it out. This surgeon was baffled. My physical therapist was baffled. No one understood, especially me. I was in chronic pain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The nerve pain in my groin was debilitating. I couldn’t exercise, I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t sit or drive or walk without pain. I tried to remain positive and basically put on a happy front. Inside I was just so tired of being in this pain. I was at my dermatologist one day and I was sharing my saga and she told me I had to go see THE nerve guy in Towson, Maryland. I was SO over going to get another opinion and having to share my story and filling out more paperwork and paying more out of pocket costs, but I was desperate for answers.
Off I went to see Dr. Dellon at the Lee Dellon Institute. He felt that all of my pain was nerve related and if he operated on me he would remove the genitofemoral and ilioinguinal nerves and release the lateral femoral cutaneous nerves. Lots of medical jargon right?! I became used to all of these names. This surgery had fixed thousands of patients and studies were written on it. In fact, he was the only surgeon who really did this. I put my faith in him. On April 2nd, 2014, he operated on me, prescribed me water therapy and said my pain would go away. Two months after this operation I still had the exact same pain. He said this can happen (of course, I am always “the case”) and recommended going back in. He would do a neurolysis of the obturator nerve and a fasciotomy of the abductor muscles. Before being cut a fourth time, I decided to seek another opinion and went to an Orthopedist in Fairfax. I started doing some research and noticed that many articles were saying that people with groin pain sometimes have hip pain so I thought maybe it is about time someone look at my hip! So they did a hip MRI arthrogram and they found a small tear in my hip labrum. The labrum is a rim of soft tissue that surrounds the acetabulum, which is your hip socket. He said he could scope me but he didn’t think this would solve my groin pain. I remember getting into my car and called my Dad and just started crying. I was so frustrated: why didn’t anyone have answers?
He said ok, you’re coming to New York. So off I went to Hospital for Special Surgery to see the hip guru, Dr. Coleman. He took a catscan and told me that I had dysplasia and hip impingement, which is a condition that creates abnormal wear and tear between the ball and socket of the hip joint. He wanted to do another hip MRI because his equipment/tech was premiere. So I had another arthrogram and he called to tell me that I had a significant labrum tear which he believed was causing a lot of my groin pain as well as some hip pain. He believed that there was something else probably going on with my groin so wanted me to see the #1 groin doctor in Philly, Dr. Meyers. They worked together closely and twice a month operated simultaneously on patients. Patients who have hip pain typically have groin pain as well so off I went to Philly to meet with this guy. He did another pelvic MRI (if I counted the number of these I have had, it is scary). After reading my scans, here was my diagnosis: I had shredded all of my adductors which had pulled away from my pelvic bone. He believed the sports hernia was not repaired properly and I had a lot of scar tissue that was causing some pain as well. It was decided that I would have a combo surgery: first I would have a hip scope to fix the hip impingement and labrum tear and then Meyers would go in and fix the groin issues.
On January 9th, 2015 I had my 4th surgery, which was a success (I had heard that far too many times). Turns out my hip was a lot worse than the scans showed: I also had two bone spurs and the labrum tear was much larger than anticipated. My groin was pretty much a nightmare internally but everything was fixed properly. I remember looking at my hip and groin and thinking a truck had run over it. I couldn’t move anything. It felt like I would never ever be able to walk. I just kept thinking: “why me.” The pain was unbearable and I was immune to pain killers. Vicodin, Percocet, oxycodone, nothing was working so they decided to put me on a drug called dilaudid. I remember waking up in my hotel room (I was staying in Philly for 9 days of intense rehab) and told my stepmom that they had cut off both of my legs. I couldn’t feel anything and my eyes were practically rolled back into my head. She said: “ok, you’re not taking this drug.” I was basically hallucinating and on a serious trip. And this intense drug wasn’t even taking the pain away.
