Integrative Medicine & the Growing Edge of Health Care

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health.   Duke Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine is patient-centered health care that takes the whole person into account. It is not alternative care, which is used in place of western medicine, and it is not complementary care, which is used to supplement western medicine. Instead, Integrative Medicine begins with the health of the patient and partners with them to address all the causes of an illness, not just the treatment of symptoms. There is a complex interplay between the biological, behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental influences on health, and so it is necessary to engage with the full range of these influences.

In order to take this full spectrum approach to health, Integrative Medicine uses all available healing sciences to best treat the patient’s unique circumstances. Through a willingness to use the healing modalities that will be the most effective and least invasive options, and to combine these treatments into personalized care, Integrative Medicine

neither rejects conventional medicine nor uncritically embraces alternative therapies; rather, integrative medicine can be described as a practice that “cherry picks” the best and scientifically supported therapies of both systems. The ultimate goal: to get the patient better, through the use of safe, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible.   UCLA, Explore Integrative Medicine

Integrative Medicine also focuses on prevention and the development of effective self-care for patients. According to the CDC, 70% of all deaths are due to chronic disease, and the cost of chronic care accounts for 75% of all medical expenses. Yet we spend very little on prevention and health promotion, which has been proven to dramatically reduce the burden of chronic disease. Our conventional medical system has a bias toward high-tech and invasive crisis intervention, which contributes to the dysfunction in our health care system. Integrative Medicine is a growing solution to these issues as it invests in the whole body health of patients and partners with them on their healing journey in order to empower their physical, mental, and spiritual health.

HaLe’ is Integrative Health Care. We use techniques with proven effectiveness to treat each patient under their own unique circumstances, and we partner with and empower the health of all our clients. Our offerings are rich with opportunities and support for continued health and healing.

 

Cupping Therapy Plays Well with Others

by Chelsea Henry

Cupping therapy is an important part of our integrative health practice because it supports the process of many of our treatments. I talked with several of our talented therapists about how it complements the work that they do and how they use it. This is what they said:

Erin Law, Therapeutic Sports Massage:

Cupping therapy helps to jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure of the suction combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Rocio Hernandez, Ashiatsu Massage:

Using cupping therapy after an Ashiatsu treatment really helps to bring the blood flow to the area, especially any area that is feeling stagnant, like the back or arm. The suction also helps to release the muscle when it is contracting, making for a faster release and bringing blood flow more quickly to the area. Afterward, people tend to feel either really energized or like they just ran a marathon.

Katherine Casey, Acupuncture:

Cupping facilitates better movement of blood and qi in an acupuncture treatment because of the openness of the tissue. The cups create negative pressure, as compared with massage, which uses positive pressure. This negative pressure opens up muscle and tissue, which works in concert with acupuncture needles to move qi.

Adie Grey MacKenzie, Lymphatic Massage:

Cupping can be very effective in helping to break up scar tissue that is impeding lymph flow, but it is not usually indicated for treating lymphadema or other lymphatic issues directly because it can be too aggressive for the lymph system. However, cupping works through the use of negative pressure, and a machine that uses very gentle negative pressure has recently been shown to be a successful lymphadema treatment. This is a growing edge conversation in the lymphatic massage community right now as we learn more about how to use cups and other negative pressure tools gently enough to support the lymphatic system.

Lymphatic Massage Speeds Recovery from Surgery

from Adie Grey MacKenzie

The lymph system is both a producer of materials that help us heal and a septic system, and so supporting its function through lymphatic massage can speed our recovery from surgery. Lymphatic massage assists the body in moving inflammatory components back out of the system and it gooses our immune system function to help the healing process.

There is a cascade of events that allows us to heal. Part of that process is the inflammatory response, which is necessary for healing to happen when we disrupt the body through surgery. Inflammation also means there will be swelling localized to the surgical area, which slows the lymph system’s ability to do its job of moving wastes out and healthy components in. After surgery, it is also the lymph system that helps the body process all the materials that need to be moved out, including excess fluids given during surgery.

