Formerly-debilitated patient returns to power-lifting competition at age 72 with the assistance of chiropractic and laser therapy for pain
Debilitating neck and shoulder pain along with migraines kept Gale Williams from lifting weights, exercising and experiencing a normal life as a youth. A first post-college visit to a chiropractor eventually resulted in not only a pain-free life, but this year at 72 years of age winning the International Powerlifting Federation World Championship in the Masters Classic Division in Tokyo.
Behind every success there is a great story of perseverance and lessons along the way, and in the case of Gale, it’s a chiropractic story that has contributed to her achievements. We will review some of the clinical findings that led to her turnaround of life-limiting pain — a pain that never allowed her to exercise her upper body (and she was unable to put a bar on her back for squatting, etc.), let alone lift weights toward her maximum effort.
Clinical case study
When Gale was a young girl, age 8-14, she suffered debilitating migraines. Her parents tried every traditional medical opportunity locally and nationally that they knew of to help Gale overcome her migraines, with no success. At age 14 as Gale was suffering a debilitating migraine, one of her parents’ friends said, “Have you ever seen a chiropractor?” Almost immediately they were off to see a local chiropractor. Two adjustments later, and Gale is ecstatic to this day to tell people her migraines were gone and have never returned as of 50+ years later.
The migraines were gone, but Gale was still limited by chronic neck and shoulder pain. As a young woman she attempted to play sports and exercise, but her neck and shoulder pain made it impossible. A believer in chiropractic since the first adjustments that relieved her debilitating migraines, she underwent regular adjustments to manage her neck and shoulder pain, but anytime she would try to work out with weights or perform athletic activity, the pain remained excruciating.
Upper-body workouts as well as squatting or dead-lifting were too painful. After college she became an accountant, and the excessive sitting also took its toll on her neck and shoulders. Numerous chiropractors at the time, in the 1970s, told her that her only option was to avoid any exercise and weight lifting that created pain or neck and shoulder symptoms.
A driven athlete, Gale decided to put weight lifting on hold and took up running to get her exercise fix, maintaining regular adjustments with her chiropractor.
Athletics was not the only area Gale was driven in. She achieved a high level of success in the business world as an accountant, and has never been one to accept limitations. At the age of 69, she decided, with the help of medical and chiropractic advancements, to take another shot at fulfilling her passion for weight lifting and competition.
A modern wellness exam
Gale explored modern treatments at her disposal, including physical therapy, injections, soft-tissue work and increased regular chiropractic adjustments to return to pain-free weight lifting — but without success.
One day a mutual friend brought her into my office, in pain with her arm pinned to her side, as if she was wearing a cast. First, I took a complete history and was a good listener. There was no reason to reinvent the wheel and recommend what had not worked in the past. Standard to all new patients in my clinic, I ordered an essential fatty acid ratio lab test to measure inflammation. The AA: EPA ratio came back at 17.2, with ideal normal being 1.5. Her vitamin D was 37 ng/ml, and my clinic baseline is 65 ng/ml. Supplementation was provided for correction and to maintain proper values for maximum health benefit.
On a first visit I take X-rays that are not symptom-based but system-based: two X-rays of the cervical/upper body and two X-rays of the lower body/pelvis. Upon examining her X-rays, there was structural asymmetry, but her degeneration was not to the point I would be concerned with her lifting weights. I then began a strength and range-of-motion exam along with a toes-to-nose 3D brain and body evaluation — again, not just symptom-based. No matter the symptom, I examine and score “keystones” of the body (brain, neck, shoulder, low back, pelvis, sacrum and extremities) and cross-reference (known as two-pointing by my muscle testers) how each area can be involved with the symptom. The connections are generally very obvious to the patient.
Gale’s myotome tests of the shoulder displayed weakness and created pain. Many tests were unable to be performed because her symptomatic arm was unable to be elevated from the side. She held her arm as if wearing a cast.
I could do tricep, teres minor and C8. When I asked Gale to move her shoulder upon her own action, it created stabbing pain that would cause her to guard her whole body and cringe. I proceeded to progress through the brain-body map evaluation which involves neurological, structural and soft tissue asymmetry of every major axis. The findings are then referenced to normal vs. abnormal score, X-rays and specific chiropractic findings.
X-ray revealed a slight anatomical short leg, severe scapula misalignment and more. When I temporarily corrected the anatomical short leg using a shim, Gale noticed approximately a 20% decrease in pain and an increase in range of motion. She was surprised how that could have any effect on her shoulder, but it did.
When I placed a sacroiliac belt on Gale, she experienced a 90% increase in range of motion and a similar decrease in pain. Her expression was as if she saw a ghost — speechless, jaw dropped, awestruck, and eyes wide open, perplexed. I took the belt off, and immediately, her symptoms returned to stabbing and her shoulder immobilized. Her grimacing pain expression returned. I repeated the difference in results that the sacroiliac belt created a couple of times. Belt on and immediately belt off, to show Gale it was not a magic trick but an indicator that would help me correct her issue that had been overlooked for decades.
A brain-body plan and laser therapy for pain
Gale and I knew her pelvis was involved with her shoulder symptom. I explained how I was going to create a brain-body program to help her shoulder by including the effect I had identified by her sacral-pelvic injury. I would use percussion on trigger points, and cold laser therapy for pain to heal the chronic connective tissue injury of the pelvis, and to reduce or eliminate the inflammation in her symptomatic shoulder faster.
I created a specific clinical exercise program to help correct her long-term chiropractic imbalances and prepare her for competitive lifting.
On the day of her exam we signed up for a power-lifting meet she wanted to compete in which was in seven weeks’ time. Two weeks later she was 100% pain-free, training properly with elite supervision, and had a successful power-lifting meet — which she won — completely pain-free.
Gale is 72 years old now and has competed numerous times each year. She owns all of the Georgia state power-lifting records for the age division 55-75. Yes, she is so strong that she has out-lifted every 55-59, 60-64, 65-69 and 70-75 division woman in the history of Georgia at age 71.
She is at 20 state records currently, and has broken each of them three times. She has won the U.S. nationals and this year a world championship in Tokyo. Gale is an inspiration to all who come in contact with her, and encourages everyone to “Realize Your Potential,” starting with getting proper chiropractic and muscular exams and commencing an integrated program of correction including laser therapy for pain.
JEROME RERUCHA, DC, BS, CSCS, CHPS, is a practicing clinician, co-owner of Crossfit Eatonton with his wife, Jennette, and a speaker teaching integration of advanced clinical treatment applications and competitive strength and conditioning principles. He teaches seminars on his 3D Brain/Body Mapping™ Examination and Corrective System and is a former full-time strength coach and power-lifter. He founded Performance Chiropractic and Wellness in White Plains, Ga., and can be reached at performancepractic.com.