Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New "Cutting Edge" Treatment in Fibromyalgia?

I recently participated in a teleconference hosted by Dr.'s Katinka Van Der Merwe and Dave Pascal of the Neurologic Relief Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. They devote their practice to providing “cutting edge” treatment techniques in relieving a variety of symptoms to include pain associated with illnesses such as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and other neurological conditions.

Dr. Van Der Merwe opened the conference addressing why their techniques aren't well known to a large number of patients struggling with chronic neurological illnesses. According to her, they have tried on numerous occasions to educate the public through media exposure with limited success. Although she has appeared on the local news and Dr. Pascal on the Discovery Channel, they rely on Facebook, for the most part, because it's difficult to get national exposure on mainstream news media channels. Since the inception of their Facebook page, they've attracted 2,160 fans and are growing.

Dr. Pascal, who commutes between his two offices in Cary, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California, focused on the challenges of treating Fibromyalgia symptoms and its root cause. He said one of the obstacles patients face is “they are not getting the entire picture from MD's.” Bladder issues, hair and eyelash loss, arthritis in the knee(s), fibro fog, migraines, tension in the arms, light and noise sensitivities etc are all related to Fibromyalgia. The fact that the medical community cannot agree on a root cause means there is no generally accepted treatment. He stated:
  1. Prescribing medications is all a MD's can for Fibromyalgia
  2. Alternative therapies cause flares with a low percentage of pain relief
  3. Fibromyalgia is a progressive and neurologic disease
The doctors at the Neurologic Relief Center believe that Fibromyalgia is caused by an upper cervical abnormality, which is missed in the medical world. According to them, emotional, physical and/or chemical stress creates inflammation or scar tissue and tugs on the nerves (the meninges, a protective sleeve) on the spinal cord and compresses it. Dr. Pascal believes cervical abnormalities are often overlooked by medical practitioners because stress, even though it's the #1 cause of death (heart attacks and other serious life threatening conditions), is not being consistently seen as a valid health concern.

The center has put together an “amazing technique” called Meningeal Decompression. During the initial test procedure, patients experience 30-100% reduction in pain within the first 7-10 minutes. However, as this is just the initial test, any pain relief experienced is temporary.

The next phase involves Quantum Neurology; evaluating ones nervous system. Apparently, this is where medical neurologists aren't gathering enough information. As an example, a neurologist shouldn't test a person for merely their ability to smell during an evaluation, but also their ability to identify the smell. The following are the four import factors in Quantom Neurology:
  1. Functional Neurological Evaluation
  2. Rehabilitating Neurological Function
  3. Removing Neurological Toxins
  4. Evaluation of the Digestive Tract
Dr. Pascal specifically addressed the small intestine. The healthy, small intestine should produce, on average, 21 bowel movements a week, one meal in and one meal out. A single bowel movement a day is not healthy. He went on to say that the small intestine is made up of the same tissue as the brain and because they are of the same tissue, one impacts the other. In other words, the inflammation of one will cause the other to experience difficulties as well, thus accounting for fibro fog during an IBS flare.

You may be wondering if I plan on seeking treatment from the NRC. To be honest, I am undecided at this point. While I found the teleconference very informative, I am disappointed by both Dr. Van Der Merwe's and Dr. Pascal's presentations.

In my opinion, Dr. Van Der Merwe seemed very defensive about their “cutting edge” technique's failure to receive national acclaim. Perhaps her defensiveness is rooted in the fact that Fibromates are leery of any new kind of treatment, especially if it's not well known throughout our support groups. On the other hand, perhaps my criticism stems from the constant barrage of warnings we hear from physicians and support groups stating, “Beware of the scams!” If there was a cure or an effective treatment plan to achieve substantial relief from our chronic pain and fatigue, our groups would be a flutter with the news. Of course, NRC is not promising a cure. Maybe, just maybe (I'm going out on a limb here folks), they cannot get national media exposure to raise awareness because pharmaceutical companies are blocking their efforts in a ploy to keep us medicated with band-aide treatments and offering medical doctors kick backs while they continue to earn the big bucks? I don't know.

While Dr. Pascal seemed very genuine, I didn't appreciate his method of delivery. I don't think reprimanding the medical community (aside from the naysayers, of course) for doing what they can to help a vast population of patients suffering from this illness is advantageous to promoting the center's cause. I think he would better serve his listeners by presenting the technique as an alternative to medication or enhancement to treatment plans (medication protocols and alternative therapies) already established by medical doctors for their patients.

I do, however, agree with his discussion on the causes of meningeal compression and the importance of Quantum Neurology. From a personal standpoint, I have scoliosis and other issues involving my spinal cord. We know that Fibromyalgia involves the Central Nervous System so investigating it further and looking at the meninges seems logical. In regards to his first point in Quantum Neurology (the functional neurological evaluation), in 2009, I saw a medical neurologist who tested me for neuropathy. During the procedure they warmed up my feet with hot towels, which I didn't quite understand. My feet often become ice cold, turn white, go numb and tingle. How does warming them up prior to testing accurately evaluate my condition in a real life situation? I don't know.

What I found most shocking was when Dr. Pascal emphatically stated Fibromyalgia was a progressive disease. Progressive should not to be confused with degenerative by the way. Fibromyalgia is not a degenerative disease in that it does not cause damage to the bones, joints, tissues or organs. Now, most Fibromates will agree it is progressive and I have yet to meet or speak with one who will say otherwise.  However, to hear a professional say those two words scares me more than you can ever imagine.  Why?  Because on my worst pain days, and quite frankly sometimes even on my not so bad pain days, I worry I will end up in a wheel chair in a few years. I already obtained handicap placard for my car, which in itself was a tough pill for me to swallow.

For now my action plan includes looking into cervical spine abnormalities, specifically the meninges. I planned on discussing spinal issues at my next doctors appointment anyway, so to cover meningeal compression and get my doctor's opinion makes sense. I don't live near the Neurologic Relief Center, however, I thank both doctors for their time and the valuable information they shared to help me manage my illness.


  1. I have RSD/CRPS. What do you offer to help treat this or what kind of tretment plans do you put in place for this. I will be moving to NC this summer and I am looking for specialist in this area. My doctor and I are trying to locate and find doctors who specialize in this area to put referrals in before I go.

  2. Angela, please look up Dr. David Pascal in Raleigh, NC. In my opinion, he is one of the top three docs in the world to deal with RSD/CRPS.

  3. Hi Angela!

    I sincerely apologize for not responding to you sooner! Truthfully, I don't know anything about RSD /CRPS. Let me see what I can come up with for you.

    In the meantime, you may want to consider Dr. Katinka's suggestion and contact Dr. Pascal. Perhaps he would be willing to give you a telephone consultation. You can also contact Dr. Katinka and Dr. Pascal via Facebook:


    I would also suggest calling your health insurance provider to find out the names of potential doctors in NC covered by "network."