Hi, greetings from Singapore! I would greatly appreciate if someone could read my post and help me with the questions I have at the end of the post. Apologies for the long post!
- Dull knotty-kind of tightness in the entire abdomen region. Upon palpation, I feel the muscle actually twitching/jumping, namely above the navel. When the tightness gets worse at times, massaging it could cause me to burp, which would relieve the discomfort temporarily.
- Increased muscle tone (feels ropey) in neck muscles namely the scalenes, SCM, and suboccipital muscles. However, what’s funny is my neck’s range of motion is fine. I am able to turn my neck left, right, up and down pain-free.
- 24/7 dizziness-kind tension feeling in the head. Intensity: 3/10 – bearable but annoying. I would not go so far to call it a headache, as there’s no pain. The closest description I can think of: you know that feeling when you try on a new pair of glasses for the first time? Yes, that’s the feeling. I attribute this to the neck tension (I'm not sure though).
- Along with the neck muscles, it seems the general muscle tone in other parts of my body has increased too, e.g. pectoralis, forearm, and bicep. Calves feel tight too.
- Words to describe my current state of thought/emotion: frustrated (because of this problem), unable to unwind completely, trying to stay optimistic, can’t wait to get well (as I have lots of things I want to do).
- An overall dip in energy levels. I have no problems falling asleep at night, but don’t feel particularly rested when I wake up in the morning.
- Do not have any issues with coffee in the past (not that I drank a lot of it). However, recently I realized it made me edgy.
- Decreased libido, yet have occasional instances of nocturnal emissions despite not having dreams.
How did these symptoms above come about?
This may sound bizarre, but the aforementioned symptoms appeared after this one-off incident. In April 2012, I visited a pain management doctor for a one-year long right Quadratus Lumborum (QL) pain, caused by hurting myself doing some exercise. I was given a trigger point (TrP) injection and medicines. The injection proved effective; the pain went down significantly but not completely. I was busy preparing for my university exams during this period so I did not take the medicines as they would cause drowsiness.
A month later, after my exams ended, I went for a follow-up visit. The doctor warned that the second injection would not be as effective as the first and told me to take the medicines if the injection did not help. The injection did not help so I started taking the medicines as told. Looking back, I think this was where the problem began. I started becoming lethargic, sleepy all day, and perspired a lot. The side effects were affecting me but were not helping my flank pain. After taking the medicines for ten days, out of curiosity, I looked them: Alprazolam, Trazodone, and Cymbalta up on Wikipedia and was alarmed when I found out they were antidepressants. Then in hindsight, I think I did something stupid: in my bid to get these drugs out of my system quickly, I drank lots of green tea and used the dry sauna.
Two days later, at around 9pm, I suddenly experienced a pounding heartbeat that continued all the way to 4am before I decided to make my way to the nearby hospital’s emergency department. The doctor there put me on a drip, ran tests on me but could not find anything wrong (my heart beat was measured to be normal from the beginning in spite of my complaints of a racing heartbeat) and suggested two possibilities: ‘anxiety’ and ‘hypokalaemia due to use of sauna’ in the report. I was discharged at noon and during my stay, I was given a tranquilizer jab twice.
For the next few days to a week, I found myself in some kind of emotional wreck. I felt empty, depressed and harboured suicidal thoughts. It was the first time in my entire life I felt as such and I constantly had to rationalise to prevent myself from doing something stupid. When the depression and suicidal thoughts eventually went away (never came back), those abovementioned symptoms, in particular the neck tension and dizziness came about.
Till today, I still can’t figure out why I felt that way. I had just graduated and was looking forward to a long vacation before stepping into the workforce. No more project deadlines to meet, no more exams to prepare; life couldn’t be much better. I’ve gone through more stressful periods in my life without any problems, e.g. conscripted military service from 19 to 21 years old, participated in military parades, and played chess competitively in college.
Treatments/people whom I have tried/seen:
- Pain Management: Saw two different ones. The first was the one mentioned earlier. He wanted to prescribe another drug. I refused and never saw him again. The second one gave me TrP injections into my trapezius and neck, but they didn’t help.
- Orthopaedic: Did cervical spine MRI. Result: minor disk degeneration. The orthopaedic says findings are unrelated to symptoms, so did the neurologist.
- Neurologist: Did brain MRI and Nerve Conduction Study (NCS). Both tests results were normal.
- Subsequently, I was referred to the physiotherapy department.
- All I did was stretching, no different from what I can do on my own.
- Saw two different ones. They did the typical neck and back adjustments; didn’t feel any difference. Went 5 sessions in total.
Myofascial TrP dry needling
- Different from TCM acupuncture, the therapist does not simply leave the needle in the skin. She would move it arouns to try and elicit a “jump” response.
- I spent the bulk of my time here; did about 15 to 20 sessions in total. Initially, I thought the muscle tension was nothing more than myofascial TrP. Thus, this was one of the first treatments I tried. At first, it did help to get rid of some TrP in my upper trapezius. Neither the therapist nor I were able to find anymore TrP, but the muscle tension is still there.
- The therapist was skilled, but my muscles just wouldn’t relax. He was the one who pointed out that my neck’s range of motion is fine, but it’s holding a lot of tension. He too was unable to find anymore TrP.
- I did 4 sessions in total, once a week. I don’t remember seeing any noticeable difference, like the muscle fibres in my neck feeling less ropey.
- Similar to bloodletting, the Muslims also practiced wet cupping. They call it ‘Hijama’.
- Done only once a month, I did about 8 sessions in total. In addition to the back and neck, I also shaved my head bald to do cupping on the head. The therapist would typically cup 15 to 20 points, including the head. One of the head points is GV20 (always had a lot dark red blood). While wet cupping did not really help with my current problem, it got rid of my right QL pain for good.
- Based on my symptoms, from a TCM standpoint, what could be my problem?
- Based on my symptoms, do you think I should be doing wet cupping? I’m still doing it on a monthly/fort-monthly basis. I always see dark red blood in the cups so I assume it’s good to do it.
- I have always believed in the adage, ‘insanity is doing something over and over again, and expecting a different result.’ Nonetheless, I am not seeking a one-time miracle cure, but I would need to see improvement after each treatment. Does this adage apply to acupuncture, especially for a problem like mine? Do you think I quit my acupuncture treatments prematurely? If yes, how many sessions should I try before deciding if it works/does not work?
- Do you think the way in which I presented my case to the physician may have influenced the way he treated me? As you can see, I wrote a lot above. I did not verbally convey everything I wrote above; just the major complaints, namely the neck tension and dizziness.