Alternative Therapies: Offer Frontline Defense Against Pain Integration Can Be Key to Unlocking Chronic Pain
Acupuncture pinpoints pain, promotes wellnessAllyson Lange, licensed acupuncturist and instructor at Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine, credits research and test results such as medical imaging for acupuncture’s recent surge in popularity across the United States.
“There’s a lot of evidenced-based research coming out that really supports acupuncture in relieving pain,” says Lange. “You’re not going to have the side effects that you’re going to have, particularly with the narcotics and opioids that are commonly prescribed for pain management. That makes a huge difference because those in and of themselves can be debilitating.”
She notes that branches of the U.S. military use auricular acupuncture for soldiers on the battlefield.
“You can utilize it for anesthesia,” says Lange. “You can treat any organ of the body at the ear. They can control the pain while they’re moving people.”
She says acupuncture is good for a variety of pain such as migraines, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, menstrual pain and addictions. But patients must participate and take care of themselves when they leave treatments. Her office offers herbal supplements and dietary counseling.
“There is a statement,” says Lange, “that Chinese medicine is in the life.”
Naturopathy, another path to wellnessNaturopathy revolves around the concept that body can heal itself if obstacles to healing are removed. The tradition attempts to find and treat causes rather than suppress symptoms.
“I know this sounds biased, but I love our approach because it takes into full account underlying causes,” says Dr. Janine Romaner, naturopathic doctor and founder of Woodstock’s Naturally Healthy practice. “What we want to do is a complete panel of bio feedback to look at everything. What is the gut health? What are the underlying factors here? And begin to address them with diet and products.”
Naturally Healthy associates use non-invasive testing such as electro-dermal screenings, digital Infrared Thermal Imaging, blood tests and functional neurology to assess clients. Romaner says people often arrive at her center with a “cascading collage of issues,” much of it caused by a variety of lifestyle stressors that lead to hormonal and sugar imbalances. She sees a lot of digestive issues, autism, ADHD and thyroid disorders.
Treatments at Naturally Healthy range from homeopathy to counseling and chiropractic care, though Romaner occasionally refers her clients to mainstream physicians.
“My view is that conventional medications, antibiotics—the whole thing—are extremely overused. But let’s not be foolish when we need one,” says Romaner. “Sometimes, in my opinion, it’s absolutely necessary to have medication. Maybe it’s not an either/or; sometimes it might be both.”
She uses thyroid problems as an example of this integration, stating many people have already been on thyroid medication for years or had thyroid glands removed. While often those people cannot forgo medication, they can work on the additional issues found in full-panel bloodwork, or address deficiencies a long-term medication causes.
Romaner says that although homeopathic care is not covered in Georgia under most insurance, people can often use their flex spending accounts to pay for services. She also notes that because her treatments are meant to relieve the problem at the root rather than continually treat symptoms, naturopathy can be cost-effective.
Chiropractic care adjusts to client needs rapidlyDr. Guy Gunter says treatment at Healworks, a family chiropractic center that he founded in Sandy Springs, is another option for the first step in relieving pain.
An Atlanta native and practicing chiropractic doctor for 30 years, Gunter also offers applied kinesiology and Chinese and herbal medicine, as well as supplements. In his experience, trauma, muscle or tissue weakness, sleep disorders and significant toxicity from the environment all work to create chronic pain.
“Most stuff that’s out there, it’s either from not being fed, or it’s poisoned,” says Gunter. “Your body will heal itself if you can eliminate what’s in the way.”
Gunter says his practice’s speed of treatment makes Healworks a good financial choice. He expects to assist a person’s body in the healing process in five visits or fewer.
“The body almost always responds immediately if you have identified where the difficulty is coming from,” says Gunter, who performs a $150 initial consultation. “From my point of view, you start with what we offer and then if it can be corrected immediately, you have very rapid feedback. We work on you for a week or so, and the patient observes the improvement.”
Like Romaner, Gunter believes that mainstream medicine at times may be the more logical treatment. As an example, he talked about a woman who came in with a “wonky” knee. She had a sarcoma. In that case chiropractic care was not the right fit.
“I’ve been in the alternative community for 35 years. One of the great faults is ‘I just can’t refer you to a medical doctor because of the way they are. We’re going to try something else, we’re going to try something else …’” says Gunter. “I think as a portal-of-entry provider, as the first person you go to, you have to have the faith that that person is going to evaluate you and say ‘You know, I’m not the best fit.’”
When it comes to finding where to start in relieving chronic pain, Romaner says sometimes the best idea is simply to start. Lange agrees.
“All practices of medicine are valid, and all are incomplete,” Lange quotes her mentor and founder of Dragon Rises College, Leon Hammer, M.D. “We live busy, complicated lives, and everyone is different, and it does take a village, it does take a team.”