Catherine (33), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

In October 2008 I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This diagnosis was reached after countless tests and a gradual deterioration in my health.

My symptoms developed over a period of over two years, were described to countless doctors as: I had progressively been getting more tired, some nights I was coming home from work, lying down on the couch and not moving again. I didn’t have the energy to bother making dinner or eating it. My concentration was suffering; I had mental as well as physical exhaustion and often had difficulty remembering words even though I knew that I knew them. I had always been a voracious reader, but often I couldn’t concentrate on the page and found myself reading the same section over and over without taking it in. My sleeping pattern was very disturbed and I developed chronic insomnia, if I did get to sleep I would wake up in the early hours of the morning and not get back to sleep again. I had a knee problem, grinding in my hips and I had terrible pains in my arms and legs, which often woke me up. My intuition told me that these pains were caused by dehydration, even though I drink two litres of water a day. I would drink plenty of water, but it failed to stop the pain. The pain eventually moved down my arms to my hands and thumbs, and there were times when the pain in my thumbs and hands was so bad that I had difficulty using cutlery. There was one evening when I was out for dinner with friends and everyone at the table had finished eating. I had barely started my dinner as it was so painful to use the knife to cut it, and it obviously ended up too cold to eat.

I also suffered from headaches, visual blurring, night sweats and cold intolerance. I had terrible pins and needles in my hands and feet, sometimes so bad that I couldn’t put my foot down as it was so uncomfortable. I bruised incredibly easily, had terrible mouth ulcers and sores and had bowel problems. I developed an intolerance to noise, places I had previously enjoyed going like pubs and clubs became difficult to tolerate. I felt that they were too loud, that the noise made it even harder to concentrate and this coupled with a greatly reduced tolerance to alcohol obviously had an effect on my social life.

The first suggestion to me was that I was stressed, which I wasn’t. The doctor tried to tell me that maybe I was stressed but didn’t realise it. But I definitely wasn’t stressed! Depression was also given as a possible source of my problems, but I wasn’t depressed either! My doctor took blood and did various tests, for celiac disease, diabetes, thyroid problems etc. The only thing they found was an iron deficiency which was treated with multiple rounds of iron tablets which were unpleasant and did not have much of an effect on my symptoms. I was referred to a consultant at the local hospital who made the diagnosis of chronic fatigue which came as a shock. When I enquired what I could do to help myself – dietary changes, exercise routines, supplements, alternative therapies, I was advised that “there is no cure; there is nothing you can do.” I asked what I should do about the gym, as exercise was a big part of my life and I didn’t want to give it up. I was told to “realise you have limitations and learn to live within them.” Needless to say I left the doctor’s office feeling rather upset, to be quickly followed by anger!

The diagnosis started me thinking, and worrying. What if this was only the beginning? What if I got so bad I couldn’t work, couldn’t leave the house? Would I have to give up my hobbies like cooking and sewing as my hands got worse? Would I have to give up exercise, socialising, reading? I suddenly had all these questions, and even more fears and worries. I was 32, supposedly in the prime of my life and here I was being told to accept my limitations and that there was nothing I could do. How could I accept that? I didn’t have any children, what if I wanted to have them in the future; would I be able to cope? I started to do my own research into chronic fatigue and other possible diagnoses in case the consultant had got it wrong. I compiled a whole file, did basal temperature tests, looked into clinical trials then went to see my doctor. My doctor was fantastic she listened to me, looked at all my information and promised to do all she could to help. She referred me to other consultants who did more tests and discovered nothing. It got to the stage that there was nowhere else to go, no-one was finding anything new and a psychologist was suggested to help me accept and come to terms with my diagnosis.

From my own research I was beginning to think that some of my problems could be related to my jaw. I’ve had problems with it since I was a child and have had two orthodontic appliances. I had noticed I was clenching my jaw a lot as I slept and this led me to believe that my hip and knee problems could be related, with possibly the hand and thumb problems caused by this too. I spoke to a consultant who said that this could be the case but it wasn’t his area of expertise, so I spoke with my dentist who referred me to the oral medicine department at the dental hospital. The consultant at the dental hospital was like the majority of consultants I saw (there was one notable exception), brusque, uninterested and offhand. I was prescribed a splint and sent for dental impressions to allow them to make it. Dental impressions have always been a problem for me, my mouth has never opened very wide, my jaw won’t allow it and it had got worse during the course of my illness. This affected loads of things, my speech, the volume of my voice, how I cut my food up small enough to fit and how I bit into things. Consequently, dentists have difficulty getting the trays into my mouth to take impressions. I tried to tell them this but they insisted in trying to ram a tray that was far too big into my mouth which wouldn’t open wide enough – resulting in cuts and ulcers all over the inside of my mouth and gums. I was told to come back in a fortnight to get my splint, which I should wear every night as I slept and in the gym while working out. The night time wearing I could just about handle; the wearing in the gym – no way!

