alternative medicine

My daughter has taught me much about the health benefits of alternative medicine. A serious student of dance since age 11, she is aware of every nuance of her body. She knows when it’s in tip-top shape, and she knows when it’s in need of tweaking. Alternative medicine helps her correct imbalances in her anatomy. Being in alignment ensures that she can do her job with utmost confidence. Practitioners who assist her are physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and accupuncturists. My daughter turns to all of them for help, as needed.

My first encounter with a chiropractor was about 6 or 7 years ago. Living away from my home with my daughter in another state where she was training with a ballet company, I suffered chronic pain in my lower back. Not being able to “live with it” any longer, I searched the yellow pages for a chiropractor, a female one. I wanted sympatico, not brute force. My eyes fell upon an ad in a box. Not only was the doctor female, but she was described as “gentle.” She proved to be that and more.

Dr. Geier adjusted my problem back and in the process, did wonders for my disposition. Throughout the 2 1/2 years of self-imposed exile from my husband and all that was familiar to me, she was a friend with whom I could commiserate about life. With her adjuster, an instrument that makes anatomical corrections through sound waves, Dr. Geier straightened out my back when it was out of alignment, and did the same for other body parts as needed. I came to depend upon her to keep my aging body in working order, and my soul open to the positive energy she imbued. As a bonus Dr. Geier, a practitioner of homeopathic medicine, gave me a better understanding and appreciation for a vegetarian diet (not that I became one) and the use of natural remedies. (My daughter and I use Arnica for muscle aches and pains. It works after being in one’s system for about a week). I will always be beholding to this wise doctor who put me on the right path to caring for myself, body, soul and mind.

Returning home after my daughter’s career was launched, I found an equally competent healer in Dr. Babcox. She is younger than Dr. Geier, but no less capable of adjusting my body parts after my abuse of them in the daily grind of living. She’s convinced me that I can’t expect my body to do what it always does if I don’t give it a “hand-up” once-in-awhile. Quickly throwing luggage onto security conveyor belts and hoisting them up into overhead bins, are sure-fire ways to get me into my chiropractor’s office. I’ve tried to stay away at times, thinking my shoulder and back pain would somehow disappear. But after paying Dr. Babcox a visit I always think “Now why didn’t I do this sooner, I would’ve been rid of my suffering before now.” I may go months without a visit, but I know my chiropractor is always there just in case. And believe me, there will always be ongoing need of her services, until the day I stop living. So it looks like Dr. Babcox is onboard for the long haul.

Several years ago my daughter had strained her groin muscle in a rehearsal. Not attending to it more seriously, the ache lingered for a couple of years. It became an issue when she wanted to be considered for meatier roles during a summer gig. Choreographers tried her in solos, and she tried even harder to make them happen. No matter their consideration or her over-the-top effort, the ache finally got the best of her. She came home to us and spent the remaining summer months recovering.

Throughout her season of regular employment with her dance company, my daughter continued to suffer the niggling ache in her groin. She muscled through and looked forward to a great summer working the gig she’d been with the previous year. Happily, she did dance the full 12 weeks that summer.  But a few weeks into the job, the strained muscle began rearing its “ugly head.” Frustrated, my daughter spoke about it with me. 

One day while browsing the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I happened upon “The Permanent Pain Cure” by Ming Chew, PT. Perusing the introductory chapter, I had a “lightbulb” moment. This man’s advice “The Breakthrough Way to Heal Your Muscle and Joint Pain for Good” seemed tailor-made for my daughter.  So I bought the book, called her on the phone, told her to buy and take certain supplements prescribed by Ming Chew, as well as soak in epsom baths as he also advised. A few days later my daughter called announcing that she was feeling tons better. The problem muscle felt looser, more relaxed. She could dance more fully, not afraid to put pressure on the area. And so it continued to feel fine. I convinced her and my husband that she needed to see Ming Chew for some hands on therapy, for I was absolutely certain he could eliminate the pain for good.

After I exchanged emails with Ming Chew, my daughter flew to NYC where in a week and a half, she spent 3 sessions in physical therapy with him. Not until a year later did she tell me that the treatment was somewhat painful. I say somewhat, because dancers have a high threshold for pain. I would have probably bolted through the ceiling at the hands of Ming Chew. My daughter likened it to Rolfing, another alternative medical treatment which she’d endured at 14 years of age, when a ballet teacher recommended that it might give her more flexibility. (I didn’t learn of the pain my daughter felt at this man’s hands until many years later. Talk about high thresholds?) But after all is said and done, Ming Chew’s treatment DID resolve my daughter’s persistent groin muscle ache. So she owes him, at least in part, for being promoted from apprentice to full company member the year after being treated. 

On the inside flap of the back cover of the book is a description of Ming Chew “…a physical therapist, former champion bodybuilder, and martial artist whose work also uses concepts of Chinese medicine. The Ming Method, which uses no surgery or drugs, has healed thousands of clients, including many high-profile athletes. Ming Chew’s work has been covered in the New York Times, Men’s Health, and the Daily News. He has a private practice in New York City.” You can visit his website at www.mingmethod.net. I highly recommend him, especially if your life, or job, depends upon it.

Finally I’ve been convinced, largely owing to my daughter, that massage therapy is a necessity, not a luxury. And so I see Jennifer, my massage therapist, regularly, if not every month, then every other. She is not one who gives me a spa massage, although I’m sure she could. At her very able hands I am relieved of sore muscles which, if left unattended, would become a chronic issue, and perhaps a major one. Equally important is that massage therapy helps regulate one’s limbic system (A ring-shaped area in the center of the brain that consists of a number of connected clusters of nerve cells.) It’s one of those tidbits of information that I’ve heard but couldn’t tell you where from. But trust me, remember my header is HUGMAMMA’S ATTENTION TO DETAIL. And I am anal about details.

According to “The American Medical Association Encyclopedia of Medicine,” “The limbic system plays a role in the autonomic nervous system (which automatically regulates body functions), in the emotions, and in the sense of smell. The limbic system is extensive, and the different substructures within it have been named (for example, the hippocampus, the cingulate gyrus, and the amygdala). Much of our knowledge of the limbic system comes from the observation and investigation of the behavior of animals and people known to have damage to or disease in the limbic area of the brain. The most commonly observed effects are abnormalities of emotional response, such as inappropriate crying or laughing, easily provoked rage, unwarranted fear, anxiety and depression, and excessive sexual interest.”

My daughter is fortunate to be with a company that cares about the well-being of its dancers. They are regularly seen by physical therapists, and a chiropractor. And the dancers avail themselves of a great massage therapist who makes his sessions more affordable for them.

While I must find my own team of alternative medicine practitioners, doing so has been a “no-brainer.” I see them more regularly than my medical doctors, and gladly so. I have been free of prescribed drugs for a few years, giving my liver a break from processing all those potentially harmful chemicals. (Now it can just focus on breaking down and getting rid of the stuff that’s in the food I still can’t stop eating, like peanuts, and a dessert now and then.) My chiropractor and massage therapist help “heal” my body, soul and mind. These services are priceless in the grand scheme of things…

my best life going foward…hugmamma.

self-help for Alzheimer’s

A major concern is getting Alzheimer’s. It’s in my genes because my mom died several years ago with the disease. Our lives were dissimilar in most ways, so I’m hopeful that I can avoid the inevitable. Testing can be done to determine my chances, but do I really want to know. Because I believe in the power of the mind, I wouldn’t want to play a part, any part, in being “taken over” by Alzheimer’s. So I’m doing what I can without driving myself over the edge into insanity or depression. After all, I’d like to enjoy what’s left of my wonderful life.

A year ago I posted the following blog on another site. It is still featured there. So that readers might immediately avail themselves of the information it contains I decided to rerun the blog here. Hope it helps.

Between slowing the progression, or preventing, Alzheimer’s and lowering my cholesterol, I was more concerned about damage to my brain than to my heart. But surely the two are intricately intertwined, so which is the “horse” and which is the “cart.” Personally, I chose Alzheimer’s as the front-runner. Correcting my cholesterol ran a close second. I made this choice for 2 reasons, my mom and a dear friend.