I would go to rehab at the facility 2x a day and then in between those sessions I would have my leg and hip in a contraption along with a constant icing machine to try and take the swelling down. This was actually the only time my pain subsided to bearable and I thought I might just have to permanently be on ice for the rest of my life. I was on crutches for about 7 weeks and was at home, depressed that I still wasn’t finding the relief that everyone promised I would. Time they told me. Every month I would drive to Philly for my check up and my progress report was: I am still having this nerve pain. They tried more minimally invasive procedures, including a major round of steroid injections in late April. They over injected me and I couldn’t walk. I had driven to Philly alone and almost had to spend the night there by myself. I waited 5 hours until I regained feeling in my thigh, leg and foot and was able to drive home. That weekend I noticed a lot of swelling in my face. On Mother’s Day, I ended up at urgent care with what they thought was an abscess in my upper tooth. They told me to follow up at the dentist who then sent me to the oral surgeon. I was put on antibiotics. 7 days later I started getting puffy everywhere. I was unrecognizable. People were wondering what was wrong with me and asked Josh if I was ok. Suddenly the puffiness turned to 25 pounds of weight gain. I questioned the doctors and they said “possible weight gain” was a side effect of steroids. They said it would last 6-8 weeks. My adrenal glands could not handle the amount of steroid injections into my hip and groin. I couldn’t fit into anything, I was physically and emotionally unhappy and it was just yet another side effect that didn’t even change my course of pain. Time would help they kept saying. The steroids stayed in my body for 9 months and there was no sign of them leaving. It wasn’t until I went on a serious detox that the steroids left my body.
So I had the injections in April and clearly the only thing I got from those was 25 pounds of weight. Finally in June they felt that it was enough time to do an exploratory surgery. They wanted to cut me open for a 5th time just to take a look around. They truly weren’t sure why I was still in so much pain. Every single doctor seemed baffled by my case. I guess I was an anomaly. However, there was no way they were just going to cut me open in hopes of trying to figure out what was wrong. With more tears, I called my Dad and he decided that I should talk to one of my old wrist surgeons who was really connected in NYC and would ask around. He sent me to a doctor in NYC who specializes in hips, who believed that this wasn’t a hip issue so referred me (oh these referrals) to a hernia specialist. He looked at my MRI’s and saw THREE hernia’s just on the MRI. These were not sports hernias, regular ones, which 4 previous surgeons missed. I just couldn’t fathom this. How could all of these doctors miss these?! He said it happens a lot and this was the most frustrating part. Could this be my health ticket and the cause of all of this pain? He believed so.
He would do this surgery laparoscopically and would make sure that he would look over everything! You see, this surgeon was the first surgeon to notice that the hernia’s were SO deep that there was no way any of the other open surgeries could have seen these. So I thought to myself: the Philly guys just wanted to cut me open again and they would have missed these completely?! On November 30th 2015, I was scheduled for surgery #5 in NYC and would stay with my parents for recovery. Surgery went well – he couldn’t believe what he saw! He said I had 3 massive hernia’s and a nerve completely entrapped in one of them (hence all the nerve pain). This time I had mesh put in two places to secure the hernia’s. He said it was WAY worse when he got in than expected and had an ah-ha moment and fully believed that this was all the cause of my pain. I had heard doctors say this many many times, but I truly believed this sweet man.
With this surgery, I couldn’t do much because I had to let the mesh adhere and everything heal internally so no physical therapy or movement. I laid in bed for two weeks. Again, wondering why me but hopeful that this was my turning of the corner. Time passed, I still had the exact same pain. I felt it failed and I just remember crying and crying. Everyone said: “you can’t possibly have another surgery,” “maybe you’ll just have to live with this pain.” I tried to remain hopeful and found a physical therapist in NY that fully believed changing my walk and strengthening all of my muscles around the injury areas was the ticket to feeling better. So I trusted her and did whatever she said. I was still having the same pain so I went back to the surgeon who injected the area with lidocaine (no more steroids for me ever) to try and calm the nerves. That didn’t really help. I did months and months of physical therapy hopeful that it would help. Well, I still had constant pain. I hated talking about it so everyone thought I was doing so much better. It was just a really good front.
Nothing had worked and I had been through so much physically, emotionally and financially (over $65,000 – yes, I was in medical debt) that I just couldn’t bare talking about it. What could I say and what could anyone else say that would make it better? I just wanted to be pain free. But that didn’t seem like it would ever happen. It had been over 6 months of recovery from my 5th surgery, in my mind plenty of healing time. Yet the pain was the exact same pain that I had in 2013. How could this be, I basically screamed this!