Lymphatic massage assists the function of the lymph system through all these processes. It also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is especially good in healing times because it allows our bodies to really rest in order to heal efficiently and effectively. This also has an analgesic effect because the parasympathetic nervous system calms our perception of pain. There is a whole interplay of physiological functions that lymphatic work supports, helping to heal from surgery, reduce post surgical pain and swelling, and speed return to function. It also helps avoid infection because it helps keep the immune system more fully functional.

Receiving lymphatic massage feels gentle and rhythmic, helping us to breathe more deeply and rest more fully, and is safer for tissues that are still healing after surgery. Even clients who have always thought they need deep and vigorous massage are surprised at how effective and soothing lymphatic massage is, with its relatively light touch. It is both satisfying and plenty deep enough to do profound work in supporting the healing process.

Behavioral Health for Mind, Body, and Spirit Care

from Janice Glasscock, LCSW

Behavioral health care and mental health care focus on thought processes and emotions, on personal narrative, and helping the mind communicate with the brain. This allows us to better understand our own stories and feelings so that we can make better decisions and act towards healing.

Behavioral and mental health care is especially useful for people in situations that feel stuck, full of loss or fear, and/or during large transitions. These situations can include an unhealthy pattern in a relationship, moving into new parenthood, and launching children from home. They can also be about dealing with a life threatening health condition or diagnosis, stage of life transitions like aging or health concerns, work place or work relationship concerns, or the loss of a significant relationship.

Approximately 67% of people with behavioral or mental health concerns do not receive treatment, and these concerns account for about half of disability days from work. Depression is the #1 condition currently affecting health care costs right now, and it has a global and pervasive impact on health issues and conditions.

We can improve our overall sense of well-being, health, and quality of life by paying attention to our behavioral and mental health as a part of our mind, body, and spirit interplay. This means paying attention to our thinking and cognitive processes, and to our decisions and actions. Strong behavioral and mental health helps with:

  • positive, effective work and personal relationships
  • good life choices and lifestyle development
  • physical health/well-being
  • handling natural ups and downs of life, and coping during life crises
  • self-discovery and personal growth

Psychotherapy as treatment for behavioral and mental health concerns is an evidence-based way to reduce depression and anxiety and more effectively cope and problem solve. It has long-lasting benefits, and helps to address chronic low and high levels of stress that are on-going contributors to compromised health and well-being.

Within a positive, safe, and constructive relationship with a professional, psychotherapy helps identify and better understand cognitive sources of unease, and to change/broaden thinking about both the problems of daily living and the catastrophic, all-consuming psychological and emotional crises from which we need recovery. It is a great modality to help us take action on the paths of healing.

The Benefits of Yoga at Any Age

from Nancy Kirkland

People derive different kinds of benefits from a yoga practice. Yoga and other eastern practices differ from most western forms of physical activity because you really have to incorporate the mind into the practice. With aerobic oriented activity like running or swimming, you can just let your mind drift off. With yoga, the mind focus brings a greater benefit in addition to the physical benefits of greater strength, flexibility, and balance. A lot of people sleep better, feel calmer, and breathe better. You don’t have to go in with the intention to get those benefits, they just result from doing a good yoga asana practice.

Yoga also helps people find what is challenging for them, be it physical, mental, or emotional, and helps find a way to address it. People often do yoga positions way too quickly. They will say their shoulder hurts, and I’ll say give it 6 months. Give pain time to resolve. Pain is a very good teacher and yoga is not a pain free practice. When people come to class with pain, they need to recognize that yoga is not an immediate cure all but that there are great benefits to a regular practice.

Yoga is a practice for people of all levels. HaLe’ has students ages 20 to 80, so don’t let fitness or age keep you away. Find a teacher that resonates with you and then stick with them. Don’t try for a lot of variety; go deeper instead of wider. Allow your class to become a community that develops over time. That’s a very supportive group to be in.

