First, a few notes on Fairbanks. It's a nice little town. At just over 30,000 people it's the 2nd largest city in Alaska. Downtown is nice and well laid out, the Thai food is incredible and, although they're not very well connected, they have a decent network of bike paths. They have a ton of tourist attractions ranging from gold panning to sight seeing via plane or train. All of these things cost a lot since 1. You're in Alaska and 2. Tourist season is only three months long. You can't really see any mountains or Alaskan scenery but they have Fred Meyer (Kroger on a MASSIVE dose of steroids) so it's worth the stop for any RVer. If you want wildlife and adventure it's close by but not really within the city limits.
Now that we got that out of the way I must warn you. The remainder of this blog entry gets a bit technical and there are no pictures.
A few months back my doctor got in touch with me because he had a conference in Alaska and wanted to see when I would be there. As chance would have it, we were going to be in Fairbanks at the same time. The original plan was to just get in touch and meet up. However, the last few months my back has been giving me problems and he is a neuromuscular Doctor. In fact, he is well known for using cutting edge, non surgical techniques to help people with pain and mobility issues. So, I asked him if there was any chance he could see me as a patient and work on my back for me. Since he is a stand-up dude who is passionate about his work and patients, he made it happen.
I arrived at the Tanana Valley Clinic of Osteopathic and Manipulative Medicine in the early afternoon and after a short chat and some handshakes I was led to a room full of balls, rollers, inversion tables, skeletons and muscle charts. I stood chatting with my doctor, Dr Hardik Shah, and his Alaskan colleague, Dr Beth Chernich. They had me strip down to my undies and then started rolling video. I know. Scandalous. But if I can help them in their research and education by being an underwear model then I am happy to oblige.
The session started with an analysis of my mobility and a postural study. Then Dr Chernich went to work by literally beating the shit out of me. She was like "This muscle hurts? Right here? This sonofabitch?" Then she'd point her finger at it and dare it to talk shit to her then she'd grab it and beat it to a pulp. My muscles retreated and immediately obeyed her every command. Then there was the suction cups. These transparent, plastic cups that she used a hand pump on to attach to my body. Then she had me move my legs. As I did this the cups popped off one at a time and shot off onto the floor. This, the result of my extremely tight IT Bands, caused her to say, "yeah, he is definitely a biker with these strong cycling legs."
Her taking note of my passion for biking made her okay with me.
While all of this was happening the two doctors were making observations while discussing with each other and the video camera. It's interesting witnessing doctors working together in this manner. For instance, I learned that they use body language as an indicator when discussing an injury with a patient. If you grab it and press deeply while discussing it (which people in every culture do without realizing it) then you are most likely suffering from a herniated trigger point. If you rub it or squeeze it it means something totally different. It was mostly stuff that was above my head but the general idea made sense to me and was quite fascinating. Sneaky doctors.
After Beth finished working with me they had me stand up and checked my posture and mobility again. No joke, I felt 1000% better. My blood was flowing and I felt loose. And my back wasn't bugging me. Now it was Hardik's turn to do his thing. Since I have been seeing him for about a decade I feel I should back up and give some history.
First off: I have chronic lower back problems. But that doesn't really explain the whole problem. I have a twisted pelvis that stems from my flat feet and posture. This slight variation in my foundation causes the muscles on the outside of my legs to work harder and stiffen up and thus, creates pain and stiffness in my lower back.
Dr Shah is aware of my issues and, on occasions when I throw my back out, he brings me back with a variation of a technique called Prolotherapy (short for proliferation therapy). This therapy works by injecting an irritant (sugar water) into weak or damaged ligaments. The injection causes temporary inflammation in the problem area and triggers an immune response from the body. It's like a way of directing traffic for your immune system or helping guide your body's natural healing process. Dr Shah's technique is a variation of this technique where he also uses a more diluted sugar solution to free up areas where tissue has bound together.
Which brings me back to Fairbanks. In the office. Beth just beat me up. Hardik is standing there holding a needle looking like a mad scientist. He made TWENTY-SEVEN holes in my body. Through each hole he moves the needle around. Goes in and out with it. Carefully dispersing fluid where he deems necessary. It's not pretty but it works. And he precedes the whole thing with injections of local anesthetic so you don't feel much.
After the procedure I had a lidocaine buzz that I flushed away with some time and water. And I went on my merry way.
As I write this just over 24 have passed since my treatment. I am sore but only in the spots where I was injected. When I move, I don't have to favor my back anymore. My legs feel a lot less tight and I drove for 5 hours today without having to shove an empty pop bottle or rolled up sweatshirt behind me for lumbar support.
Make no mistake. Manipulative medicine and Prolotherapy are alternative medicines. That being said, they're becoming increasingly more popular as the public becomes more educated on how the health system works. They aren't witting prescriptions and booking operating rooms to cut you open so they can't make easy money from you. They have to beat up your muscles, stick suction cups to you and inject you with 140cc of sugar water and then hope you go out and write a good review about them.
If you are in Fairbanks and you want to see Dr Beth Chernich she can be found at the the Tanana Valley Clinic of Osteopathic and Manipulative Medicine. She is super sharp and passionate and will not only help you, she will educate you about your body and whatever ails you.
If you are in Metro Detroit you can find Dr Hardik Shah at the Institute of Neuromuscular Medicine with offices in Detroit and Chesterfield. He is top notch. Tell him I sent you.
Both doctors are booked pretty well in advance...which should also tell you something.