Feeling Heard

Our bodies talk to us all day long, and so we are each an expert on what it means to live in the body we have. When there are health issues or goals that need support, your care providers need to prioritize listening to your experience of your own body, and then partner with you in your care.

Because our bodies and minds are really one system, not two separate parts, is especially important for our health care providers to help us feel heard about our experience. They need to be able to interact with our whole selves, and demonstrate emotional literacy as we describe our pain, concerns, or optimal health goals. This builds trust and rapport, and makes treatment more effective.

At Ha.Lé, we always begin with a conversation. Our Medical Consults are an opportunity to spend an hour talking with an expert physician about your health, so that we know how best to support and treat you. Our therapies also begin with a conversation about how you are feeling and how we can support you, and then each treatment is a continuation of that conversation, as your therapists collaborate together for your best care.

Our health care is more effective when we feel heard. When our experience of living in our bodies is fully acknowledged by our providers, then we are able to more fully trust the care we receive, and to be more open to receiving it.

How Walking Correctly Treats Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a very common health issue, and it tends to be something that people deal with for long stretches of time, sometimes for years or even decades. The conversation around low back pain often sounds mechanical, as if certain body parts are malfunctioning. However, the low back is part of a system of movement, and walking correctly can help correct dysfunction and reduce pain.

In order to treat low back pain, the hips need to rotate when we walk. To do this, make sure your feet and knees are pointing straight ahead, and your legs are swinging straight with each step, not out to the side. A way to practice is to walk on a flat curb, or with your feet on either side of a line painted on the road. Rotating the hips engages the muscles of the low back with each step, and allows the muscles of the hip to release periodically instead of always staying tight. This improves the body mechanics of our entire spine and back, our pelvis, and our core musculature.

When the low back is engaged while walking, it does two things. First, it builds strength and stability in the soft tissue, which then supports and stabilizes the spine. A more supported lumbar spine is less likely to become compressed, pinch nerves, or go out of alignment. Low back engagement while walking also helps to release tension in those muscles. It brings in  blood flow and oxygen, stretching and moving the muscle fibers so that they are less likely to grow rigid or go into spasm.

Part of being able to walk correctly requires building body awareness, which is a skill that many people have not been taught how to have. Bodywork and Somatics classes both help the brain learn how to better sense where the body is in space and how it is moving. Once we can sense that, we can begin to adjust our movement patterns in order to better support our health.

Learning to walk correctly can effectively treat back pain because our bodies are made to move. When we move with correct alignment and muscle engagement, we free up our natural ability to function and heal. This in turn reduces pain and works to create health.

The Power of Collaborative Care

Collaborative Care is a philosophy of integrative health care based on communication and working together. It is a more effective way to treat issues and reach specific health goals, because it provides a team of therapists who are actively communicating and working together for your care.

The collaborative care approach takes integrative health care to the next level. By themselves, each of our 5 domains of care–acupuncture, bodywork, counseling, nutrition, and somatics–are evidence-based and effective. When combined through collaboration, they become even more effective! For example, when your acupuncturist is working with your bodyworker and your counselor, and they have all checked in with your somatics instructor, they are able to pool their expertise in order to really focus on what will best support your health.

Each of our 5 domains of care are designed to complement each other, building together to create health. This is why we create treatment plans, to outline which therapies and how often you should receive them in order to move toward your health goals. The therapist you see for a first appointment can create that plan with you, or you can create it through a medical consult.

Our medical consults are offered by an M.D. with deep expertise in the latest research into the effectiveness of integrative care. They are a great option when your health situation is a bit complicated, if you have a lot of medications to take into consideration, or you feel that you’ve had trouble finding a doctor who will listen to you. After your medical consult, the M.D. will lead the collaborative care process with your therapists, as well as communicate with your other doctors about your care.

Collaborative Care is a game changer for creating health. It allows every treatment to build on the one before, across treatment modalities and among different therapists. Through collaboration, your treatment team is able to more effectively address your health issues and support your health goals.

Our 5 Domains of Care

We are an integrative health clinic, with 5 Domains, or pillars, of care. All of our therapies are evidence-based, which means that they are proven to be effective. We are also a collaborative practice, which means that our therapists work together for your care. We communicate with each other, and with your doctors as needed, about your treatments. This helps each treatment build on the one before to be more effective and support your health goals.

Our 5 Domains are:

Bodywork at Ha.Lé is evidence-based massage treatment for health. It blends ashiatsu, neuromuscular, myofascial release, structural integration, cupping therapy, and sports massage techniques, which means we are able to specifically address what is happening in your body. It is not a spa treatment just for relaxation, but a way to reduce pain, increase range of motion, and address spine, joint, and posture issues.

Somatics are movement-based therapies, offered mostly as classes, series, and workshops at Ha.Lé. Using techniques from yoga, tai chi, qigong, Feldenkrais, and body rolling, Somatics addresses how the body moves. It increases awareness of where the body is in space and how it moves through space, and can make those movement patterns more effortless. It also improves the health of muscle and tissue to reduce pain and increase relaxation.  

