Ben: I was wondering how precisely your particular treatment affects fibromyalgia. Not getting down to the scientific, biological level or anything, but what does your treatment actually do to treat fibromyalgia and help patients feel better?
Dr. Whitcomb: Well, the interesting thing about this is that fibromyalgia is an upper cervical spinal stenosis, which is actually a choking off of the spinal cord structures -- but not so much of the spinal cord as the meninges, the coverings of the spinal cord itself. Now, a lot of this is still theory, but I believe this is exactly what's happening because it makes perfect sense.
There are a couple of doctors who are neurosurgeons who do surgery for this condition. These guys are enlargening this area, and they're getting rid of fibromyalgia with surgery. You might want to interview them too. They're really sharp guys and very pleasant. What I have found is that they're right: It is the spinal stenosis, but it's caused by movement of the first vertebrae up against the meninges. When that takes place, it pulls on the meninges, which are not that flexible and which are attached to all the nerve roots all the way down the spine. The reason it attaches to the nerve roots is so that it can hold the cerebral spinal fluid in. The fluid that bathes your brain and your spinal cord is held in by the meninges, like a balloon, but the nerves have to go through those meninges to get out. There's an attachment where they go through, and when you pull on the meninges it makes those nerves fire.
So what ends up happening is that all of the nerves are firing at one time into the patient's brain, and now these poor people have symptoms of everything that comes from these nerves. So you will hear them say they feel pain, numbness, tingling, burning, cold, itchiness -- those are just all the proprioceptive fibers that go to the brain from the different areas. That's why they have these sensations, because these nerve roots are all firing.
Now, different nerve roots will fire with different types of pulling and different types of rotations of the first vertebrae, so it's a little different for everybody. One person will maybe have pain in one side. I've had four patients who only had pain in one side. Maybe one patient will have more pain in the legs and the hips, another patient will have more pains in the neck and the shoulders -- all of these things are a little different from person to person, but they're definitely caused by essentially the same thing. So in addition to that, the sympathetic nervous system is affected, so it runs full time. If you walk into your house at night -- and it's dark and you think you're alone -- and somebody grabs you from behind, the feeling you get is a sympathetic nervous system firing. It's really made to help you fight and help you run away from danger. So it's that fight-or-flight syndrome -- that's the sympathetic nervous system. It also causes the adrenal glands to pump adrenaline to give you that extra strength to either run or fight. But with a patient who has fibromyalgia, the sympathetic nervous system runs unchecked.
Mike: Wow, so this explains some of the fatigue that accompanies this condition as well.
Dr. Whitcomb: Exactly. You're one step ahead of me. That's good. So now this patient who lies down to sleep at night has their sympathetic nervous system running, and the adrenal glands are pumping adrenalin, and they can't sleep. Even if they do get sleep or take medication to sleep, they still wake up exhausted. Usually, without medication, they'll stay awake until four or five. They then don't sleep; they pass out from sheer exhaustion.
Dr. Whitcomb: Then they'll wake up the next morning with the sympathetic nervous system going. They're already feeling the anxiety, so they feel like something bad is going to happen -- the definition of anxiety is a feeling of forthcoming evil, some kind of destruction coming upon you. So they feel this horrible anxiety, and a lot of them have panic attacks. All of that is because of the sympathetic nervous system. In addition to that, the sympathetic nervous system affects your intestines, because your intestines digest with the parasympathetic nervous system running. If you need to fight, it immediately shuts off your intestines, and blood flows to other areas like your muscles and so forth. So you have this sympathetic reaction that shuts down the intestines, and these poor people will have constipation, diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
Mike: And probably nutrient absorption difficulties as well, right?
Dr. Whitcomb: Exactly. That's why they'll have allergies. They have food allergies, because all of the nerves in the body are affected by this. The body will read normal pollen as being an antigen that's damaging or harmful, and they'll have an allergic reaction to it. They'll have bad reactions to food. They'll be hypersensitive to caffeine because the nervous system is already running too hard and too fast.
