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

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, Dr. Paul Rubin, a chiropractic physician, 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 movement 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. Cathy says:

    So glad all is well!

  2. Great article, David!! My experience with Chiropractic has been similar. Wonderful reminder of its tremendous value. And fun to read, too, as always.

  3. Addie says:

    I’ve seen Paul regularly for some twenty years. Sitting in an office all day,I couldn’t go without chiropractic adjustments and still function well. From time to time I also see an MD who practices acupuncture, but Paul is really my primary care physician. Paul helped me with chronic problems, some not related totally to structural issues — like tendonitis and sinusitis (neither of which has returned after years). His treatment for and recommendation of office aids reversed the onset of carpal tunnel years ago, and I’ve never had a recurrence. Thank you, Paul!

  4. Colleen says:

    It is a treat to see an email from Whole Health Chicago…you are a wonderful doctor AND wonderful writer.

  5. Kathryn Donahue says:

    Great story. And a wonderful example of integrated medicine. Living in a personal medical head space can be challenging and you have explained it expertly. Thank you for sharing.
    Kathryn, RN.

  6. Delphine M Ruiz says:

    Ahhh, it’s no wonder I found myself in your offices last week and as the Universe would have it, I met and shook your hand. I shared with you how I love your posts and you said you were glad somebody was reading them – lol. I was there that day to see Cliff Mauer for an adjustment because my sciatic nerve is pinched and my legs are a bit numb and tingly – I love that your self-diagnosis was throat cancer – my fear-based thoughts have me in a wheel chair, with my kids helping me clean my bum with babywipes. The best part about your perfectly timed blog is the fact that I just called your offices today to schedule a Cliff session today because my body is not happy right now. As I read your words, I realized I forgot to mention to Cliff that I have been doing this neck-twirl thing which makes my neck crack and then I feel like the water-hose has been un-kinked. Thanks Doc – I think the Universe, has once again, provided the “support” I needed to get my back right. See you guys in a bit 🙂 and we confirm if the Oneness to the Allness is working through you, yet again.

  7. Laurie Empen says:

    I have had the same issue and Paul always comes to the rescue. Also, when it feels a bit painful to breath. . .a rib has popped out. He gets it back in place.

  8. Carol Haney says:

    Over a decade ago, Dr. Edelberg referred me to Dr. Rubin as I was in great pain in my neck and shoulder. I saw Dr. Rubin, and after about 15 minutes of asking questions about my life, he did an adjustment and a day later, the pain was mostly gone.

    Fast forward a couple of years, and I had the same pain in my neck and shoulder. I saw Dr. Rubin, and again, 15 minutes of what I thought was “chat”, Dr. Rubin did an adjustment and I was better a day later.

    Fast forward one more year, same pain, I return to Dr. Rubin – and the first question he asked me was – “who has died recently in your life?”. Dr. Rubin was absolutely right – my godfather, with whom I had been very close, had just died. Dr. Rubin was not a seer or psychic, but he had noted from the two previous chat sessions, that a death of someone I was close to (both my parents, in subsequent order) had recently occurred.

    I would never have made the mind-body connection between death and stiff shoulder/neck. Dr. Rubin changed the way I thought about my body, my emotions, and my life. Best chiropractor in the world, in my opinion. Thank you, Dr. Rubin.

  9. Mery Krause says:

    Dan had a similar thing happen to him in FL with a chiropractor To this day, he likes to deny that this guy stopped his horrendous coughing in just a mew moments, after Dan had been sleeping in a recliner for two nights straight. Will you please talk some sense into your friend Dan. He is so stubborn about believing things that don’t make practical sense to him. So glad you post these personal experiences and glad to hear you are no longer swallowing uncomfortably. And glad it wasn’t GERD.

  10. Lily Fortin says:

    Oh Dr. E…I miss you so much! Your gentle humor and reassurance helped me many a time when I stumbled into your offices on Lincoln, catastrophizing whatever new symptom had popped up for me. I always had a suspicion that you were so good at reassuring at least in part, due to possessing some of the same cognitive traits. I am currently in a Master’s program for Clinical Mental Health Counseling…uh oh! 🙂 Wishing you all good things for 2017!

  11. Wiggy says:

    Dear Doc,
    Glad to know all is well with you.
    After all – you have to stay well to take care of me!!!
    You know I LOVE chiropractic care and firmly believe that it can solve A LOT of things, as can acupuncture.

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