[00:00:03] Hi everyone, welcome to the very first episode of the Hope for Chronic Pain podcast. This podcast is brought to you by Dr. Katinka van der Merwe.
Dr. Katinka grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, as the daughter of a successful chiropractic doctor.
[00:00:17] She followed in her father’s footsteps and graduated from Parker College of Chiropractic in 1999. She has since gained a reputation for developing a novel, non-invasive treatment system for neurologic rehabilitation of chronic pain, resulting in breakthroughs for even the most hopeless and severe cases.
[00:00:36] Her and her team have gained international attention due to their unprecedented success rates in these cases. Kent State University is slated to be involved with the first study of her work starting this year.
[00:00:48] She’s an international speaker and best-selling author of three books: Putting Out the Fire, Taming the Beast, and Wake Up: Miracles of Healing from Around the World. Dr. Katinka practices in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and is the CEO of The Spero Clinic. Today, you’ll be listening to Dr. Katinka discuss how she is trailblazing a new approach to treating chronic pain in her clinic. Here’s Dr. Katinka-
[00:01:13] Welcome to my first podcast.
[00:01:15] I am so excited to connect with you today, wherever you are, and the reason for that is because my passion is to reach out to people in daily chronic pain and change lives. I want to get new information out there to you guys – crucial information that everybody needs to hear. If you have chronic pain, you have ripples that go out, and it affects the people around you, not just you. It affects what kind of parent you can be every day. It affects your loved ones. It affects whether you can contribute to society and still work. And I do not think that it’s a good way to live – to simply survive every day. We were designed, and born, in my opinion, to thrive and to live with a certain kind of joy. And when you have to focus on just getting by and being in pain every single day, you don’t have enough energy left to really thrive and live in joy. When you are in pain, you’ve probably been moving in a world that is mostly medical, and you’ve seen a ton of doctors. You may have had a hard time getting a diagnosis and then you certainly have had a hard time getting an effective way of treating your pain. And the reason for that is not that our doctors are not smart or incredibly good at what they do. We live in a country where if you need emergency surgery or intervention if you were in a car accident, you are in the very best place in the world to get that fixed.
[00:03:08] But when you live in chronic pain and the approach is to try to numb that pain, or interfere with that pain, or just kill the fire alarm of this fire that’s burning in your body rather than addressing the fire, you’re not ever going to get anywhere in getting to the bottom of the cause of that pain.
A little bit of background about me. I was born in South Africa to a chiropractic dad who was incredibly successful and very purpose driven. And he never stopped studying. He never stopped going to seminars and going to other countries to learn more. And I will never forget one day I was really young asking him, Dad, when is it enough? When are you going to know enough? And he said, Katinka, it is not the 8 out of 10 people that you help that drive you, but it’s the 2 out of 10 people that you cannot help that keep you from sleeping at night. And that will always drive me until I can help ten out of ten people. And that became my creed today. I cannot rest. I cannot stop until we figure out a way to help the people that are not finding solutions.
[00:04:24] And so I became singularly obsessed with helping the worst of the worst cases. I treated my first case of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome 10 years ago and that was the start of my career. Now, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a nerve condition where you have a relatively innocent injury and then you get this horrific burning nerve pain in a limb. The limb may change colors and it may become purple and swollen. And you have this horrific burning pain that will spread to other areas of your body. When Carlos (my first CRPS patient) came in, he was suicidal, and he had a nine-month-old baby and his wife with him. And I remember his wife didn’t speak to me very much during his history, but he finally looked up at me and said, “I don’t want to live anymore, and I don’t think that you can help me. But my wife said I have to come to one more doctor. And you’re that doctor.” I mean, talk about a ton of pressure. I remember going to the back and I had tears in my eyes and my dad was there and I said, “What if I cannot help him?” And my dad said, “But what if you could? You have to try.” So, I did. And thank goodness Carlos did incredible.
He also suffered from gastroparesis, meaning his GI tract wasn’t working at all. He had lost 60 pounds and he could only drink chicken broth instead of eating solid foods.
[00:05:58] And then he would be in screaming pain, curled up in a ball after he ate until the pain subsided many, many hours later. So, the first night I treated him, he went out and ate a full meal, and 12 weeks later was in full remission from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Still today, 10 years later, he has had invasive surgeries and he has had no return of symptoms. In the moment where I helped him, I became addicted to miracles and helping to transform someone’s life. Being a part of that transformation is literally like saving someone’s life, and that is a feeling that beats out all other feelings. So that is what drives me. Today, I’m the CEO and founder of the Spero Clinic. We are located in Northwest Arkansas and we have treated almost 400 patients suffering from conditions that cause chronic pain or other symptoms like gastroparesis. Very serious conditions. Sometimes they come in with feeding tubes. Sometimes they’ve already attempted suicide many times. Suffice it to say, they’re the worst of the worst. And we have figured out a really effective system of helping these patients.
When you see hundreds of patients and you’re doing all these tests and taking histories, you get answers that may have been missed medically. You start seeing patterns, and patterns are everything. Patterns drive you towards more effective treatments, and they help you to figure out those difficult cases, and then you can turn around and help thousands of other patients.
[00:07:56] And what I have learned from treating these patients is that there is a better way, there’s a different way than the way we’re addressing things medically. First and most important, the patient has to be addressed holistically. Now, holistic medicine has become a very common term, and there are certainly thousands of people out there that practice alternative and holistic medicine today. But what sets us apart is the type of conditions we’re treating with great effectiveness over and over again, and the answers we’re getting by looking at the entire person. If you have pain in your leg, and you go to the doctor and then you happen to mention that you’re also nauseous every day when you eat, that doctor is going to send you to a GI doctor, and the GI doctor isn’t going to pay attention to your nerve pain. They’re going to treat it as a separate set of symptoms. But the thing is, there is no part of your body that is not also connected to the other parts, you are a whole being, every single part affects every other part. And so, you have to treat the patient as a whole rather than separate parts. You’re not fixing an engine. You’re treating a human being. And so, you have to widen your lens.
[00:09:24] You have to widen your scope, and you have to ask yourself, why does the nerve pain patient also have GI pain? Why do they also have headaches? Because all of these things are connected. We have figured out all of these answers, or I would say a lot of these answers. And I am going to pass that knowledge to you guys so that you can take this knowledge and find better answers for yourselves.
Now, people always say, what do you do that makes you so special? Ten years ago, when I helped Carlos, I continued to help people until I ran into a patient that I couldn’t help, and I was obsessed. It’s all I thought about day or night. I would be up all night long doing research. And I was lucky that I knew some of the brightest minds in the alternative world. And we looked worldwide for new systems that could help our patients. I had the basic philosophy of what I was trying to do, but to find the best machine or the best supplement is an art.
We started doing laboratory work on patients and we figured out that most of our patients showed signs of infections, either viral or bacterial. And you may wonder after you’ve probably done very complicated and extensive blood work, why is it that your medical doctor hasn’t found these infections?
[00:11:04] And the answer is that it all depends on how you look at the information in front of you. How are you interpreting it? Rather than active infections, you really want to look for the footprints of old infections, and if you do not have holistic training, you can miss those signs very easily. So that is one part of what we do. We also have a very heavy approach towards central nervous system rehabilitation. Your brain and your spinal cord and your cranial nerves form your central nervous system, that then turn into peripheral nerves. And this system is vastly intelligent. It runs your immune system, your digestion, your healing, your sleep. All of those things are connected. One of the main ways we rehabilitate this is by treating a nerve called the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is your tenth cranial nerve. And it’s a very big nerve, one of the biggest nerves in your body besides the spinal cord. And there is a ton of research today about this nerve and what it does in the body. One of the things that it does is control inflammation. When you talk about inflammation in nerves, you’re now approaching pain and the world of chronic pain. We address inflammation in the brain. When you have inflammation in your brain, you may have brain fog, headaches, and it affects your entire central nervous system and how well it’s able to do its job.
[00:12:45] We do very special rehabilitation where you are hooked up to equipment that sends a direct current through the body, where every second you’re on the machine, it’s the equivalent of 250 seconds of normal physical therapy. So, when you watch our videos on social media and you see people in wheelchairs with no muscle mass, 12 weeks later being able to run or sprint, that’s how we’re doing it. I have amassed 15 different therapies and approaches that we put together in this system where each thing makes the other thing exponentially more powerful. Think about pulling a rope, you know, a rope pulling competition. If it’s just you fighting against a whole other team, you have no power. But if you have team members behind you also pulling and now you’re pulling together, you become exponentially strong. It doesn’t mean that your part didn’t matter, but you weren’t backed up by enough other people. That’s how our treatments work. One thing backs up the next thing so that each thing becomes more effective. Another part of our treatment that I think is incredibly important is to always have people work on you that have a deep empathy for how you feel, how much your suffering is affecting your life, what your future goals are, and why you matter as a human being.
[00:14:21] And to that end, I have handpicked my staff from all walks of life. The most important thing when I hire someone is not necessarily their skill set, because that can be taught. But their passion and empathy for helping people is key – because that part cannot be taught.
So that is the broad frame of what we do. When people come in, they’re normally taking a massive amount of supplements. And it’s not that supplements are bad, but when the cells cannot receive supplements, when the cell membranes are not healthy and they cannot detoxify or light nutrition in, then you’re basically wasting money on supplements that cannot make it into the cells. So, before you start rehabilitating a patient, the very first thing you need to do is open communication in the body. When you were born, you were formed from one egg cell and one sperm cell, and then it divided into two cells and then it divided into four cells and eight cells and sixteen cells and so on. This all happened before you had this tiny being that would one day develop into a baby. So, not to get too esoteric, but there is this powerful force within our bodies that runs that process. In the chiropractic world, we call that innate intelligence, meaning inborn intelligence that’s incredibly smart and that runs your body without you having to think about it or figure it out. When you eat an apple, you don’t have to think about it anymore. Your body takes over and it decides whether there is vitamin C in that apple, or water in that apple, or fiber in the apple, and where the nutrients need to go. It decides what parts of the apple your body will no longer need and that can be discarded as waste. We accept certain things as every day, we just take it for granted. We know that our nails will grow and that the hair on our body will grow and we will need haircuts. But we don’t think about the incredible intelligence behind growing one single hair on your head. All the scientists in the world cannot create a hair in a lab. Your body has to do that. And that intelligence did not just forsake you one day. It didn’t decide to leave and now your body needs to be run from the outside in with pharmaceuticals and chemicals that suppress pain signals. Pain serves a very important function. Pain is your body’s way of telling your brain that it’s in trouble and something needs attention from that innate intelligence. But our bodies were designed in a way where after a while, if something isn’t getting fixed, the body will start ignoring it or “divorce” it, if you will.
[00:17:51] Think about a ship. Our ships today were designed with different compartments so that if a ship gets a hole in it, (think of the Titanic and what happened to it) then that compartment is sealed off so that the whole ship isn’t sunk. And your body is kind of the same way. Think about a hundred-dollar bill. Every single day, you only have one hundred dollars’ worth of energy available to go through daily life. For example, maybe eating that apple will take five dollar’s worth of energy, and walking will take two dollars’ worth of energy. Just having your eyes open and taking in sounds and smells will take ten dollar’s worth of energy. Whether you’re one day old or one hundred years old, you still have one-hundred-dollar bill worth of energy. But how your body applies that energy is different at every age and level of health, so that if you are sick and you have daily chronic pain, and after a while your innate intelligence decides that it’s not being healed, your brain will start ignoring that injury, and we call that lack of neurologic recognition. So, a big part of what we do is just to unblock that energy so that the brain can get to work and pay attention to that body part so that it can heal itself from within.
[00:19:29] Now, there are different subtleties to this system that can interfere with why your body is supposed to heal, because a very legitimate question is, if my body is so smart, why is it not fixing itself? Well, because as human beings, we get in the way of that healing. I once listened to a vet talk about animals and he said that there are only a very finite amount of diseases that dogs can suffer from, for instance. But for humans, we have infinite possibilities of ways that we can mess our bodies up. And we have thousands of different types of cancers and autoimmune diseases that we can suffer from. The difference between humans and animals is that we have free will to eat whatever we want, put whatever junk we want into our bodies, and think thoughts that are not good for us or conducive to a healthy environment. When you have a negative thought, each and every cell in your body can hear and experience that thought. If we get infections inside of our body, it’s really eerie and creepy, but the bacteria and viruses kind of control their environment. They will start demanding certain types of nutrients. If you have a Candida infection, you’ll find yourself craving sugar a lot because that is what feeds the candida, it wants a certain pH. and so we have so many ways that we mess ourselves up.
