Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD is a progressive disease of the autonomic nervous system that can follow a simple trauma (fall or sprain) a break or fracture, infections, surgery or major trauma. It is a multi-symptom condition affecting one, two or sometimes all four extremities. Anyone can get RSD. Basically, the nervous system malfunctions, and doctors are unclear why. There is no single test to diagnose this disease but symptoms include hypersensitivity to touch and temperature changes, profuse sweating, weakness and involuntary movement.
Alex De Krassel
My series of unfortunate events took place in 2001. I was a happy, healthy high functioning twenty-nine year old, who simply sprained my right ankle one day as people do. I was put on crutches, and told to stay off of it for six weeks. After about a week, the pain and other symptoms began to worsen. At the end of each day, I thought I had to go to the emergency room to have my foot re-examined for a missed break or fracture. It would turn bright purple, shades of red, even blue/black at times…then flesh color again. It would constantly have a hot, burning, stabbing sensation.
I could not tolerate wearing a sock, a shoe or even having my bed sheet brush my ankle. I was crying all the time, and not sleeping because of the pain. No doctor or person could even attempt to touch my foot without me kicking them in the face because my nervous system was so over stimulated. Six weeks of crutches turned into about a year, plus three months on a cane. Obviously, I had more than an ankle sprain, I had RSD, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which I and so few people had hears of, and it seemed there was little hope for a cure- yet I persevered.
After feeling defeated by homeopaths, healers, physical therapists, acupuncturists, etc. my symptoms started to get worse and my pain jumped up to my right arm as well which can happen in this disease….if not treated aggressively enough, it can spread, I began to feel hopeless. I finally found an incredibly knowledgeable Pain Management doctor, who I also attribute a lot of my recovery to, but his methods were not in my belief system. I saw no other way. I never took pain killers because intuitively I knew they wouldn’t mask this kind of pain….I did however try some other medications which help the nervous system, along with about thirty plus nerve blocks (a twenty-two inch needle in the spine).
This, along with neurofeedback, physical therapy, and pain psychology gave me temporary relief, but my life consisted of going to doctor’s appointments, and surgery centers….very depressing!!! I was desperate to get my life back and finally had an implantable device put in called a Spinal Cord Stimulator….I am literally the “bionic” woman. Several surgeries later, I now have a battery under my skin like that of a pacemaker, along with electrodes and wires going up my spine.
The stimulator sends electric impulses to my right foot and hand where I would normally feel pain, I feel an electric vibration….basically the electric impulses confuse the pain messages that come from the brain causing it to subside, it is crazy, but it works. I have a remote which controls the volume and power. Now this stimulator has enabled me to function more, and get me to places like Yoga….The true miracle is after I started doing Bikram consistently. In class,
I am limited in some ways because of the hardware in my back, however the poses have done amazing things for my nervous system, healed it in ways nothing else has. The heat not only enables me to do the poses, but really keeps me out of pain even after class, especially on my right side. Let’s also not forget the incredible detox I needed from Eight surgeries and thirty procedures, plus not exercising for three years is not exactly good for one’s figure. Bikram fixed that too!!!
I can honestly say I have gone into remission from RSD, a horrible chronic pain disorder. My stimulator is still implanted, but it is always off, I never am in pain enough to use it……..I used to feel like someone had poured gasoline on my right foot and hand, then lit a match to them. Thanks to Bikram Yoga I now live pain free, and feel fabulous most of the time. I may work at my own pace, but I know my body, what it has been through, and how I want to live.
I am forever grateful to this practice.