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Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome: Purple Feet and a Pounding Heart

  [ 190 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • June 19, 2002

By Alice Teisan

It was a warm April afternoon in 1996 and I was working as a nurse at the local hospital. While standing still, talking with one of my patients, I began feeling faint and quickly excused myself. Another nurse on the hospital unit instructed me to sit down as she performed a glucose test, blood pressure and electrocardiogram (EKG). However, I knew from my body’s horrendous response that I was experiencing a relapse with Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS).

Based on the recommendation from a journal article that correlated CFIDS with fainting, I quickly scheduled a tilt table test, with the approval of my internist, Dr.Vesna Skul, MD. The test, performed by a cardiologist, involves being strapped to an X-ray table. The straps keep the patient from shifting weight, thus altering the test results. Then an EKG is hooked up to monitor the patient's heart rate throughout the test. Next an IV is started as a precaution in case emergency medications are needed. The test begins while the patient is in a supine position (lying on the back), so the doctor can establish a baseline heart rate and blood pressure. Afterwards, the doctor moves the X-ray table to a standing position. Throughout the test the blood pressure along with the heart rate are monitored at regular intervals. Also, physical changes and my subjective symptoms are documented.

Within two minutes of the test, when I was placed in a standing position, my heart rate went from 94 to 168. Other symptoms included a beet-red face and neck, the feeling of my heart pounding, a throbbing head, uncontrollable sweating, nausea, exacerbated fatigue, severe trembling, and feet that were turning purple. I felt even worse with the passing of the next 21 minutes while left in the standing position. Within five minutes of being returned to the lying position my heart rate dropped under 100. The symptoms caused by the test remained for days.

My body’s unique response to the test mystified the cardiologist as my heart rate rose while my blood pressure remained normal - when it should have dropped. He recommended treating the high heart rate with Inderal, a beta-blocker medication that slows the heart rate. Within a month, I knew this straightforward treatment for common heart problems was the wrong treatment for my disorder. I could not get out of bed without feeling faint.

A nursing colleague discussed my medical history with an endocrinologist. She explained that I had struggled with CFIDS since 1992, had seen over 25 specialists and tried several treatments in an attempt to find answers to my problem. Also she gave him the recent Tilt table test results. The endocrinologist was doing a research study on a condition called Neurally Mediated Orthostatic Tachycardia (NMOT). This is a rare autonomic nervous system problem where orthostatic refers to a change in position (in my case, standing) and tachycardia is a heart rate over 100.

Therefore, when receiving the endocrinologist’s initial call in July I listened eagerly. He began by saying, “Your feet turn purple, your heart pounds, and you always fidget when standing.” During this first contact, by phone, I was to learn how well he knew my symptoms that were revealed by the Tilt table test in May. After seeing me, gratis, he began a one-year medication therapy, including up to 11 pills a day for nine months. The treatment helped regulate my heart rate; however, Dr. Skul was concerned about the difficulty my body experienced from the side affects of the medications.

During this 18-month relapse I went through a period of deep depression. I had lost the ability to work, live alone, or stand without feeling faint, which profoundly affected all areas of my life. The depression therapy was part of the above treatment.

Once my heart rate was under control and my health was improving I began doing menial tasks. As my stamina increased, I was able to work in a part-time clerical position for a dental office. However, I continued to get many of the same limiting CFIDS and NMOT symptoms within three hours of starting work. Along with the NMOT symptoms earlier mentioned, my CFIDS symptoms included low-grade temperatures, arthritic type pain, severe headaches, blurred vision, inability to concentrate, slowed reaction time, and increased environmental sensitivities to noises, air quality, temperature, and odors.

