Fibromyalgia, Oxalates and Unexplained Pain
We don’t talk much about the behind-the-scenes reasons why we do what we do here at Lastics, other than top-line stuff like, I created Lastics Stretch Technique as a result of a dance injury (partial knee reconstruction); or Lastics Body Products were born as a result of running into all sorts of digestive and gynecological problems (toxic overload). And now, here we go again for perhaps the longest, most convoluted and difficult part of my story… and the next discovery that it spawned.
People say this story should be a book, but it’s one that I don't want to write, because spending one more minute thinking about a decade+ of crippling pain is one minute too many. I would rather take what I learned and do something useful with it, which is where we are now.
The diagnosis was fibromyalgia, or medically defined as, “unexplained pain.” On its face, it’s ridiculous to have a diagnosis that diagnoses nothing. Moreover, it’s utterly worthless if the problem is as inexplicable to the doctor as it is the patients who are left suffering with nowhere to go but to risky pain medications.
That was not an option.
I'll start at the beginning and try to fast forward.
There is something called calcium oxalate crystals. They come from plants and can account for up to 80% of their dry weight. All plants have them but certain foods are extremely high in these oxalates. They are highly toxic compounds found ironically in most "superfoods." They serve as protection for plants as an innate defense mechanism against disease and predators since plants can’t defend themselves. It’s nature at its best…until you follow all the nutritional hype, trying in earnest to be your healthiest self and go “plant-based."
Like I did.
To make matters worse, I had been dairy-free for years only to find out that oxalates need calcium to bind to in order to be escorted out naturally and normally. On top of that, should there be any sort of tissue vulnerability/permeability that may have resulted from leaky gut, too many antibiotics, too much Advil, surgery/injury, or all of the above, you have a perfect storm.
I fall into the "all of the above" category.
Oh, and I ate truckloads of spinach, sweet potatoes and almonds, which are three foods that have the absolute highest amounts of oxalates. So, whatever threshold might have been in place, I far surpassed it and my body started storing them.
These crystals are razor-edge sharp. They feel like chards of glass. Aside from a long list of bizarre symptoms that no doctor understood, they cause an inconceivable kind of pain.
Anyone who has had kidney stones knows this kind of pain since stones are also calcium oxalate crystals. For those people who don’t have them in their kidneys, but everywhere, or anywhere, else (soft tissue, joint space, eyes…) they rob your life of everything you love, for years or decades, until you figure it out.
Generally, people break down calcium oxalate in the gut where they are then ushered out without incident. For others, these sharp crystals take up residence somewhere and can lead to chronic pain, inflammation, oxidative stress, kidney stones, autoimmune disease, reduction of mitochondrial activity and a litany of other debilitating symptoms.
So, to wrap up, it is like having glass, nails, razor blades and/or cement cutting, slicing and circulating through your body to the point where they can paralyze your body – literally - where you can’t move - at all.
Of all the weird things in the universe that could happen, this happened to me.
Happily, there is an upside; I learned something amazing in the process of putting my broken body back together: I discovered how to reduce, and often, eliminate back pain.
This is because the secondary consequence of oxalate toxicity (or hyperoxaluria) was muscle failure; complete and utter shutdown of muscular function. Well, of course, now that seems obvious when you consider that injury occurs deep inside the body on microscopic levels from the sharp edges of the crystals making little cuts and little slices 24/7 on their way into the tissue, and then again, on their journey looking for a way out.
When muscles are injured or hurting, they shut down because they are smart and want to protect us. PT prescribes cookie cutter exercises that correspond to specific surgeries and/or injuries. But oxalates are far from anything a physical therapist would see in the daily course of doing business, leaving them ill-equipped to help people recover from this kind of "injury."
As is happens, the same way physical therapy was not sufficient with my knee injury because it focused on strength without adequately factoring in flexibility, and as a dancer I am/was equally focused on both; and the world of natural body products didn’t cut it because the so-called natural products aren’t actually natural at all; now, in this phase, again what I needed didn’t exist. I needed to heal at another level entirely.
With the help of a brilliant physical therapist, who had a gift to see beyond the textbooks, and whom I was so lucky to find, we accidentally discovered a critical gap in physical therapy and major injury - the kind of injury where certain muscles, or in my case, all, don't want to work because it's too painful.
Turns out, oxalate injury rehabilitation, while rare and extreme, can apply to anyone dealing with pain because muscles respond to trauma in the same way, no matter what caused it.
The exercises spawned by this deeper understanding of what I now call "muscle slumber" and the severe atrophy that ensued, are profound in that they ferret out the dead zones in weakness the same way our stretch technique ferrets out the dead zones in tightness.
And, so, Lastics Pain Relief Method was born. It is a way of working with your body and muscles to alleviate pain caused by any number of reasons; injury, weakness, imbalance, and of course, surgery. The beauty of it is that you can do it when you're in pain, which helps bypass the yo-yo effect, so common in rehab, of one step forward, two steps back.
It is based on 3 simple steps.
1. Find the dead zone.
2. Touch the zone and make the muscle contract without anything else moving.
3. Once the muscle contracts, then becomes stronger and more coordinated, you can start to add movement, as long as you make sure that the muscle contracts before you move.
We have designed a set of specific exercises targeting back and pelvic floor, but you can also apply this to your basic PT exercises. If you are interested in learning more about this unique approach to strengthening and healing, feel free to shoot me an message through our contact page.
Everything we do with Lastics' Techniques is around healing because Lord knows, there is a lot of pain out there. To the extent that we can lighten the load, we want to.
To close, here are photos of where the oxalate crystals emerged from my hip, and then a visual understanding of the crystals themselves. It's hard to clearly see the little holes/craters in my skin because it was a difficult camera angle, so the picture came out blurry. But, what surfaced from those holes, you'll see on my hand in the following shots.