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My Own Personal Injury Story

Personal Injury1
When someone has had an injury, many tests can be ordered to visualize or quantify the injured tissue.  X-Rays can demonstrate abnormalities of bone such as degeneration. CT scans can be used to see subtle fractures.  Video Fluoroscopy can help assess ligament damage.  MRI is the gold standard for visualizing disc injuries.
With all this amazing technology at our disposal, we tend to forget that behind every image, scan, or test is an actual person whose life probably has been severely affected by their injury.  I think that I, better than most, can understand the frustration of being injured. 

Injuries Can be Life Altering

In 2001, a momentary lapse in concentration resulted in me running a stop sign.  I was broad sided just behind my drivers door at about 35-40 mph.  The impact sent my car spinning counterclockwise 2 1/2 times.  When I came to a stop, my car was on the opposite corner facing 180 degrees to the direction I had been traveling.  My car was completely totaled.  My car was struck with so much force it looked like a boomerang.  I, on the other hand, literally walked away without a scratch.  Pretty lucky I thought.  Several days later, I developed the expected “soreness” and didn't give it much thought.  I iced and after a few days, I felt better.  Several weeks went by before I noticed things were not quite right.  My right arm started aching at night.  Then it ached during the day.  Having my chiropractor adjust the area definitely helped alleviate the pain but it would return within 1-2 days.  One day while working out, I was not able to do an overhead press.  It was the same weight I had been using without issue for several months.  I had just simply lost about 60% of the strength in my right arm.  Something wasn't right.  I would feel better for a few days after getting chiropractic care but then the pain and weakness would return.  My x-rays looked normal so I had an MRI done.  The MRI clearly showed a huge disc bulge at C6-7 compressing the exiting nerve root on the right side.
My pain management doctor gave me a prescription for oral steroids.  We tried several rounds of injections with various mixtures of steroids and lidocaine that also did not help.  A nerve conduction test confirmed that the C6-7 nerve root was severely compressed on the right, which explained the weakness in my right arm.  My Orthopedic surgeon looked at my MRI and the NCV test results and concluded I needed surgery.
What amazed me through this whole process was an almost “de-humanizing” aspect to the medical specialty chain.  Meaning, the more specialized my doctor became the less they seemed interested in “Me” and the more I became “the test result”.
There was no interest in how this problem was affecting my life.  By this point, I had developed severe neurogenic atrophy of my right triceps, upper pectorals and lower latissimus muscles.  The muscles simply wasted away because they were not receiving stimulation from the nerve root.
Throughout this whole process, I became increasingly irritable.  This was a combination of being in constant pain and not being able to sleep.  I was quick to anger and would snap at the littlest things.  I stopped going out with friends because I just wasn’t very much fun to be around.  I had to cut my hours back at work because adjusting people made my arm feel worse.  Mountain biking, hiking, and even fly fishing all became too painful to endure.
I eventually had to have surgery on my neck.  A very skilled surgeon here in Reno performed a C6-7 Microdiscectomy and keyhole. Laminectomy.  The surgery at first appeared very successful.  I awoke from the anesthesia and noticed the pain in my arm was gone.  For the first time in months I was pain free.  However, after several weeks I noticed an ache in my right lower neck and right shoulder blade region.  After several more weeks, the ache became constant and severe.  Once again I found my injury impacting my life to the point I was considering changing careers.  
A consultation with my surgeon and a second MRI revealed that the surgery was successful, as the disc no longer compressed the nerve root.  There was no arm pain, just unrelenting neck and mid scapular ache.  So, what was causing the pain?  Seems I was now part of the 35% statistic of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome.
My surgeon had nothing more to offer except for Pain Management.  The idea of having to get injections for the rest of my life was not appealing.
Researching “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome” I found the culprit to be post-surgical adhesions.  When I researched knee and shoulder injuries, I learned they were managed quite differently post-surgically.  Those cases utilized mobilization as early as possible after the surgery to organize adhesions.  As a chiropractor, I understand that the purpose of an adjustment is the disruption of scar tissue.  For no rational reason, post-surgical spine cases were just “off limits.”   My partner Dr. Welch and I developed a program to address post-surgical adhesions.  This required creating an entirely different way of adjusting the spine.  Coupled with Spinal Decompression, ultrasound, laser therapy and targeted exercise I soon found my pain diminishing and my mobility returning.  Today I am nearly pain-free and enjoy practicing and using this same approach to help others.
I consider my injury a mixed blessing.  I was put in the shoes of a patient, and for a Doctor, that can be an eye opening experience.  I have firsthand knowledge of how frustrating, frightening and potentially life changing a spinal injury can be.  However, my injury was the necessity that drove our innovation to create a different treatment method.  We have been able to help so many patients who might otherwise still be suffering as I was.  Because of my experience, I am able to lend expert testimony from the very unique perspective of being a patient as well as a doctor.  I see myself in every patient that walks in our office and never forget that each and every one of them has a life attached to their injury.
Dr. Martinez is certified by the Spine Institute of San Diego in crash biomechanics, crash reconstruction, kinematics and injury mechanisms.
Dr.Welch is an ABIME Certified Independent Chiropractic Examiner.

Special Points of Interest

  • Delayed onset of symptoms
  • Injuries and their impact on Daily Activities
  • Surgery should not be the end of care
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome