I’ve been through the chronic pain journey and emerged the other side healthier, fitter and happier than I could have imagined possible. What I’ve learnt along the way challenges many common preconceptions of healthcare, and this knowledge needs to be put to practical use to reduce the needless suffering of others. Here’s my story, and why Root2Being was created.
By the age of 19, I was suffering severe chronic musculoskeletal pain that did not improve with activity or rest.
A Geology student at Cardiff University, I struggled daily just to survive. Eventually persuaded by my house mate, I went to see a chiropractor.
I’d never been ill, and didn’t look ill, but inside my body and mind were constantly and increasingly exhausted. I didn’t speak to anyone about it because I had no reason to suspect what I was experiencing was different to anyone else.
With no obvious cause, I doubted myself that I even had a problem. The pain had developed gradually, insidiously, over time, creating a mystery ‘illness’ that baffled me, and all those I sought out to try and help.
The chiropractic treatment at this time helped relieve the symptoms, but we still had no idea why I suffered as much pain as I did.
The wakeup call (2001-2002)
Having become reliant on symptomatic relief through chiropractic, this x-ray taken in November 2001 showed me for the first time my twisted spine and unlevel hips. No cause was evident and I was told the only option was to live with the pain.
I had two choices:
- accept that those I relied on knew best
- resurrect my practically non-existent self-belief, and find out what the problem was myself
I chose the latter! I gave up all forms of treatment, studied and listened to my body very closely, and researched intensely with the help of the internet. A year later, I found the information I needed.
A paper published a few months earlier by an American podiatrist described how differences in the alignment of certain bones in the feet, set at birth (congenital) can cause the whole foot to remain at an angle to the leg.
This inverted foot shape causes the foot to roll inward and downward (hyperpronation), which sets of a chain reaction throughout the whole body.
Hyperpronation draws the body forward. The body adapts. Slowly and progressively, strain and deformation patterns develop that lead the patient into chronic pain (Rothbart, B.A., January 2002)
By summer 2002 I was at my lowest, and although never officially diagnosed because of my lack of trust in the medical profession, I had the classic symptoms of Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I was working but have no idea how I held down my job, I had no refreshing sleep, my diet was a mess (comfort eating rather than nutritional) and at times I simply did not have the energy to eat or walk up the stairs.
Luck and fate brought me in contact with a chiropractor who understood these foot alignment problems, and the effect they have on the entire body.
The assessment confirmed that I had indeed been born with my feet inverted relative to my leg, clinically known as a rearfoot and forefoot varus. Although this is a very common problem (affecting about 70% of the population to some degree), my case was the most severe that chiropractor had seen.
The relief of this diagnosis, coupled with meeting someone who actually understood its impact not just on my physical health, but my emotional and spiritual health too was, quite simply, life changing.
It slowly began to dawn on me that from the day I had taken my first steps, the repeated rolling inward of each foot had caused the rest of my structure to adapt.
This constant adaptation had been forcing my musculoskeletal structure out of alignment. The mis-use of the soft tissues and joints in order to compensate was causing the pain. The constant unrelenting pain had in turn unbalanced all my other natural systems.
This was the first healthcare practitioner I had visited who actually helped me heal myself. Alongside the prescription orthotics to stabilise how my feet worked, I was introduced to the Blood Type Diet by Dr. Peter D’Adamo, the importance of rebalancing energy via things like Acupuncture, massage and Tai Chi, and further chiropractic adjustments as my body adapted and healed.
This all made so much sense to me. What I had lacked until this point was an understanding and acceptance from others that I was indeed suffering. Once this was validated, and I understood the underlying cause, I was free to embark on the journey to heal myself on all fronts.
It is a lifelong transformational journey of discovery, where I am in charge of my own healing. The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual changes I have experienced since starting this journey have been profound. I am left in no doubt that working on the physical, nutritional, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the body and aiming for balance and stability in each is key to living a happy healthy life.
In the beginning (2005)
My passion to create Root2Being was ignited by the realisation that the vast majority of healthcare practitioners were not aware that impaired foot function can have such huge impact on every aspect of an individual’s health.
I recognise prescription orthotics are not the panacea answer to everyone’s health problems, but what concerns me is the lack of acceptance and understanding of impaired foot function as a major causative factor in unresolved and often complex health problems.
I want the assessment of foot function to be one of the first things all healthcare practitioners check and resolve, rather than the last resort. Correct the underlying problem first, and many other symptoms and long standing problems can begin to heal.
Root2Being was launched in 2005, pulling together 4 years of research to raise awareness of this problem and what I saw as the interconnectedness of this very common foot misalignment and the prevalence of otherwise unexplainable chronic illnesses such as Myalgic Encephalopathy / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
Since the launch in 2005, it is heartening to see a greater awareness of foot function and the use of prescription orthotics. Holistic healthcare practices are emerging that bring together different services to treat all aspects of their patients, and there are studies linking gut health to chronic pain and food choices.
Time for a facelift (2014)
Nine years is a long time in the internet world. Back then, I had a bespoke content management system built so I could create the content (today I just use WordPress, free!). The most common screen size was 600 x 800 pixels. We didn’t have smartphones, and social media was a twinkle in someone’s eye.
A fresh new look gives me chance to integrate what I’ve learnt and experienced since 2005, and expand the concept of Root2Being to include the more spiritual and emotional aspects that I didn’t know about back then.
Impaired foot function is one (significant and overlooked) cause of physical stress, one that remains with us throughout our lives. We are exposed to stress from many sources, and all of these impact our other body systems. Stress impacts all aspects of our body and life, and cannot be cured just by focusing treatments on one area. A holistic approach covering nutrition, emotional wellbeing and spiritual health is imperative, one that puts the patient front and centre of their own recovery through the support of others.
Integrated approaches to healthcare are also crucial to make the best of an holistic approach. Whilst a patient may be receiving a number of different treatments that together are considered holistic, too often these are provided as separate individual services where practitioners do not consult and plan a strategic approach centered around that patient that shares knowledge, experience and information between all parties.
Its time to bring Root2Being into the 21st century as a community based hub for practical knowledge, tips and information, news and shared stories that help us all take control of our health and be the best we can be.
It’s a play on words representing the need to identify and heal the root cause of the problem before trying to effect permanent change elsewhere.
- Root: Root cause analysis, getting to the root of problems that are causing you difficultly, pain, stress, illness or disease
- 2: A journey of discovery, with you in control and at the helm. You are not relying on others to dictate what is best or right for you.
- Being: The ultimate destination; being your honest and best self. We never truly ‘arrive’, but everything we learn along the way helps us become a better person, for ourselves and everyone around us.
For those who are familiar with the concepts of “doing” and “being” as discussed in the books The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and The Art Of Effortless Living, identifying and removing the real underlying cause of our problems helps us move from a “doing” (running around trying to influence everything) into a “being” (living free and in the moment) frame of mind.