Mike: So there's just this huge domino effect throughout the nervous system.
Dr. Whitcomb: Oh, it's horrible. If you get into PubMed on the internet, and look up fibromyalgia and start running through the research, you're going to find that there's a lot of research and there are a lot of endocrinologists who have been working on this. What they'll say is that they found the pituitary gland doesn't work correctly in fibromyalgia patients. The next guy says, "Well, I've been doing research on the thyroid, and it's not working correctly." I would say that 75 percent of my patients over 40 are on thyroid medication because of thyroid problems -- just about all of them have fibromyalgia. It's probably higher than that, although I haven't done the research on that one. We know the adrenal glands are incredibly fatigued in all fibromyalgia patients. Their female hormones are off, because those hormones are controlled by the nervous system, which is running haywire. The brain is getting so many impulses from all of these nerves firing at one time that the brain becomes, you know, like a computer. You give it too much work to do, and it just sits there with the hourglass.
Dr. Whitcomb: I have some patients who will just sit for hours and stare at the wall. They're just like that. If they're not like that, they're some variation of that. So almost every patient I see is glassy eyed when they come in. They just stare and sit alone. They're just sitting there in absolute misery. Now, the other thing that happens is that your emotional centers are very close to that area too, and they become affected, resulting in massive depression. The depression is at levels that are just unbelievable. We have patients just sitting and crying. Then, they'll be feeling better. When they have a little bit of a setback, they'll come in and sit and cry. It's so frustrating for them.
They may not be depressed, clinically -- they may not be depressed at all -- although they should be just from having this stuff, but they'll have waves of depression that hit them. Sometimes it feels like you're going to get knocked over with it. One of the reasons I know probably more than most people about this is because I had it. So I know what it feels like, and when some of the patients come in, I don't just look at them and say, "You're weird. You need a psychologist." I know where they're coming from. I know what they're feeling, and I can look in their eyes and see what's happening. So, now you've got the depression and this overwhelming fatigue -- they never have a day when they feel rested. Your intestines are bad, you've got diarrhea, you're so exhausted you think you're going to die and you have heavy anxiety. You're going through the day with the sympathetic nervous system just pushing you so hard just as if something [bad] is going to happen all day, just keeping you awake. You're so exhausted that all you want to do is sleep, but you can't. So you can imagine.
Then, what happens is that you get so overwhelmed with this that you talk about it all the time. Your friends bail on you because they get so sick of hearing it. You're lucky if your husband or wife stays with you, because they get sick of hearing it too. It's so overwhelming. Your whole day is totally consumed with pain, depression and fatigue. You can't think about anything else. You can't even think about [your condition] very well, because you're so exhausted you can't think.
Ben: Would you say that your treatment kind of creates a reverse domino effect by what you do to the spine?
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes, exactly. As soon as we take away the pressure that's causing this, we get a reverse effect. I'll give you some kind of an idea what that looks like. Usually, for the first two or three weeks, my patients are very emotional. It's a very emotional time. It's not simple. It's like a journey, and they're going through being away from home, staying here at a motel, being away from their family and friends, and at the same time, this affects your emotions, so they're up and down. Usually, the good part of it is that they have a whole new group of friends that understand them. They have a whole group of people that immediately wrap their arms around them and say, "Come on, it's going to be okay. We've been where you are. Hang in there." So they have really, really close friends. They make some of the best friends of their life during the couple of months they're here.
Ben: Which probably begins its own release process...
Dr. Whitcomb: Oh, yes. It's wonderful. They've got somebody to cry with or hold hands with, and the other women grab them. Sometimes too soon, you know, they start taking them shopping and going places. Anyway, that part of it's a really good time. But somewhere around three weeks, they start sleeping. It's like a miracle. They'll walk into my office, and they actually think there's something wrong, usually. They'll say, "I don't know what's happened to me! All I want to do is sleep all the time, and I'm just sleeping all day long!"
