A Holistic Approach to Healthy Living
When most of us begin to feel pain or discomfort, whether it’s in the back, leg, head or somewhere in between, for many, the go-to remedy comes in some form of medication. While this can sometimes be quick fix, there are many natural alternatives that are not only just as effective, but can also prevent or curb other problems you may be experiencing.
Physical therapy, massage therapy and acupuncture are all wonderful alternatives to taking medication when pain arises. While they can be viewed as treatment for someone who is severely injured or as a luxury or extraneous service, these three techniques are actually beneficial for overall health and wellness, in addition to helping combat pain.
Each treatment is not only helpful on its own, but can be combined to achieve an even greater benefit. Determine which treatment or combination of treatments sounds like the best option for you. The next time you have a headache and are about the reach into your medicine cabinet, remember there are great alternatives to choose from that will last much longer than four to six hours.
By Dr. Melissa Cere, PT, DPT
Why Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists have extensive education, now through doctorate level training, on how to evaluate and treat movement dysfunctions and pain related to the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. Physical therapists conduct a complete medical history and thorough physical examination, including an evaluation of functional movement, specific to a patient’s needs. Functional assessments can range from getting in and out of bed to evaluating an athlete’s movement patterns for running, jumping or throwing.
Physical therapy includes a variety of treatment interventions including hands-on techniques to improve soft tissue and joint mobility, specific exercise to improve flexibility and strength and posture and body mechanics education to move more efficiently and safely. Based strongly in the sciences of anatomy, physiology and physics, physical therapy has evolved to treat not only orthopedic conditions, post-surgical impairments, balance and dizziness, but specialty practice may also include treatment of temporomandibular (TMJ) dysfunction, pelvic pain, pelvic floor weakness and cancer-related impairments.
Why is it great for you?
Physical therapists can serve in a primary care role to evaluate and treat your joint and muscle aches, sprains, strains, neck and back pain, imbalance and difficulty walking and even vertigo related to head movement. By going directly to a physical therapist for these conditions, you can more quickly access the treatment you need to help you move better with less pain and more safely, often resulting in overall fewer healthcare dollars spent.
The goal of a physical therapist is to not only help resolve an individual’s current symptoms and movement difficulties, but also to give them the tools to help manage their symptoms long-term and hopefully prevent injury or surgery. Over time, this can also result in better management of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis with less medications and disability.
Early intervention by a physical therapist can also help prevent progression of a condition, such as with treating pelvic floor weakness after pregnancy to prevent urinary leakage or pelvic organ prolapse over time. When specifically looking at injury prevention with athletes, a groundbreaking study in the August 2008 American Journal of Sports Medicine found that female soccer players who participated in a physical therapist-developed prevention program had an overall ACL injury rate 41 percent lower than the group who did their regular training regime. For children to elderly adults, physical therapists can be key players in developing a healthier lifestyle, as well as preventing injury and disability.
By Mary Kennedy, LMT
Why is Massage Therapy?
Massage has long been considered a luxury item for pampering the body. However, massage is now also being viewed for its’ therapeutic benefits, especially when used in conjunction with other modalities such as physical therapy, or PT. A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine in 2011 found that massage therapy, in conjunction with PT for back pain, can reduce the severity of pain and keep people pain-free for longer. The medical community is beginning to embrace massage, as licensed therapists are seeing increased referrals from physicians.
If you haven’t tried massage before, don’t be nervous. Ask your physician or a trusted friend for a recommendation. You don’t need a prescription, but it may help your therapist know what your physician would specifically like to address. Interview your therapist and discuss your health concerns before the session begins, and ask if your therapist has experience with your specific need. A good experience can lead to a healthy partnership with your therapist and a healthier, happier you.
Why is it great for you?
The overall benefits of massage therapy include increased circulation, increased flexibility and range of motion of joints, decreased insomnia and anxiety and decreased pain. Massage can be used for a variety of health conditions and is especially good at treating problems related to movement. Neck, back, shoulder discomfort and pain associated with repetitive motions are all common reasons people seek massage therapy. Massage is also beneficial for headaches, TMJ disorders, plantar fasciitis and fibromyalgia.
Many athletes use massage therapy to increase performance and prevent injuries. By increasing flexibility and helping muscles track correctly, the chance of injury is lessened and performance is increased. In one case, a competitive fitness athlete improved her squat weight from 195 to 235 lbs. after one session of working on her hamstrings.
A new concept emerging in massage therapy is “pre-hab” massage, or massage therapy before surgery. This is performed usually in conjunction with physical therapy to help keep the affected joint mobile and improve the muscle tone around the joint. Massage can help loosen the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joint, thereby allowing the person to continue to exercise and remain active through the time of surgery.
By Amy Galvan, AP
What is Acupuncture?
According to Florida law, acupuncture is defined as a form of primary healthcare that employs diagnosis and treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine concepts for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health, as well as the prevention of disease.
Acupuncture is most often practiced by inserting ultrafine, sterile, surgical-grade stainless steel needles into acupuncture points on the body or ear. Unlike medical hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are as fine as a man’s whiskers, and they are microengineered to bypass nerves in the skin so patients don’t feel pain. Stimulation of these points creates a healing cascade in the body for reasons science is just beginning to validate using modern technology such as functional MRIs and nanotechnology. Acupuncture has been used as an effective natural form of healing for over 2,500 years. Today, in the U.S., acupuncture is the #1 modality chosen by Americans seeking complementary health.
Why is it great for you?
Acupuncture is used for three main reasons: to address a health problem; to prevent a health problem; and to optimize health. The later is used mostly by professional and amateur athletes who desire a competitive edge. Women who seek to become pregnant also use acupuncture to optimize health by encouraging healthy baby development.
In addition, acupuncture restores your body’s ability to heal itself. A healthy body naturally heals itself, but an unhealthy body needs a little help. It’s a safe, effective, and affordable solution to most healthcare problems, as most major medical insurance companies cover acupuncture treatment.
Acupuncture has no side effects, no drug interactions and can be performed without breaking the skin if done using laser light, electromagnetic stimulation or pressure stimulation. It can be used independently or in conjunction with conventional medical interventions such as drugs and surgery.
Acupuncture is the only complementary and alternative medicine that’s still growing in the U.S. with its use in the U.S. tripling over the past 10 years. If you’re looking to resolve nagging health problems, prevent disease and achieve your highest level of sustainable health, then you should consider acupuncture.
Doctors of Oriental medicine use acupuncture to treat and prevent a wide spectrum of conditions. In the United States, one in 10 adults and seniors use it to relieve pain, anxiety, insomnia and head colds. It can be a safe, adjunctive therapy for patients with troubles ranging from ear, nose and throat problems to neurologic, respiratory, cardiovascular or even emotional problems such as depression. Acupuncture may be used in conjunction with herbal medicine and with more conventional medical treatments.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference on Acupuncture gave a boost to acupuncture by concluding that acupuncture is safe and, for some conditions, proven effective. These include reducing nausea and pain associated with chemotherapy, anesthesia or pregnancy. More evidence supports its effectiveness in treating migraines, depression, constipation, lower back pain and infertility. Chinese herbal medicine has clinical efficacy in managing “diseases of modern living” such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cholesterol and cardiovascular disease – without side effects. Ask around– acupuncturists treat many satisfied patients recovering from allergies, asthma, IBS, sports injuries and more. With so many clinical applications, NIH and universities such as University of Florida continue to fund a variety of research projects every year relating to the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture for animals and people.