It’s been a week with a common theme: “weird” symptoms that no doctor has been able to explain. An atypical headache, tooth pain in the absence of dental disease, dizziness with no identifiable cause. The testing is all negative, the diagnosis remains uncertain, there is no definitive treatment, yet the patients still feel what they feel and it’s not going away. Their symptoms may not yet be validated, but it is not “all in their head”. The answers are always found in anatomy.
An irony in medicine is that we frequently discuss nerve impingement (something pressing/pinching a nerve) for some nerves in the body like the sciatic or the ulnar nerve. But doctors don’t always appreciate that any nerves in the body can get pinched. The sciatic nerve is large, like a stalk of celery, and even it can get compressed easily enough in many people; it may have happened to you or someone you know. So why can’t a small cranial nerve, which is the size of a cooked angel hair pasta, get pinched? How does this happen? It gets caught between slightly shifted bones from head trauma or tension in membranes covering the passage through which the nerve is traveling. And if the cranial nerve is pinched, it can affect sensation in a tooth….or cause pain in the head…or interfere with swallowing. The list of possible effects is long.
Osteopathy, including work done at the cranium, can address these unfamiliar nerve impingements and resolve symptoms that many practitioners cannot explain. Often the cause can be found in the mechanical changes brought about by a traumatic event 5 months or 5 years prior– or more. Combining an understanding of anatomy along with an understanding of the mechanism of an injury can finally offer help to those who have been perplexing cases for far too long.