2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

CASE STUDY: C’est Moi

If I hadn’t been experiencing an annoying sensation in my throat with every swallow that in my fears had escalated to advanced throat cancer, the week would otherwise have begun quite nicely.

For example, while talking to a new patient with some longstanding neck and shoulder issues, I asked if she would mind if my associate, chiropractor Dr. Paul Rubin, stepped in to help with the diagnosis. This is called a curbside consultation, a freebie because he just happened to have a lull in his otherwise busy morning.

A chiropractic exam is significantly different from an internist’s, and I always enjoy watching Paul carefully going about his business. He explained (to both of us) what he thought was going on, and what next best diagnostic steps would be needed. It took him about ninety seconds to diagnose what apparently had been going on for more than a year with my patient.

When Paul left, I commented that it was really great to have a chiropractor as an associate, that our fields complemented each other. The patient agreed, adding that this was exactly what had led her to WholeHealth Chicago: conventional and alternative practitioners working together, diagnosing and treating patients as a team.

So that was all well and good, except for this feeling in the back of my throat: a sensation, not a pain, an awareness that something was off when I swallowed. I’ll admit right now that doctors can be the worst patients. When you, my readers, get a symptom, you often race to the internet, look up the worst stuff, self-diagnose into despair, and show up in your MD’s office with beads of sweat on your foreheads, clutching a handful of internet printouts.

Doctors don’t need the internet for our personal worst-case scenarios. We have it all in our heads.

In my personal (not professional) life, one of my less attractive attributes is a tendency toward high-gear catastrophic thinking. To me, all registered or certified letters must be delivering bad news, not a big check from Publisher’s Clearinghouse. A knocking sound beneath the car hood means a repair so costly that it’s mac and cheese for the next month.

So this swallowing thing escalated in my mind in a matter of minutes to throat cancer, disfiguring surgery, crispy critter radiation, the loss of my few remaining tufts of hair, my family penniless, and my kids on the street.

I headed first to the ear/nose/throat specialist next door. We chatted about the stuff doctors chat about before he grabbed my tongue, stuck a mirror into the back of my throat, and said, “You’re fine. Nothing to worry about.”

Although I was relieved, the swallowing sensation was still there.

So I discretely asked Dr. Rubin. “Paul–I can’t remember–can an imbalance in the cervical spine (neck bones) affect swallowing?” The “I can’t remember” wasn’t exactly true. I had never heard of such a thing, but was covering my ignorance by pleading amnesia. That the spine affects internal organs is pooh-poohed by conventional physicians as “part of that chiropractic stuff.”

“Sure. Happens a lot.”

“I have this swallowing thing…”

“Lie down and let me check your neck.”

He poked and prodded, touching a tender spot in the back of my neck I hadn’t noticed before. Gave a doctorly “Hmm.”

“What…hmm?” I asked. “What does hmm mean?”

“You need an adjustment. Somehow your spine has become restricted. Here, let me just get this joint moving again…you’ll hear a click.” He held my head and gave a quick twist that I assure you I did not learn in medical school. Click? A mini-thunderclap went from the back of my neck to the back of my throat. All the muscles involved in swallowing seemed to breathe a collective “Whew!” and suddenly relaxed.

When I sat up and swallowed, my throat sensation had completely vanished, and has remained gone ever since.

My mental catastrophizing reversed itself like a movie running backwards. No radiation, no kids on the street. I went back to work.

“Thanks, Paul.”

“Any time, David.”

Leave a Comment


  1. Betsy Davenport says:

    This is a terrific story, not the least because this very afternoon my husband went to an ENT doc for a swallowing problem and was told he should see another type specialist who could evaluate his spine’s effect on his throat. I am sending him this article forthwith. I only hope he is directed to the right sort of specialist.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Facial Guasha Class
Thursday, March 12, 6:00–7:30pm
Hosted by Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00
(Includes take-home facial guasha tool and custom anti-aging facial oil!)

Join us and learn a traditional Chinese facial rejuvenation technique that you can do yourself! Guasha treatment is a 2,000 year old Chinese massage technique that uses a flat tool to apply pressure to the skin to increase circulation as it moves along acupuncture channels. Learn more and register →

**Adrenal Boost!
Tue, April 28, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
With Naturopath Caley Scott and Yoga Therapist Renee Zambo

Course Fee: $75.00
(Includes custom adrenal herbal tincture and a description of yoga practices you can do at home.)

Feeling Tired? Need help improving fatigue? Learn to boost your energy! Dr. Scott will teach you about herbs that support your adrenal glands to help boost your energy and adapt to stress. Renee will teach practices that restore and build energy, support daily activities, and ensure sound rest at night. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • When Your Sex Drive is on Life Support

    Low desire? No more orgasms? Is your sexual enjoyment a nonexistent priority in your partnership? Sex is such a physical/emotional chore that you’d rather be burning the calories in a Pilates class? Part of our intake questionnaire at WholeHealth Chicago asks if you’re satisfied with your sex life and fully half of our newcomers either indicate no or leave it unanswered. This pretty much lines Read More

  • Breakthroughs in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

    To me, the greatest advance for the estimated 2.5 million adults, adolescents, and children with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) has been the slow but steady acceptance of its very existence by the conventional medical community. This has been a real uphill battle and we’re encouraged to finally see some (guarded) victories. The first description of what would be later called chronic fatigue syndrome came in Read More

  • It’s The Carbs. It’s Always Been The Carbs.

    Somewhere in my library is a copy of Gary Taubes’ 2008 Good Calories, Bad Calories, one of several books that appeared in the wake of the really vicious controversy that surrounded Robert C. Atkins, MD’s Dr Atkins’ Diet Revolution, which first appeared in 1972, has been published in 13 revisions and editions, and continues to sell around the world. It’s challenging to convey the extent Read More

Join our Discount Program!

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION