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Healing starts with having an Open Mind: Integrative Medicine and its modalities are proving more effective to helping patients with complex neurological conditions because of its patient-centered approach to care

Jess Silver

September 15, 2013

Individuals that are either born with a neurological condition or acquire a brain injury post-accident, often feel overwhelmed by the reality of diagnosis and left at a loss for words. It feels like you’re battling against others as well as yourself in a quest of deciphering the mechanics of the brain. Physicians that you turn to for guidance and treatment options are much like you, detectives trying to solve the mysterious nuances of damage sustained to the frontal and motor cortex, as is the case of a condition like Cerebral Palsy. The fact is that treatment options for a condition like this one, that can either confine individuals to a wheelchair or impair one’s physical and cognitive abilities causing them to rely on assistive equipment, are limited to studies that have been performed to date.

I remember being ten years old, sitting in the neurologist’s office and feeling completely defeated after she looked at me, the woman that I thought could have some solutions to helping me get better, and she said, “Face it you have CP, there are no miracles out there.” That was it. The moment I knew that I wasn’t going to let my diagnosis of being disabled define me. I was going to explore all the other undiscovered avenues to get stronger and to improve.

Prior to the last decade, the options for treatment of conditions like Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Scoliosis and other neurological disorders that cause muscular imbalances as a result of the damage to the brain, were restricted to only include conventional methods such as physical therapy and the administration of medications to decrease spasticity which is high muscle tone. According to Dr. Ray Sahelin, MD, and author of Cerebral Palsy Alternative Treatment whose work focuses on defining Cerebral Palsy as a non- progressive brain injury, treatment consists of medical drugs, and orthopedic musculosketal surgery to release contractures.  More recently however, attitudes on rehabilitative care are changing with the implementation of Integrative and Functional Medicine.

This is an approach to the body and to rehabilitation that I have favoured and believed in more strongly as an adult with CP. Understanding the multifaceted nature of my condition and the fact that there isn’t a cure, has opened my mind up to exploring the interconnected nature of the body and particularly the nervous system and spinal cord.  I now believe more strongly in the principles of Integrative Medicine because they take into consideration both the prescriptive notion of properly diagnosing the condition, and also broaden the scope of options available to the individual like myself through thorough evaluation of the other factors contributing to the pain of muscle spasticity and nerve irritation.. Integrative Medicine is defined as the medical practice that combines both conventional methods of diagnosis with evidence-based alternative modalities such as medical acupuncture and chiropractic care. Coupled with functional medicine which actively considers the genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors as they contribute to one’s body, following the integrative avenue has allowed me to notice more improvements to my condition and overall well-being. Both doctors and patients describe medicine as a journey. It is the journey of educating oneself, and understanding another’s condition or pain to help them feel better.  For both doctor and patient this is a journey of self-discovery, strength, amelioration and trust in another.

For myself, it has been an all-encompassing journey that both my parents and I have been on since being diagnosed at birth with Cerebral Palsy, Spastic Dipelgia. And almost nine years ago, I began another journey that is part of the larger one, but one I can classify as its own. It started when I met my doctor – a physician, chiropractor  and naturopathic doctor. Working with him solidified for me the importance of incorporating a variety of methods and modalities to treat the cause. Due to this diverse medical background, he draws from the difference principles offered from the combined perspectives of Medicine, Chiropractic, and Naturopathy to effectively address my condition. His method is different because rather than treating my pain as if it were localized in one area, he approaches my body as a whole.

In focusing on the treatment and improvement of the pain felt from a severe curvature of the spine, known as scoliosis which in my case is idiopathic (unknown cause), and constant muscle spasticity originating from the abnormal neurological impulses, he brings together various therapeutic modalities to help me feel better. In contrast to the conventional medical practices that present a rigid framework of options and make it difficult to be optimistic, Integrative Medicine is patient centered; having given me the chance to forge a dynamic, and close client-physician relationship. He has educated me on the connections of the body and the mind, while providing various effective options for relief.

These include acupuncture, electric muscle- stimulation, chiropractic adjustments and manual therapy together with non- invasive injections called Prolotheraphy. Prolotheraphy is aimed at targeting the injured area, and aiding in the growth of healthy tissues and muscle cells.  It has helped ease the spasticity. This has made a noticeable difference in helping me carry out my daily tasks with an increased range of motion.  In working together, the Integrative approach determines the root of the problem as complex as mine, and then looks to heal. I’ve developed more of an open mind and am always ready to find ways to challenge the limitations of my condition. His multifaceted expertise and patience has been, and is, integral to helping me develop an understanding of my condition and readiness to improve.