How I Came to FM & CFS
I’ve been in practice for over thirteen years. I’ve seen a real shift in the public’s perception of health in the last few years. In chiropractic college I was in many ways subjected to an “us (chiropractors) against them” (medical profession) mentality. This was largely due to a defensive posture taken by some chiropractic institutions in response to a propaganda campaign initiated by the American Medical Association, to “stamp out” chiropractic (and all other non-medical health professions). In the late 1970’s the Supreme Court found that the AMA was guilty of trying to monopolize health care for political and economic reasons. The Supreme Court ordered the AMA to immediately stop the “negative propaganda” campaign, and to begin referring to and cooperating with, the chiropractic profession. Chiropractic is now the fastest growing health profession in the world.
The effects of years of politically motivated criticism could still be felt when I attended Life Chiropractic College in the late 1980’s.
I graduated from Life in 1990 and was filled with a different propaganda campaign, one that railed against the evils of drugs and conventional medicine. For the first few years in practice I was content to use my hands to “adjust” patient’s spines to help restore their health. I loved helping people and quickly built a large practice; 70-80 patients a day.
However, I began to notice that while I was able to help most of the patients who came to me with musculoskeletal problems (back, neck, sciatica, disc, shoulder, pain, etc.); they would still suffer from other illnesses that didn’t always respond to conventional medicine. Why, I asked. This led me on a journey that still burns bright within me today.
I started asking my patients about their diets and lifestyle. I found that most of my patients had such an unhealthy lifestyle and were so uninformed about their bodies, that they were doomed to a life of poor health and misery.
I began to slowly add diet and nutritional advice into my practice. Little things like recommending magnesium (natural muscle relaxers) and finding that patients didn’t need to see me every week after all. I found that if patients took a good multivitamin/mineral supplement they started having less pain, more energy, and felt better over all.
I read dozens of medical, nutritional, and biochemistry books. I traveled around the country and trained with some of the masters of nutritional and integrative medicine. I took all the post graduate classes I could on nutrition and biochemistry. I went back and re-learned all the biochemistry I had forgotten from chiropractic school. Slowly, I saw my practice change from seeing 70-80 musculoskeletal patients a day, to seeing 15-25 “medical misfit” patients a day.
These complicated and challenging patients had either fallen through the conventional medical cracks (didn’t respond) or were seeking a more natural way to restore their health.
My practice continued to grow to accommodate the ever increasing misfits with Fibromyalgia and CFS. These are some of the toughest patients to deal with and many doctors elect not to treat them at all. They have multiple problems, diffuse pain, depression, fatigue, insomnia, food and chemical sensitivities, headaches, low thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome…the list can go on and on.
I was able to help many of these patients. I was using cutting edge nutritional and physical therapies including functional medical testing, orthomolecular medicine, herbal medicine, kinesiology muscle testing and allergy treatment. I also began to realize that conventional medicine wasn’t all bad and started to refer patients to local doctors who were open minded. Conventional medicine is so entrenched in our society that anything that differs with the usual customs of medicine are quickly labeled as “unscientific” or worse “quackery.” I began to feel the pressures of ridicule from local doctors and potential patients who couldn’t break free of having to have the approval of conventional medicine.
To counter this insecurity, I decided I would open my own medical practice. This practice was based on integrating prescription and natural therapies (integrative medicine) for the prevention and treatment of disease. As the clinical director, I either wrote or over saw all of the nutritional and medical therapies used in our practice. I took post graduate studies and wrote the protocols for all the IV therapies including chelation, H202, and vitamin/mineral (used to treat Fibromyalgia and CFS). I trained in anti-aging medicine and initiated the use of Human Growth Hormone injections. I learned a great deal about integrating traditional and alternative methods. I learned first hand how prescription medications could provide quick relief for many common illnesses. This was especially true for the medical misfits. Some prescription medications were tremendously helpful including, natural Bio-identical hormones (tri-estrogen and progesterone cream), Armour thyroid, T3 Therapy, low dose Cortef, proper sleep medications (only after 5HTP, melatonin or other naturals didn’t work), antibiotics for acute bacterial infections, cortisone for acute back pain and respiratory infections.
Unfortunately, I also learned that medications don’t always work and have side effects. A majority of our patients were medical misfits who had already been to dozens of doctors and therefore on a variety of prescription medications. Many of these medications were more harmful than helpful. I had already come to the conclusion that prescription medication didn’t offer much hope for these medical misfits. I knew that correcting the person’s biochemistry was the key to restoring a person’s inborn healing mechanisms. Prescription medications could, in some cases, be helpful, but they could never be better than our own self- regulating, God given healing mechanisms.
The medical practice continued to grow and we moved onto the campus of a large hospital in Birmingham Alabama. Red tape, insurance demands, and an ever increasing financial overhead started to affect how we practiced. Eventually, we became so overwhelmed with patients, that we fell back into the conventional medical paradigm of 10-15 minute office visits ending with more prescriptions (either nutritional of medical). Patients were now on dozens of supplements for a variety of symptoms. We had lost some of the original ideas that prompted me to start the medical practice.
I sold my interest in the practice and with great trepidation opened my own, one man practice once again. How was I going to continue to see patients with complicated illnesses (something I feel called to do) without the aid of prescription medications? I would soon find that nutritional medicine can and does hold its on when paired against chronic illnesses.
I found through trial and error that the less I referred to my old medical clinic, the better many of my Fibromyalgia patients did. The reasons were many, but mainly, the less medication the patient was on, the easier it was to restore their own self healing mechanisms.