June 2016 rolled around and I went to Young Living Convention. Since May of 2014, I had been using lots of oils and supplements but hadn’t noticed any change. I wasn’t giving up hope. I became friends with Ashley Westfall, one of my amazing uplines with Young Living. We got to talking and she learned of my medical saga over lunch. I told her I was experiencing chronic pain and had been through 5 surgeries with no relief. She had asked if I had spoken to Dr. Jim Bob Haggerton, a chiropractor in Texas. For the last 9 months I had been following him on FB, Instagram and YouTube. He is a huge wellness advocate and is basically a genius when it comes to the body. I said I hadn’t and she said that he did phone consults. I was at the point where I would try anything. Heck, I even contemplated flying to Texas! It would take me a few more months to pull the trigger on this phone call, but finally I did. I was getting married in September and just felt I wanted to wait until after the wedding to be put on whatever regimen he recommended. So the week after the wedding I had a call with him. I had written him a massive email with all of my history because frankly, my health history could be a novel (as you can see).
Most consults are 30 min and this sweet man spent 75 min on the phone with me. He didn’t look at scans, move my body, look at numbers, I mean it was all just a conversation. Here was his diagnosis: my back was probably herniated at L5/S1 and my sacrum is the cause of pain. Without resetting my tailbone (sacrum), therapy won’t matter. Since I have had a ton of damage to my joints and the scar tissue, this may have given me chronic pain. Even though the nerves are affected, this is not a nerve injury. This is a scar tissue injury with inflammation build up and it won’t heal unless I do work to the area. He told me what supplements I needed to take, what oils to use (he is a YL distributor so uses them to support his health and wellness) and told me to find a chiropractor, but not just anyone. It had to be a Gonstead specialist. I would honestly do anything he recommended and that is exactly what I did. But first I had to research the type of chiropractic care he recommended.
The Gonstead Chiropractic approach uses a variety of tools to detect the presence of spinal dysfunction, which results in pinching or compressing of the nerves that run through a particular area. “These compressed nerves often become inflamed and impede the proper transmission of impulses to the section of the body controlled by these nerves. A seemingly endless list of ailments and pain may be brought about by these subluxations.” By applying the Gonstead adjustment to the back, the pressure is removed from the nerve while joint function is restored. More importantly, nerve function is restored, and the path of that specific nerve is then again sending and receiving the “electrical” impulses as it should and ultimately, health is restored.
Chiro’s orders: I was to see him two times a week. Jim Bob couldn’t guarantee that I would be pain free. He said having gone through so much, my body would probably never be out of the woods but if I saw 10-20% relief that would be huge. He thought it could take months or even a year, but to be patient (which is what everyone said but I truly believed this guy this time). So here was his protocol he put me on:
-Fish Oils: I don’t eat fish. I can’t stand the taste, texture or smell so I needed a supplement that I would not burp up and that wouldn’t smell or taste like fish. Jim Bob pointed me to Innate Choice and I found them here. No burps, I am a happy camper! I take 2 capsules in the morning and 2 in the evening.
Note: all of the supplements listed below are from Young Living.
-Sulfurzyme: This supplement combines wolfberry with MSM, a naturally occurring organic form of dietary sulfur needed by our bodies every day to maintain the structure of proteins, protect cells and cell membranes, replenish the connections between cells, and preserve the molecular framework of connective tissue. MSM also supports the immune system, the liver, circulation, and proper intestinal function and works to scavenge free radicals. I take 2 of these in the morning.
-Ningxia: This is an antioxidant packed drink from Young Living. Antioxidants are like super Ninjas that support your cells! It contains whole Ningxia wolf berry puree which is a super blend of blueberry, aronia, cherry, pomegranate, and plum juices, natural stevia extract, grape seed extract, pure vanilla extract, and orange, yuzu, lemon and tangerine essential oils. The essential oils in Ningxia Red are seven times more pure, packed with 93% d-limonene and aid in the maintaining of the body’s normal cellular function. 1 serving of NingXia Red was found to be the equivalent of 7.5 mixed servings of fruits & vegetables. I take 2 ounces in the morning.