I say, "Good." That's a real big landmark for us, because that shows me that the sympathetic nervous system is going back to normal. At the same time, they quit having irritable bowel syndrome, and their pain's usually starting to cut back. All the emotions are calming down, and they usually sleep almost a week. They'll sleep, wake up, come in for treatment, go back and sleep, and they're having -- once I tell them that it's okay -- just a great time, because they realize, "Hey, I haven't been able to do this in years." I had a girl who I had adjusted once come in this week and say, "I slept ten hours last night! I haven't done that in years!" And she said, "I'm having a great day!" I asked, "When was the last time you had a great day?" She replied that it was about three years ago, which is really unusual. She was young, so I think maybe that made it easier, but I had two of them who slept well this week. One slept 15 hours the first week she was here. Normally, doing that takes about three weeks.
After they get done with the sleeping aspect of it, there's a whole other thing to deal with, because they're waking up and having to deal with life. They've had failed hopes for so long that they're afraid to have hope. They don't normally come here with much hope. They come here because it's one more thing to do, and they're just kind of, in the back of their mind, hoping. But they really don't want to give themselves hope, because they've had failed hope for so long, and failure to hope is one of the hardest things in life to deal with. You know, it's kind of like -- whatever it may be -- your marriage, or whatever. But [it's] especially [difficult] when it has to do with your health, and especially when it's so severe, and especially when you sit at home and think about suicide every day, which all of these people do.
Ben: So you're saying there's a certain amount of comfort that they derive from retreating into this disease?
Dr. Whitcomb: I don't know if any of them would call it comfort, but it's the place they've learned to live -- in their depression, in their fatigue. And here's another term for you: "Their learned helplessness." They learn to be helpless after a while, and other people take care of them and look after them. There's a certain amount of comfort in that, even though it's not fun. When they realize, "Hey, it looks like I'm going to get well," a lot of them get really scared.
Mike: Yes, and then, for the first time, they have to start looking at life and say, "Hey, I'm responsible for the rest of my life."
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. There's a certain point up to which they're just happy, running around and having friends, going places with their friends, doing things they haven't been doing for a long time. But they also have this: What's everybody going to expect of me when I get home? So I try to address that. I have a video of a talk I gave that I show; it's similar to what I'm talking to you about. I tell them, "I want your spouse and everybody to know that you need to go home and you need some months to readjust to being a human being."
I don't want people to go home and have others say, "Okay, now I want you working eight hours a day. You're well, and you've got to pay for this treatment." They need to go home and get used to the idea that they’re well. They need to get used to waking up without feeling like they're going to throw up; they need to get used to the idea that they've got some strength. They need to get used to the idea that they can go places and do things, and that they're a human being. They need to slowly work into life, because it takes a long time. It's not easy, and a lot of people require counseling. We have a counselor that works with us here, with our patients, twice a week.
Mike: So this whole process then, from day one when they show up at your office, to being fully healed, self-healed and integrated back into life -- this whole process can take a year? Or what length of time are we talking about here?
Dr. Whitcomb: My typical patient will be here eight to ten weeks. I'd say 90 percent will go home 80 to 100 percent symptom-free. About half of them require some kind of follow up after they get home. I'll work with their local chiropractor. After that, it depends on the person. I have some people who look like it doesn't bother them at all. They go through it really smooth and just happen to get well.
I have other people who agonize, especially people who've been abused as children. It seems like a lot of my fibromyalgia patients have been. They've maybe been injured; that's probably what started it. They will have memories as they start getting well, especially when you get them into massage. They start to have memories of various things happening to them. If they have those kinds of problems, they have to deal with that, and it takes them a while. Other people just have to deal with the idea of getting well, going back to work and being responsible. They haven't had to be responsible for a long time. Because they've lived a certain life, some of them wonder what it's going to be like now with their husband or wife once they're ready to go home with their spouse.
Mike: Most of your patients, then, are coming to you from out of state or out of the country?
Dr. Whitcomb: Almost all of them, yes. Right now, I would say that 10 percent of our patients are locals and 90 percent are out of state.