This doesn’t mean I don’t refer to medical doctors, I often do. But, now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence (conventional medicine and nutritional medicine) I know that the type of nutritional medicine I practice works! Even if conventional medicine continues to say it doesn’t.
I had come full circle. I now know that the way to feel better (and get well), was to get healthy from the inside out. So I wrote a book all about why nutritional medicine works, especially for fibromyalgia and CFS. Patients now call, email, or travel from all over the world to consult with me. Why? Because it works! These “medical misfits” had usually been to dozens of medical doctors, including those at Mayo and John Hopkins. Yet, conventional medicine had failed them. But some little chiropractic nutritionist, in Birmingham Alabama was able to help them. It works! But, I’m not the only doctor getting these results; more and more doctors are turning to nutritional medicine. The tide is turning and conventional medicine is beginning to lose some of its luster. It has so many positive things to offer; if only it would remove its head from the sand and acknowledge that the path it has led us down is in fact the wrong path.
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When I first began practicing ten years ago, I'd never heard of Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Fibromyalgia was never mentioned in any of the medical textbooks we used in our studies. Seven years ago I had a patient referred to me who changed my life forever. She was suffering from a strange collection of symptoms, diffuse pain throughout her body, headaches, menstrual irregularities, allergies, chronic infections, insomnia, depression, digestive problems, and unrelenting fatigue. After several years of being passed from one doctor to the next, she had recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia by a local rheumatologist.
The doctor couldn’t provide much information on this illness nor could he offer her much hope of ever being well again. She had read all she could about Fibromyalgia (there wasn't much) and knew that traditional medicine had little to offer. Medications were recommended but were mostly for covering up the various symptoms she was experiencing. A friend had told her about me and how I had helped her over come chronic headaches. Mrs. Jones * had turned to me in desperation. Her Fibromyalgia symptoms were getting worse and no one seemed to be able to help her.
After taking her history and hearing all her symptoms, I was tempted to dismiss her as a chronic hypochondriac (all in her head) as many of the other physicians she had seen. However, something she said changed my mind, "Dr. Murphree I know I sound crazy. I know who've probably not heard of or treated anyone with this thing called Fibromyalgia. I've been to eight different doctors and had every medical test known, no one has helped me. I've been sick for almost seven years now and I want to feel good again. I used to be so healthy. I worked part time in a job I loved. I played golf with my husband twice a week and tennis with friends on a regular basis. My husband and I have raised and married two wonderful children. We’re blessed with wonderful children, financial security and supportive friends. I want to be able to enjoy life again. Sally said you were a different kind of doctor and could help me. Can you help me get well?"
Mrs. Jones didn't have anything to gain from being sick. It appeared she had a wonderful marriage and a life we all dream of. Why would someone fake being sick or imagine being sick when they had so much in life? I realized she wasn't crazy and had a real desire to be well. I told her I didn't know anything about Fibromyalgia and didn't know if I could help her. She had already been to some of the best medical specialist in the state. What did I have to offer? I then told her I would do my best to help her get well.
I wasn't sure how I was going to help Sheila Jones, but I knew I had to learn everything I could about this new mysterious disease called Fibromyalgia. I read everything I could find on Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Fortunately, I was not aware that there was no cure for Fibromyalgia. I just did what I had been doing with all of my patients; I treated the whole person from the inside out.
I reasoned that Sheila's body was not properly communicating with itself ( known as dysautonomia). Her regulatory system was broken. Repair the regulatory system (autonomic nervous system) and she would be better.
I began by analyzing her diet and placing her on an allergy elimination diet. She got better. I then did some functional medical tests which showed she wasn't digesting her food (she had leaky gut) and had a yeast overgrowth. I started her on natural yeast medications and diet restrictions to repair her damaged leaky gut. She continued to get better. I still didn't know a fraction of what I know today about Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It didn't matter, she kept getting better. I prescribed vitamins, minerals and amino acids. She got better. I developed specific chiropractic adjustments and physical therapies to accommodate her sensitive musculoskeletal pain. The gentler I was the better she did.
Three months later Sheila was totally well. She no longer had pain, insomnia, fatigue, allergies or any of the other symptoms she had presented with. She was ecstatic and so was I. I quickly, whether I liked it or not, began to get dozens of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients. I continued to learn, refine and update my Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome treatment protocol. Some patients got well some did not. Although I was happy with my successes, I was more disturbed about the failures. Why did some patients get well, while others did not? I continued to search for answers. I found other chiropractors, nutritionists, massage therapists, and medical doctors who were also searching for answers. It became clear to me that you had to think out of the box to effectively treat Fibromyalgia and CFS. They were not a neatly packaged set of symptoms that fit into an insurance code book. It demanded a new way of thinking.
It soon became clear that my patients would need the best of traditional and alternative medicine. An integrative approach still allowed me to correct nutritional deficiencies while judicious use of prescription medication helped to temporarily relieve some of the unwanted symptoms. This realization was the beginning of Advanced Family Medicine. This integrative clinic located on the campus of a major hospital in Birmingham Alabama, specializes in combining traditional and natural medicine to treat FMS, CFS and other chronic illnesses.
Word of our unique approach, combining traditional and alternative medical care, began to spread. I spoke at dozens of cities throughout Alabama. Local and regional newspapers wrote articles about us and patient’s started arriving from all over the Southeast.
Our clinic offered hope to those who thought there was none. Many patients told us “I’ve seen dozens of doctors and tried everything, nothing has helped. You’re my last hope.”
Fortunately our commitment to learning as much as we could about FMS and CFS allowed us to be successful in helping the majority of those who sought our care.