Also, don’t avoid props and don’t underestimate restorative yoga. Props like blocks, straps, and chairs make yoga much more accessible to people and allows them to achieve a comfortable practice with a properly aligned body. Restorative yoga is key to improving breath, awareness, and observations skills, even though a lot of people really resist it when they are new to yoga practice because they feel restless, want to exercise, and don’t see the value. It is an important part of a yoga practice; don’t ignore it.

A yoga practice, because it incorporates mind and body instead of being just body, comes with a lot of benefits. A good asana practice should be both convenient and enjoyable, and doing the yoga postures properly has different benefits for everyone. Most of all, though, don’t take it too seriously. It should also be fun.

 

Nancy Kirkland has 45 years of yoga practice and has been teaching yoga for 17 years.

Pelvic Health: No Where To Go But Inward

From Lynne Odom, PT, MOMT

Pelvic health has a huge effect on quality of life. Daily activities influence pelvic health in ways we may not be aware, like sitting postures, bathroom habits, etc. Learning what your pelvis holds and how it is interrelated to your anatomy can be very empowering. Gaining this knowledge helps increase awareness and appreciation for the pelvis and its important functions as the floor to the spine, connector of hips and pelvis, holder of organs and babies, etc.  Understanding what “normal” pelvic floor function is can be a starting point of awareness.

Dysfunction in pelvic health happens across the population, from pediatric to elderly, and can be affected by more things than having babies and aging. Improving pelvic function often helps with pain that is not responding to other therapies, especially low back pain, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction, painful intercourse, and lumbar and spine dysfunction. The pelvic floor depends on the spine, abdomen, breath, and lower and upper extremity strength and function. Conditions such as low blood pressure and bowel and bladder issues may be directly related to pelvic dysfunction.

There are simple daily habits you can be aware of to bring better health to your pelvic area, including certain postures, bowel and bladder habits, and exercises. Histories of trauma, like sexual or physical trauma, pregnancy, birth, or surgery can all have an effect on pelvic health.

The most important starting place, though, is to learn to breathe into the pelvis. When you inhale, bring your breath all the way down to your vagina and/or perineum, and then fill the diaphragm, and then the chest. The pelvis is a body part you can’t see, and once you can be still enough to connect with it, there is an awareness that will open up. So be still, be with the breath, and breathe into the pelvis for pelvic health.

The Medicine of Sound

From Julie Fisher

Sound Healing provides deep relaxation and stress relief. It is especially helpful when emotions are running high, whether from stress, or grief, or going through something traumatic. We are not taught how to let our feelings flow, but instead are often encouraged to shut them down and ignore them, or to tell their stories, which can keep us in our mind and reinforce the emotion. But with sound, it shows where the feeling is in the body. It might wrap around the shoulders, or move down the spine. The sound gently brings the emotion up to the surface, where it might be felt as a warm sense of tension in the heart, and then it releases. It moves through us and leaves us relaxed.

People often come in to a sound healing class, workshop, or private session high strung and bouncing off the walls. It takes a minute for them to settle down, and then a switch happens and they go into a new state. Their body shifts, their breathing changes, and they go into a place of rest. Their awareness increases, they become aware of different sensations in their body, and the mind is finally able to let go and relax. Creating that space and awareness allows a deep release of stress and tension. Afterwards, people’s faces are more open, with more light in their eyes.

One person comes to Sound Healing because she literally receives messages, connecting with her higher intelligence and intuition. Another came when he hadn’t slept in 3 days, fell asleep, and woke up feeling like he’d had hours of the best sleep of his life when it had only been 50 minutes. Someone else has gained an improved sense of rest and is now able to connect with her breath as a simple and easy to access tool with powerful and immediate effects. We often talk about the power of the breath, but the Sound Healing helped her distill that in a way that is so simple and obvious that it became a discovery.

We all have issues whether we are aware of it or not, and sound brings it up to the surface in a way that feels safe, like a comfortable cocoon. When we are safe enough to look at it, then it can come up and release. Sound Healing allows us to become aware of things we didn’t even know, like patterns of tension in the neck and shoulders, and then the healing sound allows it to just pass through us and relax.