Acupuncture stimulates points on the body to regulate systems and address dysfunction. It uses techniques including needling, cupping, tui na, and herbal supplement formulas to help rebalance the body. This helps regulate physiological systems like digestion, cardiovascular, and endocrine. It reduces pain levels, improves sleep, and increases relaxation.

Nutrition offers guidance on eating from an integrative perspective. It focuses not only on quantity, but the quality of food for nourishment, and what foods work best for your particular constitution. Based in Ayurvedic practices, it is Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating compatible. It treats food allergies and intolerances and chronic illness like celiac, IBS, and heart disease. 

Counseling offers mental and emotional solutions that incorporate psychotherapy, mindfulness-based practices, and cognitive behavioral therapy. We see individuals, couples, and families of all ages to treat anxiety, depression, addiction, trauma, grief, and LGBTQ issues.

What is an Integrative Medical Consult?

Integrative Medical Consults are appointments with a physician to determine how integrative health care can support your health. They are not a replacement for your regular doctors, but a way to coordinate your care across different treatments. Medical Consults allow you to access treatments that have been proven effective but have not yet made it into common medical practice, and to do so in a way that works best for you.

The first step is to make an appointment for a Medical Consult. Dr. Gurjeet Birdee will spend an hour with you, which is a lot more than the usual seven minutes! He will talk with you about your health history, the medications you take, and your current physical and mental health concerns. He will not prescribe or change your medications, but he will factor them into your care.

During your Medical Consult, Dr. Birdee will create an integrative treatment plan for you. It includes specific timelines for your care, laying out which treatments and how often you should receive them. For example, he might recommend that you receive bodywork once a week for 4 weeks to treat a chronic shoulder injury. He will also talk with you about what results to expect from your care, so that you understand which treatments you are receiving and why.

Your integrative treatment plan is a written document for you to keep. Once you have it, you will need to schedule the treatments you need. You can do that at the desk after your consult with Dr. Birdee, or you can do it later. Appointments can also be scheduled over the phone, via text, by email, or through the Ha.Lé website or the MindBody app.

Finally, all of your appointments and treatments will be documented. We are a collaborative practice, and so your therapists and Dr. Birdee will communicate with each other about your care and coordinate your treatment. We will also be in touch with your other doctors as needed, to make sure they are up to date about your treatment with us.

Integrative Medical Consults are an opportunity to have a real conversation with a physician, and to create a specific treatment plan for your health concerns. They also provide a way to access treatments that have been proven effective but have not yet made it into common medical usage. If you know that integrative care like bodywork or acupuncture helps you, then this is a way to optimize that health benefit in the most effective way.

Why See an Integrative Doctor?

Bodies can be complicated, and it can be hard to find the right path to treat subtle, chronic, or frustrating health issues. Coming to see an integrative doctor can help connect the dots and coordinate your care moving forward, both with your other physicians and with your integrative therapists.

Medical Consults with Dr. Gurjeet Birdee give you that opportunity. Dr. Birdee is a physician scientist who has spent over a decade researching the effectiveness of integrative care. He has a deep expertise in the evidence behind the treatments we offer at Ha.Lé, and is able to best direct patients in their integrative care.

Our understanding of the body is always improving. There is a constant stream of new information being published, helping to deepen our understanding of the body and its mechanisms. However, conventional healthcare is often not up to date, and it can sometimes take decades for proven information to make it into widespread consideration.

This is one reason why many proven integrative care modalities are not yet recognized or included in conventional care. It is not because they have not been studied, or were shown not to help. It is because conventional healthcare is sometimes very slow to incorporate new insight into the body.

Because Dr. Birdee has done the research, he understands how best to incorporate integrative care into your overall treatment plan. He will direct you with specific timelines and expectations, and will communicate with your other physicians about your care. Integrative care offers effective treatment for a wide variety of health issues, and Medical Consults now make them easier to access more effectively.

Introducing Medical Consults with Dr. Birdee

Sometimes we have health issues that are subtle, complex, or difficult to heal. Integrative care like bodywork, acupuncture, and therapeutic movement will often help, but it can be challenging to coordinate your own care on two fronts–with your physician(s), and with your integrative care therapists. Medical Consults at Ha.Lé help you bridge the communication gap and access the integrative treatments that will best support your health.

Dr. Gurjeet Birdee is a physician who has spent over a decade researching the effectiveness of integrative care. There are a lot of options out there for unconventional therapies for health, and many of those therapies may not be effective or safe. Dr. Birdee is an expert on what has been proven to help.

A Medical Consult is an hour long appointment where Dr. Birdee will listen to your story and assess your health. He will then direct your integrative care, giving you specific timelines and expectations for your treatment. He will also communicate with your other physicians, helping to coordinate your care.

