Updated: Feb 15
Everyone has a story. Perhaps not everyone feels the need to share their personal doctrine on the internet but my thinking is that there are some important historical pieces that would be helpful for others to know if they too are going through a similar challenge and looking for support. Equally as important, I believe it would be helpful to provide some context to the type of practitioners I’m seeing along the way. I’ve attempted to shed a little bit of both in this week's blog…
Thanks for reading and here is blog number 2;
If someone would have told me that by following a dotted line with your eyes multiple times a day that you can retrain parts of your brain to function properly I would have called you crazy. Welcome to the world of functional neurology! Functional neurology, from my understanding is the rebranding of Chiropractic Neurology. This is a field pioneered by Canadian Chiropractor Frederick "Ted" Carrick which focuses on neurological disorders without the use of drugs or surgery. Ted started the now famous ‘Carrick Institute’ more than 40 years ago which reached an unprecedented level of prestige and exposure for its handling and treatment of Sydney Crosby's concussion back in 2011. It's only been in the last 10-20 years, where the medical field has accepted the notion that the brain can indeed change and learn new tricks throughout one's entire life. This ability of the brain to change in structure and function is referred to as neuroplasticity. From my understanding, neuroplasticity is the foundation of how functional neurology works. For a medical professional to become a functional neurologist, they are required to complete an intense postdoctoral training, several years of course work and a clinical fellowship!
It wasn't until the turn of the century when concern about the long term effects of head trauma related to sports related injuries and contact began to increase significantly. The catalyst for the attention and subsequent research was brought on by the rise in suicides by former NFL players who were unknowingly suffering from a neurodegenerative condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Over the last 20 years, research, science and technology has exploded in this space and what we now understand by way of treating brain injuries continues to change and evolve virtually on a daily basis.
Going back a step, the first three weeks of our sojourn has been a bit of a whirlwind from almost getting turned away at the border in mid January, to getting rejected from the Malibu trailer park (who gets turned away from a trailer park?), to capitalizing on the bohemian artsy vibe of Venice Beach and getting the airstream liveable while parked in a somewhat questionable side street. During this time I had taken a slight hiatus from all things medical so in hindsight, it should not have come as a big surprise that by the time I reached San Francisco last week I began feeling the effects of the three weeks of travel and was feeling off. Upon the recommendation of my new friend Jill at One Hit Away, I went and saw Dr. Ron Desmarais a few days ago. “Dr. Ron” is originally from Winnipeg but has been living in the Bay Area for 25 years with his wife Charisse, a San Francisco native who works in tandem with her husband. They are both Chiropractors that were trained at the Carrick institute and you would be hard pressed to find a more polite and welcoming set of practitioners out there.
We covered off the standard medical history, there was maybe a slight pause when I mentioned my current situation. We then got right into it; poking and prodding Dr. Ron quickly began to administer a battery of basic strength tests, in both my upper and lower extremities isolating the left side from the right side. In general, a pattern began to emerge on my left side - it was odd. For example, my right outstretched arm could withstand his moderate downward resistance but the left would crumble somewhat quickly. He paused briefly and then asked me to follow his finger with my eyes for a few seconds from left to right and then asked me to stare at the right edge of the ceiling while he tested the left arm again. To my astonishment I could now hold his tension.
As my appointment came to an end, my mind began racing as he handed me a piece of paper with a dotted line. He instructed me to follow the ink up and down 3 times per day. He then articulated in very simple english that the pattern of weakness on the left side vs. the right side of the body are not a soft tissue or muscle issue but a neurological deficiency. As he went onto explain, the right cerebral hemisphere controls movement of the left side of the body but when nerve cells in the brain are damaged, they can no longer send the correct information to the cerebellum and then onto your nervous system.
So what does this all mean exactly? We are taking some time to review and digest this new revelation but as I left his office I couldn't help but consider the striking resemblance to the tests that Dr. Ron had administered compared to the ones I had been accustomed to receiving while an athlete some 15 years ago.
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