Diane’s Story: Automimmune disease controlled through unique approach to medicine

Integrative medicine is the moniker used to describe the growing specialty that incorporates a number of therapies Dianeaimed at treating the whole person, not just the disease.

“Integrative medicine is bringing the best of complementary medicine and merging it with the best of conventional medicine, for which scientific evidence of benefit exists,” says Stefanie Stevenson, MD, integrative medicine specialist at West Chester Hospital.

Integrative medicine embraces a range of holistic therapies that include acupuncture, reflexology and other manipulative massage techniques, yoga, chiropractic care, natural supplements and vitamins, and diet.

“Pain, anxiety and cancer are among the three biggest reasons people choose integrative medicine therapy,” Dr. Stevenson says.

Diane Miller is a good candidate for alternative approaches. She suffers from several autoimmune issues that cause her muscles to tighten. She also suffers from a pinched nerve near a herniated disc and is diabetic. Diane says she has experienced great success managing her pain through acupuncture, massage and yoga.

“A year and a half ago, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk. Now, just the other day, I hiked along the Little Miami River,” Diane says. “The treatments have increased my energy and my endurance.”

When it comes to acupuncture, practitioners often reference the Chinese concept of “yin and yang,” or complimentary opposites, and describe how acupuncture has the ability to release energy in channels that are blocked.

“To Western ears, we aren’t comfortable with that explanation; however, research shows that acupuncture may stimulate the release of natural endorphins,” Dr. Stevenson says. “Traditional Chinese medicine says pain is a result of excess energy and acupuncture can help that energy to flow. Studies provide good evidence that acupuncture helps with pain conditions, especially in nerves of the lower back.”

Diane feels reflexology massage also has a similar effect on her pain. “It doesn’t take much time for muscles to start to release. I found it gets better the more you stay with massage and acupuncture. When muscles have been tight for so many years, it takes a while to retrain them. This therapy helps immensely.”

Diane has also found yoga helpful in reducing stress, muscle tension and “relaxing my core.”

“Integrative therapies are promising for people who are open to it,” Dr. Stevenson says. “We are not saying to replace conventional treatment, rather complement it. Some people just don’t want to take pain medication and desire alternative options.”

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