Mike: Can I shift gears for a second? What has conventional medicine typically done with fibromyalgia patients? I'm sure you're seeing patients on a lot of different drugs when they come visit you. What has conventional medicine done, and how do you help get them off those drugs, or not?
Dr. Whitcomb: Well, what I see primarily is that the vast majority of people coming in are on some type of pain medication, usually something heavy, such as oxycotin or methadone, which is a replacement for heroin. Both of those are pretty similar. People are taking morphine, or they're taking any variation of Vicodin or some muscle relaxants. But primarily, you're going to see the patients on pain medication, sleeping medication and antidepressants -- those three.
Dr. Whitcomb: Almost always, my patients will come in on those three. Oftentimes, it'll be on heavy doses. Now, that's the primary treatment that medicine has been providing for fibromyalgia patients. Rheumatologists are doing most of this. I'm not sure why the rheumatologists end up getting these patients, but that seems to be where everyone's sending them. Most of my friends say, "If we don't know what to do with them, we send them to the rheumatologists." But that's kind of how they ended up there.
The other thing being done is that Dr. Armand in LA has been giving people guaifenesin. That seems to help the muscle pain. We didn't talk much about the muscle pain, but people get muscle pain because the nerves firing the other way cause them to spasm, and they just stay tight all the time. They get scar tissue and build up a lot of toxins in there. Anyway, the guaifenesin usually makes them sick for about two months, and then they start feeling better. It seems to be helping the muscle pain. Another thing that's being done, I've had two patients come in, and they were put on chemotherapy for [fibromyalgia] for a year and a half.
Mike: You're kidding me!
Dr. Whitcomb: No.
Dr. Whitcomb: Chemotherapy. I had two patients who had their breasts reduced because they were told [their condition] was coming from the way their breasts were pulling on their shoulders. I had two ladies that had their first ribs removed, because they were told that that's why they're having the pain in their arms.
Mike: Wait a minute. You're not making this up?!
Dr. Whitcomb: No, I'm not making it up at all.
Mike: So surgeons are going in and just misdiagnosing or just taking a wild guess?
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. They say, "Well, your arms are hurting, and your shoulders are hurting. The reason is because your breasts are large," -- and so they reduce them. Like I said, one lady, who unfortunately hasn't gotten here yet, had her rib taken out because they said that's what was causing the pain in her arm. They damaged the nerve, and now she has a claw hand; it's all curled up. I've got a guy who I examined last month coming here in a couple of months. He's actually in Sweden, so he has to wait for his visa. But he had chemotherapy for a year and a half.
Mike: Isn't it true that patients -- when they're in a lot of pain -- will follow that false hope offered by a surgeon, even if it makes no sense whatsoever?
Dr. Whitcomb: When you wake up in the morning, and your only thought when you wake up is "How in the world am I ever going to live through the day?" you'd do just about anything to get rid of that.
Mike: Yes, I think so.
Dr. Whitcomb: This is the one thing we want to be careful of here, which is that we don't give people false hope or unreasonable expectations, because not everybody's going to get well. We've had a shocking response. I mean, I wake up every day and think, "This is impossible! I can't be doing this!" I see these patients come in, looking like they're going to die, then they get well. It's really shocking to me.
I've had a couple of patients, three of them now, with bad spinal stenosis in the neck that I just couldn't help too much. I helped a little bit, but not too much. It wasn't the upper neck; it was the lower neck and the spinal cord was being choked off. We told him ahead of time, saying, "We're not sure we can help you." I only had limited results in all three of them. That's another problem: Sometimes it's not all fibromyalgia. For the most part, it's working really well. You know, I think the best thing you could possibly do is sit in my waiting room and talk to my patients, because they're the ones who can tell the real story.
Mike: For someone who's out there and reading or listening to this and suffering from fibromyalgia, who maybe is thinking of coming to visit you -- what's it going to cost them to go through treatment like this, or is that something that's considered on a one-to-one basis?