Ongoing health issues together with the stress of raising 9 children as a 30-year-old widow, probably made my mom a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s. A growing cynicism as she aged made matters worse. It was difficult to see a once vital woman who led others in her church community, evolve into a reclusive, suspicious, finger-pointing, unclean stranger who disrobed in the garage. Towards the end, only the family dog was privy to my mom’s barely decipherable, ranting. Bless my older sister and her husband who were the primary caretakers through the 7 years of my mom’s illness. Living an ocean away with my own family to look after, I was unable to be of much help.

A friend unexpectedly developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s in her 50’s. I’m not certain if it was triggered by a stroke, however. A highly efficient legal secretary, she discovered she could no longer remember how to type. The progression seemed slow at first. But then the illness went into overdrive. My girlfriend retired earlier than she’d planned. She could no longer take walks alone along the country roads where we lived. Her husband had to learn to cook, because she would forget to turn the stove off. And she was devastated when he had to help her bathe and change. One day while dining at a restaurant, she did not return from the restroom. She was discovered by a mutual friend in the toilet cubicle crying, because she couldn’t remember how to dress herself. She eventually went to reside in a nursing home, where she lived for another 20 years. When she was cognizant, she would babble that she wanted to die rather than live like a baby, totally dependent upon others.

Recalling such vivid images of a disease that steals the essence of loved ones is as scary as the long-forgotten Fun House at local fairs. I would want to pee just trying to get away from the maze of mirrors that loomed everywhere in the dark, taunting me as I stumbled along searching for the exit. Unfortunately with Alzheimer’s, there’s only one way out, and it can be excruciatingly painful for the patient and the caregivers.

Because I love my husband and precious daughter more than life itself, I decided to begin treating myself for Alzheimer’s while I’m able. A fortunate side effect is that it also helps lower my cholesterol. My primary tool became THE ANTI-ALZHEIMER’S PRESCRIPTION by Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a practicing neurologist. He treats victims of the disease. Because his own father succumbed to it, the doctor has a 10-30% risk of developing Alzheimer’s as well. This fact and his expertise made me believe in his recommendations. Besides incorporating the standard lifestyle changes of diet and exercise, I took his advice about supplement intake, reducing stress and increasing my sleep quality. As a precaution I confirmed the supplement dosage with a naturopath, and provided the list to my family physician.

To help me resolve my propensity for over-worrying and therefore over-stressing, I read CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a clinical neuroscientist, and nationally recognized expert on the relationship between the brain and behavior. His “brain prescriptions” include simple breathing techniques to immediately calm inner turmoil; learning to kill ANTS (automatic negative thoughts); following the Amen anti-anger diet and learning the nutrients that calm rage; and “getting unstuck” from obsessive worrying. Dr. Martin Stein, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at George Washington University calls Dr. Amen revolutionary in showing “how the brain can become your worst enemy, and how with proper treatment, your best friend.”

It’s been some time since I’ve read the aforementioned books, but they sit prominently perched atop a desk not far from my bed. They are like old friends, reminding me that I need not be a victim of Alzheimer’s, that there might be an alternative. At least I have that.

At 60, I feel as energized as I did at 40. Then I was at my peak. I’d shed the pounds gained during pregnancy by exercising at the local YMCA, and walking 4 miles a day when not at the gym. Weight Watchers helped me count calories. In the years since, the inevitable happened. Life took over. Exercising diminished, almost coming to a standstill; while the pounds, and some, returned and settled in comfortably.

While Drs. Fortanasce and Amen gave me ammunition to get healthy, it took a personal epiphany for me to become fully engaged, mentally and physically. Four months from that “light bulb” moment, I feel in control of my health having made some definite changes to what I eat and how I feel about myself. “I’m a good person, and everyone deserves to live their best life.”

The most valuable lesson I have learned as a mother is compassion for myself and others. I also try to live with a positive outlook for my sake and my family’s. To do so, I relish all the small details in everyday life. My sixth sense helps me. That would be My Memory, the Essence of Who I Am.