Healthcare Alternatives for Fibromyalgia Pain and More

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More patients turning attention to massages, aromatherapy, other methods to get relief By Alyssa Harvey

Life was not simple for Nelda Dickerson when she was younger. She remembers seemingly endless days when she couldn’t think clearly and had lots of aches and pains. “I was really ill. Anything chemical was toxic for me. I couldn’t use anything with an odor with solvents in it – perfumes, cleaners,” the 48-year-old Glasgow, Kentucky woman said. “An overload of toxins would build up in my system. I went to see doctors and ended up on medicine.” Dickerson later found out that hypoglycemia – an abnormally low blood sugar – was the cause of many of her health problems. Traditional medicine wasn’t offering her relief, so she began to seek out various alternative therapies including using parasite cleansers and herbs to clean out the body, eating organic foods and massages. “I tried every alternative therapy you could think of,” she said. “I wanted to do anything to get well.”

Dickerson isn’t the only one seeking a different form of relief. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Web site at, a nationwide government survey shows that 36 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and over use some form of complementary and alternative medicine, which are those not considered to be part of conventional medicine.

Some Bowling Green, Kentucky medical facilities are adding some elements of alternative therapy to their care of patients. For example, Bluegrass Outpatient Center started a massage therapy program in March. Insurance does not cover massage, so clients have to pay for it themselves. More than 120 different people – some of them who receive physical therapy at the center and some who don’t – have gotten massages. “Massage therapy is an area that has continued to grow over the past few years, plus our clients were asking for it,” center administrator Scott Montgomery said. “We hired a massage therapist and developed the program. Now we’re starting to see repeat customers.”

Some Bowling Green practitioners stress the therapies work with Western medicine, not against it. “This is not meant to take the place of doctors,” said Jamie Vick, a certified massage therapist with the Center for Healing Arts. “For example, if a client has cancer, I have to have a written note from their doctor before I work on them.” Katy Jennings, co-owner and manager of the Nutritional Center, agreed. “Their health is their choice, but we don’t try to take the place of medical doctors,” she said. “This is a good way to work on your body in a preventive way.” Vicks has been practicing massage therapy – which involves manipulating the muscles and tissues to relieve stress, anxiety and pain and help heal injuries – for four years. “A lot of my clients are active as far as cycling, running, and tennis, and others do a lot of computer work,” she said. “Some of them have fibromyalgia, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or arthritis. A lot of them get massage for chronic pain management.”

Massage has multiple uses, Vick said. “A lot of people don’t realize massage is not just for pampering anymore. It helps alleviate and reduce tension, improves circulation, decrease blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, increase mobility, detoxify the system, speed the recovery of injuries,” she said. “It can be used for preventive maintenance, helps reduce swelling and fluid retention, improve digestion and posture and coordination. It’s 30 minutes to one-and-one-half hour on a table and it benefits you in ways you don’t even know.” Many of Vick’s clients go in about once every two weeks or once a month, she said. “My goal is to start them at once a week and then back them down slowly so they can be on a maintenance schedule,” she said. She does various types of massages, including Swedish, sports, deep tissue neuromuscular, pre-natal, geriatric and Shiatsu. “The techniques are different and the purposes are a little different,” she said. “Some of them create a burning sensation. It’s a good hurt. I pull from every type of massage I learn. If I stick to one kind, I feel like I’m cheating my client and not doing my job.” The massages are tailored to her clients’ many levels of comfort. “Shiatsu was made to be done over clothing, so they don’t have to undress fully,” she said. “In geriatric massage, the touch is lighter. It’s a caring touch they may not get on a regular basis.”

Vick also works on four-legged animals. “Some clients bring their dogs for massages,” she said. “They have trigger points on their body just like humans do.” Jennings has a big shelf full of books – some for sale and others for reference – on the back wall of her store. She helps customers find the products they need and lets them check information for themselves. She has been working with aromatherapy and herbs for 10 years – part of those in a doctor’s office. “People need to do research on their own and educate themselves by reading natural health books and herb encyclopedias and they need to talk to someone who’s knowledgeable and has experience working with the products,” she said. “You need to know what you’re doing.” For instance, there are some essential oils that may raise blood pressure and some herbs that shouldn’t be used by customers taking certain medications because they may act as a blood thinner, Jennings said. Others shouldn’t be used by pregnant women. “You need to have some guidelines,” she said. “I always go to my reference books.”

Jennings offers some whole, natural foods to help maintain good health as well as natural health and beauty aids, massage, and even organic doggie treats. Her customers use the scents of aromatherapy mostly for calming and stress and herbs for hormone imbalance, arthritis, painful joints and weight loss. “Some of them are looking for vitamins and minerals that the body needs,” she said. “Minerals are probably more important than vitamins. The body needs 77 different types of minerals and since land has been farmed so much, they’re just not in the dirt anymore.”

Kim Crowe, owner of the Art of Serenity, has been doing massage for years. “It gives you an immediate release of stress and you can see that you can be well,” Crowe said. “When you do something good for your body, it knows it right away.” But Crowe felt a need to learn more about other alternative therapies. “Most of my clients come in for a massage and they are inquisitive about other alternative therapies,” she said. “I have different treatments that I do for them. I had more and more people calling for hypnotherapy.” Now she has received training and added healing touch – which corrects imbalances in the body’s energy fields for healing – and hypnotherapy – a way of making contact with the subconscious self, which is a source of many problems and a tremendous reservoir of unrecognized potential strength and knowledge. Most of her clients want to use hypnosis to stop smoking or find the cause of pain. “We function through the unconscious mind all the time,” she said. “Any piece of information is stored in the subconscious memory.” Crowe said she isn’t the one doing the work during hypnosis. “They’re doing the work. Hypnosis releases the root cause of why the pain occurred in the first place. A thought pattern produces a block and the body goes into disease,” she said. “We go back to the event to see what created the problem – why they’re having the same pain. The body does this to protect itself from past pain whether it’s physical or emotional. It all takes the body back to the memory of what it was like to feel healthy.” People can’t begin therapy just because friends and family want them to, Crowe said. “You have to want to do it for yourself,” she said. “If you don’t, it won’t work.”

Although more people are embracing alternative therapies, they aren’t new, Crowe said. “All types of work has been done for centuries,” she said. “We forget how young our country is. I think you hear more about it now because a lot of people are ready to accept it.” Dickerson isn’t sure how long it took for her efforts using alternative therapy to pay off, but suddenly she felt well. “I woke up one morning and I didn’t have brain fog. I felt good,” she said. “When you’re sick, you can’t get your mind in a state to heal.” Alternative therapies don’t work for some people because they don’t stick with them or stop doing bad habits, Dickerson said. “Some people would rather have that cigarette or they’ve got to have that Coke. You can’t do that while you’re trying to get well,” she said. “Once you get well, you can have those things every once in a while. When I eat at a restaurant I think, ‘What does my body need today?’” Dickerson said alternative therapies have helped her. “You feel so at peace afterwards that you have a hope of feeling better,” she said. “They deal with how the body functions instead of getting that pill for something. Life began at 40 for me. I thank God every day that I feel good.”

Source: Bowling Green Daily News. © 2004.

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