Dr. Whitcomb: We will normally see a patient three times a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, twice on Tuesday and Thursday and once on the weekend. The reason I do once on the weekend is that I need to have a couple of days for healing of those joints, because we're doing so much work. It seems that if I let them go through the whole weekend, then by Monday, everybody's become a little sick.
So we try to do just a light adjustment, something to help in the middle of the weekend somewhere. We charge $62.50 per visit, which is under the national average for chiropractors. But at the same time, we're seeing them often enough that it ends up being relatively expensive. So it usually ends up costing, for a four-week treatment, about $3500, which includes the exam, consultation, the report of findings and X-rays.
Mike: Okay, so it costs less than one round of chemotherapy.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes, it is.
Ben: Do you find, after these people start to experience relief, that they tend to get away from these drugs and other treatments? Or do some of them continue on afterwards for other reasons?
Dr. Whitcomb: Most of my patients are either off of all their meds, or 80 percent off within six weeks. So they usually leave here without meds. Some of the people who have been long-term on antidepressants or something, they'll sometimes have to take longer to get off the medications. One thing I want to make really clear is that I don't take any of my patients off their medications. I always have them work with the doctor who [initially] put them on the medications to get them off. When they start feeling better, the pain is better, the depression is better -- when all those systems are better -- they talk to their doctor and say, "Look, I'm getting better. Help me get off the medication." I don't like to interfere with what other [doctors] are doing, much the same way I don't let them interfere with my treatment.
Mike: You can just imagine how their livers must be so glad to have a break after all of that.
Dr. Whitcomb: This is a problem for me. By the time I send them home in eight or ten weeks, they're feeling good, they're off their meds and they've accomplished so much, but I would love to be able to send them from here right into a detox program to get all that junk out of their system. We're hoping we can find a place where we have a hot springs or some kind of resort, a place where we can have patients go for their treatment out to the hot springs. That would be wonderful for the patients who wanted to keep on longer to get them into exercise programs, detox programs, control their foods, that type of thing. Get them back on their feet a little stronger.
Mike: I have a question about how this problem actually begins with people. Is it usually physical trauma? Can it be a difficult birth that causes it? Or is it something later in life that happens to people?
Dr. Whitcomb: This is really interesting. We've known for a long time that trauma is associated with it, and that's something I found out due to a couple of patients who had been in car accidents. You won't find this in the literature anywhere, and I'm doing some research on this right now and hopefully this year will publish a paper on it, but something that you're going to find is that surgeries are causing fibromyalgia.
Mike: Can you explain more?
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. I've got some anesthesiologists I've been working with trying to figure this out. When you sleep at night, you have muscle tone. If you get sore, you roll over. If it's uncomfortable, you move out of that position. When you're having surgery, you have no muscle tone at all. You're totally flaccid, and it doesn't take a lot to change something. I may be wrong, but I think what's happening, number one, is that the position they place the head in order to put the trachea tube in is the same position we would use to take the first vertebrae and shove it forward if it was backward.
In addition to that, they put a support underneath the neck. According to some of the people who work in surgery, sometimes a support is made for that, and sometimes it's just an IV pack or something to support the neck and do the best they can to make the patient comfortable. But what's happening is, I think, they're shoving the whole first vertebra forward against the whole spinal cord when they're doing that, or shoving against the meninges. I had so many patients say that they came out of the surgery and they were in screaming pain all over their body. They said that they had no idea where it came from, and it didn't go away.
Dr. Whitcomb: Or they had fibromyalgia from a car accident earlier, and now, all of a sudden, they came out of surgery and their symptoms doubled. Their fibromyalgia doubled after surgery of some type.
Mike: Of course, not too many surgeons are trained in chiropractic medicine, so they don't know what they're doing in terms of the spine.
Dr. Whitcomb: Right. Well, nobody really thinks about it, I think. They're doing their job to the best of their abilities to make the patients healthy. These are nice people. But this is something we want to bring to the attention of everybody and hopefully we can develop some techniques to stop that.
