Please help me offer Tracy Hagler a warm and friendly dazzle welcome! Tracy is the author of today’s guest post. A nurse with many of the same conditions as myself, Tracy and I were admiring each other’s work and decided we had to do a blog swap. In this piece, she writes about the onset of her conditions and the interconnected nature of conditions like ME/CFS, Fibromyalgia, HSD/EDS, CCI, along with some studies delving into these connections. I think you’ll enjoy it and find some similarities in our theories! After you read her post, be sure to go and give her blog a like so you can keep reading her posts! There’s a link available below, in her bio.
Without further ado, here is Tracy’s post, originally run on Unspoken Words of the Heart on 7/2/19.
ME/CFS, POTS, Fibromyalgia, Hypermobility, CCI. What’s the connection and is science missing it?
I know I have quite a few readers who battle with me/cfs, pots syndrome, fibromyalgia or Hypermobility Syndrome/EDS. Although, this is a blog to share my faith, I also want to share health updates and things that I’m learning so that we can educate one another.
The one thing I can look back for sure and see is that I’ve always had a very sensitive nervous system, I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was overly sensitive to medications and caffeine. Other people could drink several cups of coffee per day and do fine but a few sips, for me, would make me crazy. From twenty years old and on I had GERD and always reacted to gluten and sugars. I just felt bad after eating them. I just thought all of this was “normal”, at the time. I was always a type A personality. I was a nurse and I worked abnormal crazy hours (16 hour shifts, swing shifts, etc.) When I had time to sit down, well I never would. I always felt tired but wired up, if that makes any sense. I had been working as a nurse for about eight years before I became sick. The year I got sick (2017) was a busy, exhausting year for us (mentally & physically). My fiancé’s Dad passed away In February. We got married in July and my younger brother passed away in a car accident in August. In July I started having a severe pain that wrapped around my hip and into my inner thigh. I couldn’t stand, sit or walk without being in severe pain. It was actually a deep hidden inguinal hernia, with my small bowel protruding through. The hernia was pinching my inguinal and obturator nerves. (We have all heard of sciatica nerve pain, well this is the same excruciating pain only it involves different nerves.) They didn’t find out that it was a hernia until almost a year later. I was out of work and could barely do much due to the pain. (Please keep reading, I promise I am going somewhere with this story.) I had no clue what was wrong.
I went to a chiropractor for a spine adjustment because at the time no one could figure out that I had a hernia. Everyone presumed that the pain was from, possibly, a pinched nerve in my back. I go to get the adjustment and he uses an adjustment gun on my back and neck and does some deep tissue massage. He worked on me for thirty minutes. I was desperate to get back to work and wanted this severe pain to go away. What I didn’t realize is that my life was going to take a drastic change that night. I wish I could go back and change that day but I can’t. That night I awoke with my spine and neck burning hot and they felt inflamed. I was vomiting, my whole body felt feverish and I was chilling. The next day, I awoke unable to stand up. When I would stand my heart rate would shoot up. I had massive headaches in the back of my head every time I would stand for long periods of time. I couldn’t eat anything and had extreme nausea. I would lose 10 lbs over the next couple of weeks. I called the chiropractor and told him the extreme symptoms and he said I had anxiety and to come in for my second adjustment. That made me mad because it was obvious that something was severely and physically wrong with me and I only wished it was anxiety. But crazy me went back thinking he could fix what had happened. This second adjustment only worsened my condition and I ended up at my moms for a week unable to get up or eat. I thought I might die that week and no one would ever know why it happened. I truly didn’t think I would make it. By this time people probably didn’t know what to think of me. I couldn’t go back to work. I could barely make it to the bathroom. No one had ever heard of an adjustment doing this to someone. But what I have found is that it’s actually happened to a lot of people. They call it “toxic reaction”. But I never got over it.