In October 1999 when I was still experiencing CFIDS symptoms, a friend recommended I see Dr. Marshall Dickholtz, Sr. He is a National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA) specialist. In Chiropractics, NUCCA is a specific form of chiropractic adjusting, focusing on an atlas vertebra relationship to the head and the rest of the cervical spine at the brain stem level. Having just completed a year of unsuccessful yet intensive Chiropractic treatment, I listened apprehensively, and prayed that my hopes wouldn’t be dashed again by yet another ineffective, all-consuming treatment option. After researching the treatment and discussing the findings with my internist, she then prescribed the treatment. I realized it met all my criteria - including being affordable, non-invasive, having a high success rate, and being respected within the western medical framework.

Prior to the appointment with Dr. Dickholtz, Sr., I completed an extensive health history profile. One of the first questions on the health history was, had I ever had a head injury? I thought, "Who hasn’t hit their head?" Then I remembered four memorable head injuries throughout my life. The most serious one took place a year prior to CFIDS and the most recent one occurred six months before seeing Dr. Dickholtz, Sr.

My initial appointment with Dr. Dickholtz, Sr. was extensive. After looking at the completed health history, he did six different kinds of tests to determine the problem. He asked me to sit in a chair, while he used a neurocalometer that measured the temperature difference of each side of my cervical spine (from the shoulders to the base of the skull). He also performed a supine leg check, which measured leg length differences in relationship to muscle spasms that occurs on each side of my body. Another test involved standing on an anatometer, which looked at a posture scan in relationship to my hip level and pelvic rotation position. There was a horizontal line chart that showed the level of the ears in the standing position relative to the talking of three X-rays, when seated, of the cervical spine and skull that were taken lastly.

After all the tests were performed, Dr. Dickholtz, Sr. examined and measured the X-rays and determined the proper adjustment needed to return my spine and head to a balanced position. Through the X-ray measurements, he was able to return the C1 (atlas) and the rest of the vertebrae to within a quarter degree of their proper positions.

Once the specific chiropractic adjustment was performed, it took my body time to acclimate before standing without feeling faint. When able, I walked the length of the exam room a couple times allowing my body to rebalance itself from the adjustment (correction). Before the four-hour appointment was completed, all six of the above tests were performed again and post X-rays taken to make sure that the adjustment was correct.

Dr. Dickholtz, Sr. describes the adjustment as equivalent to major surgery done on the body. Recovery time of a month is necessary before experiencing benefits. In my case my heart palpitations, tachycardia and irregular beats subsided immediately.

Follow-up visits include periodic checks to make sure the adjustment is holding.

Within a month of being adjusted I began to feel my neck, shoulder and back muscles loosen. Many aching, arthritic type pains, severe CFIDS-type headaches and the beet-red color in my face and neck subsided.

The ideal is to have the first adjustment be the only one needed, which many of his patients have experienced. My adjustment’s average holding time is three to four months.

The initial adjustment held four months before I hit my head, knocking my alignment out of place. Not totally believing the chiropractic treatment was helping I waited until my next scheduled appointment, two months later. At the time I didn’t realize that my NMOT symptoms along with exacerbated CFIDS symptoms begin almost immediately after my alignment was no longer holding.

Also during the two months that my adjustment was out from December 2000 to February 2001, after having worked three and a half years part time, I began to experience exacerbated CFIDS symptoms. The increased fatigue, inability to concentrate, increased tremors, and a heart rate over 140 when standing, along with fevers and the inability to perform simple daily tasks, resulted in my third total disability. However, within a week of having my neck readjusted, my heart rate dropped under 100 when standing. When my adjustment is holding, I experience great relief even though I am still disabled.

Dealing with CFIDS requires patience, persistence, stamina and a hope in Heaven to complete the journey well. How glad I am that I found a NUCCA Doctor, even though it has not provided the ultimate cure. It has provided restoration of new life to my body and a lessening of many CFIDS related symptoms, along with a continued hope for further healing. When my chiropractic adjustment is holding, the day-to-day pain and difficulties with CFIDS are much more manageable and less painful, allowing me to have a focus on something more enjoyable than my severe suffering.

For more information, contact the author, Alice Teisan, at Dr. Marshall Dickholtz, Sr., can be contacted at

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