-MultiGreens: This is a nutritious chlorophyll formula designed to boost vitality by working with the glandular, nervous, and circulatory systems. MultiGreens is made with spirulina, alfalfa sprouts, barley grass, bee pollen, eleuthero, Pacific kelp, and therapeutic-grade essential oils. I take 3 capsules in the morning.
-Super Cal: When you don’t have enough calcium, your muscles can’t relax. This is a calcium and magnesium supplement. Calcium is essential to the health of bones, teeth, and muscles, and it also plays an essential role in blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and many cellular functions. Magnesium activates more than 300 enzymes in the body and, with calcium, affects nerve and muscle functions. This combination also includes potassium as well as zinc, which is an important mineral in many body functions. I take 2 capsules in the morning.
-AgilEase: This is a joint health supplement that enables greater mobility and flexibility through the reduction of inflammation. I take 2 capsules in the morning.
I made a roller with Frankincense, Lemongrass and Copaiba and rolled these 3 oils right on my groin multiple times a day.
Dr. Jim Bob found me a Gonstead doctor in Arlington named Dr. Whitlow. There aren’t many who practice this type of chiropractic care. He did a thorough examination and agreed completely with what Jim Bob had mentioned. The craziest thing he said is this is not a groin injury. Somehow along the way, the focus went from the back to the groin but the pain I was experiencing was because of my sacrum which was completely shifted. The nerves around the sacrum were so inflamed and pressing on other nerves and all of these wrapped around my side and led into my groin and they were the reason I was having the groin pain. But the groin pain was solely from my back injury. Lightbulb.
I have taken all of my YL supplements, have been seeing my chiropractor since October and I want to shout it from the rooftops that my pain has decreased by more than 10%, by more than 20%. More like 80%. I am not completely pain free but for the first time in 3 years, I can enjoy life without debilitating pain. I have been hiking, walking miles, sleeping comfortably and…on Saturday I hit golf balls for the first time in FOREVER without groin pain!!!
It has been an incredibly painful journey. I would never ever wish this type of pain, the doctors after doctors, the procedures after procedures on anyone. And add in the uncertainty of why I was in the pain I was in, this journey has been never-ending. It has been a learning experience for sure. I am forever thankful for my sweet friend Ashley who urged me to speak to Jim Bob. And thankful for Jim Bob who laid the foundation for what I needed to do. I owe so much of my decreased pain to Dr. Whitlow. This man has spent hours looking at my body as a whole. He examines the full body X-rays before every session and then measures my nerve activity. He is one of the most compassionate medical professionals, checking in on me via text and phone calls. Truly, he cares. I am not just another name on a long list of daily patients.
I so wish I had the knowledge and the resources I have now with alternative medicine three years ago. Yes I had tried acupuncture, laser therapy, physical therapy, dry needling and clearly everything else under the sun, but I just didn’t have the right protocol with everything. While I can’t backtrack and change my course of health history, I hope my journey can show others that out of trials and tribulations, many years and many uncertainties, keep seeking answers and alternatives. I have so many scars, both physically and mentally, from what I have been through. But those have only made me stronger. I still have a ways to go before my body is healed, but my how far I have come!
If you are going through health uncertainties or are in chronic pain, I am here for you! It is a hard place to be in. NO one can quite understand it unless you have personal experience. I hope this story can inspire you to keep searching for answers, especially with alternative therapies. For far too long, I placed my health in the hands of medical professionals. I believed that they had all of the answers and had faith that they knew what they were doing. That they held my best interests in their skilled hands. Unfortunately that was not the case. If you made it to the end, thank you for reading this. If writing this post helps one person, all my trials and tribulations would be worth it. So there you are. Almost 4 years later, my health case is cracked and I think things can only get better from here. No more surgeries, no more drugs, only alternative therapies that actually work! Young Living Oils, Young Living Supplements and Gonstead Chiropractic therapy have decreased my chronic pain immensely.