I developed pots syndrome and months later would come to find out I had me/cfs. Over the next few months, I found that exertion would send me into severe crashes with severe symptoms. Everything was post, several days after an activity. I could see a pattern. I would wake up gasping for air at night, I had air hunger, my nail beds were cyanotic. I had severe orthostatic intolerance (pots), severe heat intolerance, blurred vision, it felt like I had the flu times ten. My spine was sore to touch. The skin on my back felt sunburned and I couldn’t stand the slightest touch. I couldn’t look at lights or phones or tv. I just laid there in complete darkness and felt close to death. I was then diagnosed with me/cfs, fibromyalgia and hypermobility (People with Hypermobility Syndrome or EDS have thinner tissues and often times have hernias at a younger age, which also helps to explain my hernia issues).
I tell this long story because it all makes sense looking back. It seemed like a perfect storm. I do feel like my body had a strong reaction to the adjustment and inflammation set up in my spine that night. It was like my body overreacted and attacked me in order to protect itself (kind of like an autoimmune response). During my sickest times, I had chronic UTI infections that antibiotics did nothing for (8 to be exact). Later they said I had Interstitial Cystitis which can be set off by mast cell activation. I started taking Benadryl nightly and it helped decrease the pain of the Interstitial Cystitis. They checked me for mast cell activation and it was negative but at the time I was taking a daily antihistamine. So I’m thinking that might be why it was negative.
This illness definitely originates, in my opinion, in the spine, brain stem and at the base of the skull. I always feel so much pressure and swelling there especially during a crash. I love to write and sometimes just the effort required for that will cause a crash. This really is a cruel disease with severe suffering (which I am happy to say, has only made me a stronger person). I keep putting my story out there because I’m a minority where my me/cfs was caused by something other than a virus. Although, I have heard of spine adjustments triggering or reactivating viruses in the body. I was checked for EBV and they just said it wasn’t currently active but I had been exposed to it in the past. I also have heard of people getting sick from deep tissue massages because it releases toxins from the tissues into the body. Studies are also finding dorsal root ganglionitis in the brains and spines of those suffering with severe me/cfs, postmortem.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to me that day. I’ve got a few theories. However, the one thing I do know is we all have the same illness. Where science has gotten it wrong for so long, they seem to be on the right track, for the moment at least. The recent stories of people recovering from Me/cfs and Pots after having craniocervical instability surgery (a surgery of the neck) has left me with a lot of questions. Especially, since my me/cfs was triggered by a neck adjustment. It has been found that people with hypermobility or EDS can have laxity in the ligaments that hold the skull up causing instability and pressure on the brain stem therefore causing POTS, ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. There have been several people that have had CCI surgery done and all their pots and me/cfs symptoms have disappeared. Jennifer Brea, the producer of the Netflix documentary film “Unrest”, also had severe Pots and Me/cfs and is now in a complete remission after CCI surgery. Her Me/cfs was triggered by a virus/infection.
In my case, was I a ticking time bomb? Did it just take one or two more millimeters of instability at the base of my skull to cause me to develop Me/cfs, Pots and fibromyalgia? Or, did my spine set up inflammation that led to dorsal root ganglionitis? I may never know but I will never give up hope that I WILL someday get better. My trigger was a chiropractic adjustment. Your trigger may have been a virus, a concussion or head trauma. All the science behind this is kind of intriguing and it starts to come together after studying on it for a while. It’s like five separate illnesses operating under one specific cause. If we keep telling our stories, hopefully it will help science fit the pieces of the puzzle together and they can find out the cause and develop a cure. Most importantly if you have this illness, don’t give up, there’s still hope. We have a God who is greater than science. Let’s continue to support and lift one another up in prayer!
(This is in no way medical advice and should only be taken as part of my story and personal opinions.)
Tracy Hagler is a nurse who was diagnosed with ME/CFS, POTS, Fibromyalgia and Hypermobility Syndrome within the past two years. She started writing a blog where women can share faith, hope and encouragement. She has become an advocate for theses conditions and shares information and education about them. She also writes on mental health and her Christian Faith. You can check out her blog at Unspoken Words of the Heart.