“Life has no Opposite”: On Conscious Dying and Sacred Passage Doulas

Consciousdyinghands

 

“The opposite of Life is not Death. The opposite of Death is Birth. Life has no Opposite.”  Unknown

Death and Birth are Bookends of Life.

Death is a Rite of Passage that brings a family of initiatory emotions: grief, anger, terror, rage, disappointment, sadness.

But of all these, Grandmother Grief leads the way. She calls forth an Initiation that renews, heals and cleanses our souls.

“Dealing with “the things we cannot escape” (but want to or try to) is best accomplished within the sacred space of ritual. Ritual facilitates and provides us with a unique channel to access higher power. Certain issues don’t want to be resolved mechanistically. We don’t have to know how the power works; we just have to show up and let the higher forces deal with the issues. Ritual provides a safe place for the soul and body to affirm life over death, to affirm continuity over discontinuity.” Maladoma Some’

In our last Sacred Doula program, our graduating class designed and experienced a very powerful grief ritual so that all of our incomplete losses and their stories could be shared and released. We prepared ourselves for this ritual in many ways.

The night before, we wrote about a powerful loss and how it had affected us. We created a healing space in the room to honor these loses. We invited a wonderful musician to sing and play guitar.

We asked elders from our community to attend and support us. We wore beautiful white, blue or black clothes. Before we entered the space we were cleansed with special smoke and marked our faces with charcoal tears. We entered this space with sacred intent.

We placed beautiful scarves, fabric, flowers, candles, and photos of our loved ones on the table. And as each individual shared their story of love and loss, we listened with compassion and tears. We ended many hours later filled with awe and love. Our spirits and bodies were refreshed and renewed.
This grief ritual transformed us individually and created a strong caring healing community that we can trust in and rely on. It gives us reference for how to show up for others who will be in our care.

Here are some of my thoughts from my studies on grief and death and from my personal experience from this day.

  • I came to see that Death and Birth are bookends of Life. Both are markers of our earthly existence.
  • Like Birth, Death is not an end. It is an initiation into a yet unseen, mysterious passage that all human beings enter and through which life is renewed.
  • Death’s initiation into new life is lead by its family of emotions, its spiritual journey, and its turn toward meaning and completions for all involved.
  • The emotional family surrounding death: grief, rage, fear, terror, anger, disappointment, loss call us to these powerful rites of passage that no other time offers.
  • When these feelings are honored as a right of passage, when we are appropriately supported, seen and held to experience these powerful feelings, to stay with them, not run away, in our own time and in our own way, we are transformed. Whether we are the one leaving or the ones left behind, we need support to travel in these rivers of feelings that come to claim us. We need people who know how to keep us safe to navigate the journey.
  • If we are held, seen, and supported in a good way, we can enter this emotional landscape and can stay there as long as it takes for the healing forces of grief to wash over us. We can experience grief as an initiation into new life that has the power to cleanse our soul, re-set our energetic field, and ground us in the vulnerability that is the flowering of our connection with our own hearts, our family, and humanity.

Grandmother Grief gives us a way back into our own heart. It is precisely because we love so much that we have the opportunity for a greater human experience…. an opportunity to be initiated into greater inner harmony, unity with our own heart, memory of our innate healing gifts and ancient wisdom, and to be re-affirmed in love with all our relations.

Because we love so deeply, even if that love and care may be temporarily covered over in resentments or conflicts, it can still give rise to new life.  It can provide opportunity to re-fine, re-kindle, re-move, re-store, shake us free of locked and held feelings.  It can rejoin us with the truth of love and the memory of who we are.

Becoming a Sacred Passage Doula supports everyone to live fully and completely through end of life. Ha.Le’ is hosting a 2 day Introduction to Sacred Passage Doula Training on Aug 28 & 29.

-Tarron Estes                  July 2015

Founder, Conscious Dying Institute

 

Learn more about the Sacred Passage workshop on our Events Page

Enroll in the Workshop ($150, early registration price $135 ends Aug 7th)