Drinking The Fat: Adventures in Alternative Health Care

February 8, 2014

Have you ever had a back spasm so bad you couldn’t stand up straight? I have. I was bent over in an L-shape for about a week, in the kind of pain where you decide it’s better go hungry than attempt the 20-foot walk from the couch to the kitchen. It took five physiotherapy appointments to get me more or less upright again.

That was just the most dramatic example of my struggle with chronic pain. I’ve had chiropractors tell me they’ve never felt muscles as tight as mine before, even on body builders, which is pretty ironic given the relative size of my tiny girl-biceps. It’s not fybromiagia (my mother had me tested), just a combination of unfortunate genes, old injuries, a sedentary job, and my body’s tendency to translate emotional stress into the physical kind.

As a scientist, I have the highest respect for western medicine, but in my experience at least, it’s not really equipped to handle chronic pain – especially when I’m immune to the muscle-relaxing properties of both Robaxacet and valium. Hence my adventures with alternative health care.

In addition to the trifecta of physiotherapy, massage, and chiropractic, I’ve had good luck with accupuncture – both the intramuscular stimulation kind and the traditional Chinese kind. Cupping is also a great way to relieve muscle tension, although it does have the unfortunate side effect of creating enormous hickies, so I don’t recommend trying it right before special occasions involving backless dresses. Cranial sacral therapy has also been a huge help for me, and is a lot less painful than rolfing, which also works on the fascia and connective tissue. And hot baths with epsom salts are awesome muscle relaxers, especially if I take a trashy novel in with me.

Ross drinks the fat

If Ross can drink the fat, so can I…

Right now, though, I’m drinking the fat.

Three or four months ago I developed a sharp pain between my shoulder blades that’s messing with my ability to tilt my head. All the usual methods have been unsuccessful, but this week my physio discovered a sore spot under my ribs – right over my gall bladder. Since “the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone,” it’s not much of a stretch to think my back pain is actually referring from my inflamed gall bladder.

So for the next ten days, the first thing I’ll be doing every morning is drinking two teaspoons of olive oil, chased with hot water and lemon juice. The fat on an empty stomach encourages the gall bladder to release built-up bile. I have no idea what the lemon juice is for, but I strongly suspect it’s to cut the disgusting taste of unmasked olive oil.

The worst part about the cleanse is that I’m not allowed to have sugar, chocolate, or caffeine while doing it, and with all the foods I have to eliminate for allergy reasons, tea and chocolate are pretty much my only pleasures. But if it works, it will be worth it – I’d really like to be able to turn my head again!

What about you? Do you have experience with chronic pain? What alternative health approaches have you found helpful? Have you ever drunk the fat?

Disclaimer: I am NOT that kind of doctor, so you should talk to yours before trying any new therapy. You should also apply your own common sense and do your research before selecting a practitioner. Therapists that don’t know what they’re doing are both a waste of money and a serious threat to your health.

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