Then along came Hugh. I’ve always believed that when the student is ready the master will appear, that the right people will cross your path when you are ready to receive them into your life. That is exactly what happened in this situation. I had pretty much ignored the consultants advice about cutting right back on exercise, starting small and not aiming for much. I felt that if I gave that up, I might give up on everything else and before I knew it I’d be applying for a disabled sticker for my car and thinking I was an invalid. So I got a personal trainer, and worked out a programme that was efficient and could be built upon, but still allowed me to retain my level of fitness and feel good about myself. One night at the gym I noticed a poster advertising a talk by a physiotherapist that was happening later in the week. I asked my trainer about it and he said that although he didn’t know the physio he had heard great things about him and I should go along. I went along that Thursday evening with my mother, and met up with a couple of girls from my pilates class. We got seats in the front row and settled down to hear what the physio had to say. It wasn’t your standard lecture, in walked this really tall guy with a flowing ponytail and sharp suit and the first thing he said was that he wasn’t used to blowing his own trumpet. He wanted to hear what our problems were so that he could give us answers. What followed was life-changing for me. He went round the room asking everyone’s problems and injuries, I explained that I had a hip and knee problem which had stopped me from running for a couple of years – could these be caused by my jaw? Hugh told me yes, and then went into detail about how a problem with your jaw could in itself be caused by a leg length difference. He also explained how jaw problems could cause insomnia, clenching could send adrenaline coursing through your body and this unused adrenaline could cause pains in my arms and legs. Hugh got me out onto the table, and started moving my ankle; he wasn’t touching anywhere else, just one ankle. Next thing I knew, my jaw started to vibrate, it got stronger and stronger until it was rattling so badly that my mother in the front row could see it moving. Then my whole body started to tremble. All of this from moving my ankle! At no point did I feel scared; Hugh made me feel safe and comfortable even though I was on a table in front of an audience. He told me about the fascia in my body that was now releasing, and how this was causing the trembling. All in all the whole experience could only have lasted 10, 15 minutes, but by the end of it I was opening my jaw much wider than before. I was stretching further than before and I felt taller!

I went back to see Hugh for a session and did a whole lot more gentle trembling! It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was non invasive, there wasn’t any pain, just a little discomfort at times as my muscles were released. At the end of that first session I could open my mouth much further, further than I think I had ever been able to. My hamstrings were looser, and my body felt lighter as if tons of stress and tightness had been taken away from it. I slept soundly that night, and began to sleep all the way through the night, feeling fantastic when I woke next day. That sleep felt like the best sleep I had ever had in my entire life. The next day as I was walking past the mirror I noticed something rather remarkable. I’ve always had one hip bone noticeably higher than the other, a good inch and a half at least. My hip bones were now level! I spent a good 5 minutes poking around checking and they definitely were! At the end of my second session with Hugh I could open my mouth even further again. My hips were quite sore, but that went away after a day or so, leaving my legs feeling more ‘in place’, my pelvis felt looser and I really felt stronger right through my body, especially when I was doing leg exercises in my pilates class. My face looked less pinched, to the extent that friends commented on it. In fact a colleague came up to me and told me she just had to tell me how fantastic and healthy I was looking.

However after the second session I noticed a problem with my voice. I had noticed over the previous weeks that sometimes I would go to say something and no voice came out, or it ‘cracked’ as it came out. After my second session this seemed to be happening more often and I could feel something going on with the right side of my body. I spoke with Hugh at my next session and explained these weird symptoms I had been having, asking if they could possibly be connected. Hugh told me that what I was describing was telling him where to work on next to release the fascia. After this third session I could open my jaw REALLY wide! And then my voice changed, it dropped lower and my breathing went further down into my chest. Tightness vanished and again, I felt looser, freer.

I saw Hugh for a number of sessions ( 5 in total ) and I can’t begin to tell you how much of a difference he made to my health. I got my life back, I got my future back. I realised that I never had chronic fatigue syndrome, the whole list of symptoms was caused by an imbalance in my body, from a leg length difference and a jaw problem. I can now open my mouth wider than I have ever been able to, I have even hip bones, I no longer have pains in my arms, legs, hands, thumbs, knees or hips. I can run again! I don’t have jaw pain, I sleep well. My concentration is back. I don’t have pins and needles anymore. I don’t have bowel problems or bloating. I am a half inch taller!!! This man can change your life. He has knowledge that must be shared; the word has to get out. More and more people in the western world are being diagnosed with chronic fatigue and other problems that they may not have at all. I am living proof that sometimes doctors get it wrong. Hugh’s ability to listen without judgement, his incredible knowledge and skills and techniques honed over the years all combine to make you feel safe, to give you hope and to heal. As far as I am concerned the results definitely speak for themselves.

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