Mike: Obviously, there are going to be a lot of skeptics out there any time. I mean, there's a lot of skepticism just about chiropractic medicine still existing in conventional medicine. I think chiropractic medicine has a very strong track record at this point -- no question about it. But beyond that, anyone who says that they can treat any condition with such a high rate of success is going to be treated with extra skepticism.
Ben: Raised eyebrows, in other words.
Dr. Whitcomb: It would be better if I said 50 percent, you know? It would probably be more believable.
Mike: Right. But I'm sure you've had your share of skeptics on this. How do you answer the skeptics? How do you deal with them?
Dr. Whitcomb: Well, if you went to USC, and your buddy went to UCLA, you're both going to say your school's better than the other person's. I think that's kind of like how chiropractics and medicine is. We kind of look at a lot of the things they do and ask, "Why in the world would you do that to a person that has this?" Migraine headaches, for example -- they're pretty easy to fix with a chiropractor, but [MDs] are just medicating and letting them suffer with it. We always wonder about that, or many other things that are done. They look at us and say, "We think this should be done this way." So you're always going to have some skepticism between the two fields. Then you're going to have lay people who'll read your article, and look at it and say, "This guy's such an idiot." But you know there are always those people out there.
Dr. Whitcomb: There's always a group of people who just live in negativity; that's just who they are. I'm sad to say it. Maybe it's just their life experiences.
Ben: In your interview with The Nevada Appeal, you predicted some sort of battle with medical professionals about your treatment. Is that what you were referring to?
Dr. Whitcomb: Probably -- just lack of understanding. It also may be professional jealousy. You know, here's the problem. Right now, we've got probably 20 million people in this country who are seeing medical practitioners for fibromyalgia. We have a lot of really smart medical doctors and researchers here working on this, trying to figure out what it is. Now, who in the world is this dumb little chiropractor in South Lake Tahoe to think that he could possibly figure this out?
Ben: Out of nowhere.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. That's understandable. You're spending millions and millions over here at John Hopkins, hoping to figure this out, and some dumb chiropractor says he's figured it out? Doesn't make sense to me.
Mike: Right. Although I would say that there's also the issue that this condition is -- gosh, I don't know how to say this in a politically correct way. I mean, if patients need a lot of meds on this, then that's a sustainable business model for pharmaceuticals -- that's my theory. I know that may not be your theory. Sadly, I don't think there's that much of an attempt to take people off of medications these days.
Dr. Whitcomb: I don't think there's a lot of attempt because -- let's say you're a doctor, and you have a patient that comes in to see you, just in tears. The patient tells you, "I'm in so much pain. I have so much depression." The patient is going through this whole thing. You ask, "Is the patient really telling the truth? Could this really be possible?" Now we've come up with fibromyalgia as a real entity that is causing this, and people come in telling you this. You look at them and ask, "How can I help you?" You take out your checklist: Symptom number one, depression. Antidepressants. Number two, pain. So I think MDs are just doing their best in all honesty to help their patients. I mean, why wouldn't they? Why wouldn't you, if you were a doctor? I don't think anyone's being malicious out there.
The problem I've had from some of their patients is that they go to doctors, and the doctors look at them and say, "You know what your problem is? You just need to pull your act together, get a life, go back to work and quit whining!" They really tell them that. My patients are so sick to start with, they just lose it and they'll come in here hysterical, just crying after one of those kinds of meetings. There's a doctor here in town that does that.
Ben: The National Fibromyalgia Association President, Lynn Matallana, says that controlled studies into your treatment will probably be needed before they can...
Dr. Whitcomb: We're doing [controlled studies] right now.
Ben: What steps are being taken to get those control studies rolling?
Dr. Whitcomb: With Dr. Plaugher, the head of research who is also a radiologist over at Life Chiropractic West, we're taking the next 30 patients coming through here right now. We're doing documentation on all of those, and we're going to get some real clean figures on exactly what happens and publish that. So that'll be good. Also, [Dr. Plaugher] is the one I want to do the research with on the surgeries causing fibromyalgia. Auto accidents, we already know, cause fibromyalgia. It's other traumas too.