Medical Consultations are not designed to replace the care of your other physicians, but to add integrative treatments to your care in the ways that will be most effective for you. This can be especially helpful for health issues that have been difficult or frustrating to treat because it gives you access to coordinated treatment through conventional and integrative care.

Integrative care is proven to be effective for a wide range of health issues, but access to it is usually outside of the conventional healthcare system. Medical Consults at Ha.Lé help bridge that gap, engaging the expertise of a physician to direct you to the integrative care that best meets your needs.

More information

Therapeutic Benefits of Walking

Walking is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. It activates deep biological processes for health, balance, and wellbeing, supporting both physical and mental health. Our bodies are designed to walk as our main mode of getting from one place to another, and many of our biological systems work best when we are in motion.

When we go for a walk, our circulation increases, which nourishes our whole body with blood and oxygen. This nourishment provides what our tissues need to repair themselves, often solving minor issues before we even notice them.

Walking also helps calm the mind and reduce the effects of stress. The rhythm of walking helps us enter a light meditative state, which then regulates breathing, lowers stress hormones, and can bring a sense of peace and calm.

The actual act of putting one foot in front of the other keeps our bodies and minds in conversation with each other. The motion of it involves complex interactions between muscles, bones, and connective tissues. Walking helps tune up those interactions, and increase coordination in general.

Going outside to walk increases all these benefits by adding fresh air and uneven ground. The fresh air, open space, and interactions with nature all help to boost the immune system and regulate sensory processing, and may offer a sense of peacefulness. Uneven ground keeps our coordination and stabilization systems active, reducing the likelihood of falling and helping improve joint health.

Going for a walk is one of the most fundamental self-care practices we can do. It directly supports comprehensive mental and physical health, which in turn increases our internal feelings of vitality and our overall sense of wellbeing.

Keeping your Immune System Strong

Our immune systems are crucial to staying healthy and feeling good, and they can be especially challenged when the weather changes. Bouncing temperatures and frequent rain can make us more vulnerable to viruses. Here are ways to support our immune systems to keep us healthy.

Treat Stress

When we feel high stress or chronic stress, it makes it hard to fend off viruses. Stress diverts resources away from immune function as the body decides that it needs to survive the immediate crisis that is causing stress first, and then it will worry about germs. Lowering cortisol and other stress hormone levels helps the immune system come back up to speed. Bodywork, acupuncture, and restorative classes are all great ways to reduce stress in the body.

Move Lymph

Our lymph system moves pathogens and other waste out of our bodies, and helps spread white blood cells throughout the system. Bodywork is especially helpful for moving lymph through the body, bringing new nutrients into tissues and supporting immune function. Movement classes and going for walks also help lymph circulate for healthy immune function.

Nourish Yourself

A lot of immune function is rooted in the gut and the digestive system. Using nutrients like vitamin C to boost the body in the moment can be helpful. It is also important to work on your digestive health overall, before you feel like your body is trying to fight something off. Acupuncture can help regulate digestive function, and nutrition counseling can help you address gut inflammation, dietary imbalances, and food issues.

When we support our immune systems so that they can function well, we are less likely to get sick from viruses. By managing our stress levels, keeping our lymph system flowing, and nourishing our digestive and other health, we can keep our immune system strong and balanced.  

Pain from Injury, Activity, and Aging

Our bodies use pain to tell us there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Pain can come from things like repetitive motion, poor posture, highly active lifestyles, and accidental injuries. It can be a short term issue, or last for a while. The good news is that there are direct ways to treat and reduce pain levels through integrative care.

Injury: Recovering from an injury is sometimes a frustrating process that takes longer than we would like. Supporting the body through this process involves both gently working with the injury, and releasing tension from the other parts of the body that are compensating while the injury heals. Bodywork therapies can directly reduce inflammation, relieve tension, and nourish the injury with blood and nutrients. Classes help build awareness of new movement patterns and relieve tension, and Acupuncture can reduce pain signals and promote overall balance for affected systems of the body.

Athletic Performance: Highly active lifestyles like running, rock climbing, and kayaking push your body to higher levels of performance and fun. This means your body needs extra recovery in order to prevent injuries. Classes to support full relaxation, rebalancing, and core strength help the body recover and nourish itself. Bodywork and Cupping Therapy help improve recovery time and can increase athletic performance.

Aging: Small imbalances accumulate into aches and pains over time, which means that getting older often means increased pain from years of repetitive motions, posture habits, and old injuries. Bodywork can help treat and rebalance the causes of these various aches and pains. Acupuncture is effective for reducing pain levels overall, and addressing underlying dysfunctions. Classes reinvigorate and reactivate the body, improve muscle tone and balance, and help develop awareness of movement patterns.

Integrative care offers effective ways to treat pain from injuries, athletic performance, and aging. It supports the body’s own healing processes and increases your internal sense of wellbeing, partnering with you in your care in order to create health.