After a relatively minor foot injury I developed plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis in my right foot and ankle. I am not sure of the etiology of the disease because there were many factors and many false diagnoses along this nightmare route that saw me continue to lose mobility in my foot and then leg, and ever-increasing and continuous freezing/burning pain, dystrophy and then twisting of my right lower leg. Finally, a local physician with contacts at Stanford suggested that I really needed more sophisticated diagnostic help. In my first visit at Stanford Medical Center I saw the head of Orthopedic surgery who immediately recognized my problem as RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). Oddly, (and terribly), a previous X-ray taken locally had listed RSD as a possible diagnosis, but it was overlooked or I was never told by the ordering physician and so lost a food bit of time and went through much emotional trauma, as doctor after doctor gave me false diagnoses or gave up on me. In that X-ray, the toes of my right foot (which had never been injured) already showed quite sever bone loss which along with other signs, by current diagnostic standards, meant that I was in Stage 2 to Stage 3 of RSD.
Unfortunately, by that point the bone loss in my right foot was so severe that I was advised by Stanford physicians to not pursue their treatment protocol of steroid shots to the affected nerve roots in the spine because such high doses could further weaken my bones and entire foot might collapse and I would lose the foot. They did however suggest acupuncture. I immediately started up with traditional acupuncture and begin to have some relief of pain but no much, if any improvement in mobility.
As fate would have it, Dr. Ming Qing Zhu had just arrived from China to teach at an acupuncture school in Santa Cruz, where I was living, and I began to see him. I stress that with the bone loss and the duration-severity of the disease it took sometime and many treatment to heal my foot and leg, but I noticed results almost immediately. His acupuncture was very different and very powerful.
The most dramatic and amazing result was my mental outlook changed within a few weeks. RSD can affect the CNS (thinking, decision making) and entirely exhaust the body. In my case, the symptoms left me anxious, depressed, cloudy headed and with only the energy (honestly) to get from my bed to a sofa once per day and then back to bed at the end of the day. I had been, at the time, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and was trying to finish my degree but that had become out of the question. I could barely feed myself and it was getting worse.
Amazing, after starting to “work” with Dr. Zhu (and he requires you to put in some effort) and sometime before my bones healed enough (which they eventually did!) for me to put much pressure on them, my energy levels started to increase, my depression started to lift and my mind started to clear. A month into it and I actually found myself designing a table using a computer program that I could use to research and write (my legs had to be up constantly or they would swell and stiffen terribly) and I sent the plans to my father who constructed the table and sent it back to me as a pre-fab kit.
I have to say that it was a struggle. I knew from a traditional physical therapist I finally found to work with me that her work with RSD patients was often difficult because they could not work through the pain. I even did Tai Chi “classes”, which is to say I stood propped up against at wall at first, with Sifu Jaime Marquez (then a student of Dr. Zhu). I had lived with constant dread of falling and by that point had zero balance. Combining Dr. Zhu’s treatments and exercises with Jaime’s instruction lead to incredibly dramatic increases in balance.
The results, in the end were phenomenal. Eventually, I finished my dissertation and was award my Ph.D at UC Berkeley. My walking improved steadily, though it took time. I had been unable to move and even hardly able to use a wheelchair. But since then I have, for example, spent eight hours tramping around the ruins of Pompeii in Italy and had many other adventures, and I walk and hike regularly. I doubt that any of this, any notion for a normal life or a job in my field, would have been possible had I not met Dr. Zhu at the right time and trusted his methods.
Professor of German and French Language and Literature