I've got two patients who dove in the pool and hit their head and got fibromyalgia. I've had patients who were beat up that have fibromyalgia. Falls [cause fibromyalgia]. Lots of auto accidents -- the statistics on auto accidents have been well documented in our medical books. It is phenomenal: At something like 15 miles per hour, if you're rear-ended, your head, which normally weighs 12 lbs, now weighs 120 lbs. That kind of force pulls backward at 15 miles per hour. If you happen to get hit at 40 miles per hour, the amount of force is so heavy that it's no wonder that [the spine] slips out of place.
Mike: That makes sense. By the way, is there a website or a phone number that you want to give out?
Dr. Whitcomb: http://www.stopfibro.com
is our website. We have lots of different things: We have video testimonies, written testimonies, and a lot of information. I even have a book in progress. It's on its way, but it needs a lot of work. I put that on there because I feel there is some information that people could learn something from. And our phone number is (530)-543-0800.
Mike: Is there any other important area that you want to mention or cover before we wrap this up?
Dr. Whitcomb: Let's see…
Mike: Ben's got one more question for you as well.
Ben: It's kind of a backtrack, but I was really just wondering, did you find relief of your own symptoms through chiropractic treatment?
Dr. Whitcomb: This is always my weak point. I wish I had a great story for this but I don't. It's a crummy story. I was getting chiropractic care because I had an office with chiropractors there. I don't know if it was the chiropractic care or if it was because I'm a man, but with time, I healed and dealt with it. Because men have much larger bone structures, they're built to take abuse much better, so we have a better chance of getting over it. Also we don't get [fibromyalgia] as often as women, who have frail structures. They're not really built to take the kind of trauma that we were made for.
Ben: Right. I read that 90 percent of fibromyalgia patients are women.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. There are different stats on it. One said 4.5 percent of women have fibro and 1.5 percent of men. I've seen some variations of all that. I'm even trying to do some research to find out how many fibromyalgia patients commit suicide, and the closest we have right now is 14 percent, but I'm not sure that that's an accurate figure. It sounds way too high.
Mike: It sounds very high.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. I think the national average for suicide is 2 per 100,000, so that would be extremely high. But at any rate, I know that it's high because people are very sick, and they definitely don't want to live like that.
Ben: "Any option," as you were saying earlier.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes, [suicide] is one of the options. I had a patient here a couple of months ago. I'd never spoken with her, and she had been referred by one of my regular patients. She was supposed to come in, but two weeks before she was supposed to get here, she committed suicide.
Ben: I'm sorry to hear that.
Dr. Whitcomb: I certainly hope that this message can get out there to people who are suffering from fibromyalgia right now, and give them a new option -- something else that they can pursue to finally reverse this condition. I know what you said about false hope as well. I don't want to say to every person listening to this that this is the magic solution, but it's one more option to explore.
Ben: It's hope.
Dr. Whitcomb: I definitely don't want to overstate anything, but I can tell you, there's a lot of excitement here in the office, an awful lot of excitement. You know, if the patients weren't getting well, they'd just come here, sit in the waiting room, look at each other and ask, "Are you getting well? No? I'm not getting well either. Why don't we just go home?" They'd just all get up and leave. I mean, they're all friends. They all sit together, and they're all here together every day. They ride together in cars; they come in carloads.
Ben: Well, that's something positive right there.
Dr. Whitcomb: Yes. Just the fact that they stay through the treatment shows that they're getting well. Why would they if they weren't?
Mike: Indeed. And you're located in?
Dr. Whitcomb: South Lake Tahoe, California.
Mike: Well, I want to thank you so much for taking time to go over all of this.
Dr. Whitcomb: Oh, you're welcome. It's my pleasure. Any time you have any questions, feel free to call me. I'd love to speak with you. And hopefully, if this gets out and helps a few people, it'd be so wonderful.