Living Beyond Pain through Integrative Medicine

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_209

At 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 medical massage, mindfulness, restorative yoga, and acupuncture treatments.

Her Integrative Medicine physician,Lauri Erway Nandyal, MD, NCMP,  worked with a team of specialists to help Harrod regain some normalcy. “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 with the pain to make it feel better.”

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, 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 also referred to Martyn Thomas, a licensed acupuncturist.  “Acupuncture really helped the achy muscles relax and helped relieve tense muscles so I felt less pain,” Harrod said.

Harrod 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 tried physical therapy prior to working with the Integrative Medicine team, and it aggravated her pain.

“I had a lot of fear and I wondered if I could make restorative yoga work,” says Harrod. “Megan and I spoke on the phone prior to my first class and she helped ease my fears. During the class she explained each movement, guided and encouraged me.”  My confidence in accomplishing certain movements was strengthened!”

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 of Yoga for Chronic Pain with Geraldine Wu, MD.

Harrod says her sessions with members of the Integrative Medicine team continue but are fewer and indicate progress.

Cowens agrees, noting that Harrod’s muscles are stronger and better able to move her skeletal system.  “If the muscles are weak, you fatigue and when you fatigue you go into pain. Now the durations of pain are farther away and if she does have an episode, the fatigue or pain won’t last as long because she knows how to get out of it.”


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