This article was originally published on www.avp.com (the website for the Association of Volleyball Professionals)
By Hans Stolfus
As you can see, there’s no ‘Advertisement’ tag in the upper right hand corner of this page. No one has paid me to dispense the endorsement you’re about to read. I simply feel compelled to share my story as others suffering from a similar condition may benefit greatly from this information.
Anyone who followed my short-lived career on the sand is aware things began to dramatically unravel in 2007 after an acute neck injury limited my mobility to a point where nonstop health maintenance and physical therapy care were necessary just to continue competing. And even then my game was submarginal at best, only I didn’t have another source of income, so the motto became “fight through it” or pack my bags and move to the third pillar under the ‘Pier.’
Pain and tightness turned to pressure. Pressure turned to headaches and eventual migraines. Migraines turned to a life without light and meals spent on the floor. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I saw chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, Rolfers, Heller Care Professionals, trainers, medical doctors, migraine, pain and cervical spine specialists, and rheumatologists. I visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the Headache Institute in Newport Beach, Calif., and Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, Calif.
Diagnosis by Karen Newcomer at Mayo: nothing. Mild degeneration between C4-C5-C6 (vertebrae of the cervical spine) and some moderately bad posture likely attributed to the pectus excavatum headlining my sternal cavity.
Diagnosis & Treatment by Philip O’Carroll at the Headache Institute: botox (yes, botox) into the neck muscles to release tension, nightly nerve pain meds, Treximet for Migraines, and a range of motion routine I had received from at least 36 previous practitioners.
Diagnosis & Treatment by Steven Graff-Radford at Cedars Sinai: two successive nerve injections and a Radiofrequency Neurotomy on the nerves surrounding C2 and C3. Yes, that’s right; I had them burn off nerve endings with the purpose of interfering daily pain signals. I resorted to the unthinkable. It was that or take a detour off PCH into the underlying brush like Junior Seau. And although it removed some of the immediate pain and pressure, it did nothing to fix the root of the problem.
Fast forward three months… walk by a “Busy Body” in Newport Beach, decide to stop in and inquire about a rowing machine for my apartment complex gym — as normal exercise remained completely out of the question, even after the neurotomy — explain my situation to the sales guy, listen to his “you should see this guy” spiel, roll my eyes invisibly, take the chiropractor’s card — which he just so happened to have on him — as to not seem rude, throw the card in the center council of my car, and then proceed to wait three weeks to dial the number and hear how this guy could somehow magically be ‘different‘ than all the rest.
To make an incredibly long story short, it turned out the Neurotomy wasn’t my last option after all. Although I had seen somewhere in the range of 300 previous chiropractors over the years, this guy’s practice was unlike anything I had previously heard of or experienced, focusing on the positioning of C1 (Atlas) and C2 (Axis) and their relationship to the brain stem, spinal cord, and entire central nervous system.
He used a series of numerous unorthodox x-rays, a prism-based stereoscopic viewing method to make each film ‘3D,’ a set of protractor-based measurements drawn on each ‘subluxated’ vertebrae, a heat sensitive instrument to test neurological transmission, a specific table to determine body symmetry, and a scientific technique to bring it all together and locate the problem so it could be fixed.
Bottom line: back in ’07 my atlas (C1) had been spun like a top and was pinching off a host of pain related nerves just beneath my skull ever since. One adjustment, which involved zero cracking or spinning of the head like typical ‘chiropractic,’ and not only did the pain and pressure disappear, but my vision improved, my short term memory began to return, and life started to seem like something worth living again. The procedure was most certainly heavy and intense, and prevented me from moving my head in any direction for 24 hours as a precautionary measure, but was, without a doubt, worth its weight in gold. My life changed the instant those nerves finally freed up, and I can’t imagine going back and feeling the way I did for almost four years ever again. And ready for this, it’s held. My body just needed to go back to the way it was meant to be and the rest has taken care of itself.
That’s it. Don’t want to preach, just want to inform. I tried it all and my solution came at a small office in Yorba Linda, Calif. at the hands of a gentleman by the name of Dr. David Topping. There’s only a handful of upper cervical “Blair” chiropractors in California and not many more scattered throughout the U.S. Why? I don’t want to get too ‘conspiracy theorist,’ but frankly there’s no profit margin in healing someone with only one visit. And that’s what practitioners like Topping are doing. They’re freeing up the nerve pathways from the brain to the body and finally allowing the body to heal itself. Not saying it’s for everybody, or that all patients will require only one adjustment as age and degeneration play an important role, but if you’ve got neck or back pain and have run the gamut like I had, might be time to try one more option. It could finally change everything.
And in case you’re wondering, I will play beach volleyball again. Maybe not at the professional level, but definitely for fun down in Corona Del Mar on a casual Saturday afternoon.