[00:21:21] So a basic shotgun approach in our clinic is to address all three stresses. And when I say stresses, I mean chemical, physical and emotional stress. A good example of a chemical stress is when you take any pharmaceutical drug or when you drink a diet soda that has aspartame in it, or you eat something that was made with hydrogenated fat or oil. Emotional stress means anything that happened to you that you did not process correctly. And it’s still in your hard drive, meaning your subconscious mind, causing your brain to act as if it’s being attacked when it’s not being attacked. So, it’s caught in a sympathetic state. Sympathetic meaning the part of your nervous system that runs your body automatically thinks that your life is in danger and there’s an imminent threat to your life when there is no threat. And that could lead to feeling anxiety all the time or not being able to sit down and have a meal or go to sleep. Think about an example where you’re walking in the woods and then you see a mountain lion stalking you. Your heart rate is going to go up. You’re going to be anxious, very fearful. The last thing on your mind is laying down next to the path and taking a little nap or eating a hamburger. Your nervous system will not allow you to do that.
[00:22:55] So it’s not that your body is doing the wrong thing, it’s doing the right thing, but it’s doing it at the wrong time. It’s a timing issue in the central nervous system. And then, of course, we have physical stress. You may have had a car accident 20 years ago where you had an old whiplash injury, but biomechanically it was never healed correctly. Maybe you had a physical injury where you had a scar on your body. Scar tissue is very interesting because it can interfere healing in other parts of your body. And we tend to think about scar tissue as a local problem, as an aesthetic problem. But scar tissue creates a ripple in the communication of the nervous system in your body. Think of a river that’s flowing and then you have a giant boulder in the middle of that river, and it creates ripples. That is how it affects your body. So rather than nerve communication just flowing through nerves, we now know that that nerve communication on a quantum level moves from cell to cell. And if you have scar tissue, it creates a block in that communication. So, you have to affect and address all three of those stresses – physical, chemical and emotional, to effectively help the patient. When you start appreciating and understanding how the human body is designed and understand that every part is connected to every other part, now you have a framework and a blueprint to start looking for better answers for yourself.
[00:24:48] It is our hope through this podcast to address all of these stresses and really delve into the blood work that we offer, the laboratory tests that we look at, science that you could find on your own if your doctor wasn’t trained in that world so that you can find better answers for yourself. But if I have one piece of advice for yourself today, it’s that you have to become your own best advocate. You cannot ever take your body and hand it to a doctor and expect them to fix you from the outside in. All healing has to happen from the inside out. You have to advocate for yourself. If your doctor isn’t listening to you and if your doctor isn’t believing you, find a doctor who cares about your outcome. You do not have to put up with abusive behavior or with being dismissed by your doctor. Any doctor, including myself, is being paid by you to perform a job and to perform that job well. And the number one thing they need is empathy for how you feel on a daily basis. I’m always amazed how patients will say that they don’t feel understood by their doctor and they are not getting answers, but yet they will continue to go back.
[00:26:17] We’ve been raised in a system where we think that the medical world is all powerful and we’re supposed to toe the line, or we will be fired as patients. But guess what? You can fire doctors as well. So that is my advice for you for now. I’m so happy about the information we’re sitting on and I’m so excited about the possibilities of how we can change the world. If our system can work for patients who suffer from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, autoimmune disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, then that makes other symptoms more simple. And that means that our system can help to up-regulate the bodies of thousands of patients out there so that their bodies become more effective at healing from within. The real doctor, the real energy that’s going to help you get your life back is already inside of your body. It is not out there. It’s not something you have to chase. You just need to figure out how to get that system on its feet again, so to speak, so that your body can start to do what it was designed to do from within, which is to thrive and be healthy and bring joy to you so that it will allow your spirit to do whatever you’re here to do in this world.
[00:27:57] Again, thank you so much for listening to me.
[00:27:59] I’m looking forward to much more time with you guys and to giving you all this wonderful information and hopefully make a difference in thousands of lives of people that I would not otherwise have met.
[00:28:15] Thank you so much for joining today. We’re excited about every new person we are able to reach.
[00:28:20] It is our most sincere hope that our podcast will bring hope to many. We hope you’ll join us for our next episode, where Dr. Katinka will be discussing the hidden connection between viruses and chronic pain. If you or someone you love is suffering from chronic pain, don’t lose hope. Visit our website at www.thesperoclinic.com for information and stories of healing. That’s www.thesperoclinic.com. Thanks so much.