Integrative Medicine Helps Patient ‘Focus More on Life and Less on Pain’

Judy Harrod, 66, says the pain she feels can radiate throughout her body, though it mainly affects her back. It started after she suffered a kidney stone.
Judy Harrod Photo 6At one point, the discomfort was so intense it ruled the West Chester resident’s life. Eventually Judy retired to concentrate on her health, but the pain persisted. Some of the pain remains, but today it is manageable due primarily to her visits to UC Health Integrative Medicine to participate in holistic sessions that have included medical massage, mindfulness, restorative yoga, and acupuncture.

Her physician, Lauri Erway Nandyal, MD, an adjunct associate professor in the UC College of Medicine, works with a team of specialists to help Harrod regain some normalcy. The Integrative Medicine team operates out of the UC Health Physicians Office South in West Chester, as well as the UC Health Barrett Center and the UC Health Physicians Office-Midtown.

“When I started here, even cleaning my house was extremely difficult,” says Harrod. “It’s still very hard, but all the different techniques I’ve learned help me manage my day and my routine. Little by little, I am getting a routine that allows me to focus more on life and less on the pain.”

“I used to not have a routine because my body was dictating everything,” she adds. “The pain was running my life. Now I feel like I am making decisions about my life and not the pain. That’s huge. I’m managing the pain better. I’m not pain free all the time, but I know the things I can and can’t do.”

Harrod says her massage therapist, Joyce Cowens, LMT, has a talent for listening to her patients and tailoring sessions that fit their needs. “I had two other experiences before coming to UC Health, but they didn’t get to the root of the problem,” says Harrod. “There wasn’t the listening. Joyce is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. She listens and she puts a lot of pieces together and she helps me answer a lot of questions and understands what is happening.”

After several massage sessions, Cowens referred Harrod to Richard Sears, PsyD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at UC and a specialist in mindfulness and meditation. Sears taught her techniques that helped Harrod identify precisely where the pain is coming from and then how to manage that pain through mindfulness practices.

“Mindfulness is de-cluttering the brain so you can have a blank screen to be present,” says Cowens. “When you are completely present you become aware. When you are aware, you have clarity and it’s easier to actively participate in your life because you are in the moment.”

Harrod was then referred to Martyn Thomas, a licensed acupuncturist. “Acupuncture really helps the muscles that are hurting to relax; it gets the tension out of them so you are not feeling pain,” says Harrod.

She also found another great listener in Megan McCliment, a UC Health restorative yoga teacher, who helped ease some of her fears about the practice of yoga. Harrod had gone through physical therapy prior to working with the Integrative Medicine team, and it aggravated her problems.

“I had a lot of fear and I wondered if I could make restorative yoga work,” says Harrod, who enrolled in a class. “Everything Megan did was for me. We spoke on the phone first and when started she would explain something and I would attempt it and she was like, ‘I can’t believe you just did that.’”

Harrod’s confidence in her ability to accomplish certain movements grew. In restorative yoga, props such as blankets or blocks are used to support the body so a patient can hold poses longer, allowing ligamentous tissue to open at its own pace, reset nerve endings and release endorphins to help relieve pain.

Along with the restorative yoga, Harrod completed a six-week series with Geraldine Wu, MD, for chronic pain yoga.


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