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Wellness professionals weigh in on popular alternative therapies, treatment

by on January 09, 2014 8:59 AM

STATE COLLEGE — The New Year is a popular time to set fresh goals, especially when it comes to health and wellness. Today there are a variety of integrated treatments growing in popularity among those with illnesses and conditions as well as those who consider themselves healthy. Area professionals in the fields of massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and nutritional counseling weigh in on these therapies and why they matter.

Tracie Pletcher, co-owner of Dragonfly Therapeutic Massage and Day Spa and licensed massage therapist, said one of the most important things to know about massage is that there’s a style for everyone. Located on North Atherton Street, Dragonfly offers a variety of services ranging from skin care to chiropractic, but when it comes to massage, it really “covers the gamut,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher said she treats all ages, from babies to the elderly, and massages include relaxation massage, hot stone massage and sports massage/injury prevention.

There are also different styles of deep tissue massage, as well as trigger point therapy, deep pressure massage, Swedish massage and lymph drainage, among others, she said. Each body responds differently to the various types.

“Massage is not one size fits all,” she said.

Those who are considering massage as part of their overall health plan should first and foremost ask their masseuse questions, Pletcher said, such as how long he or she has been in practice, and what style and techniques he or she uses. This is important because some patients prefer quiet during their massage and others favor conversation, she said.

“You have to find the right fit,” Pletcher said.

Massage can assist in treating a variety of conditions, Pletcher said, most notably any body ailment having to do with stress, such as high blood pressure and hypertension. It can also help treat immune disorders and arthritis, and can be beneficial to athletes and patients before and after surgery, she said.

“Massage covers that … body image, depression,” she said explaining its benefits on mental and physical health and wellbeing. “There’s nothing like the complete (relaxed state) and calm (that comes) after massage.”

Pletcher advises people not to wait until their muscles cramp or spasm before they get a massage. The frequency of when a person should have a massage depends on his or her health history and lifestyle, Pletcher explained. However, in a lot of cases it is advised to come every four to six weeks, and even more frequently when just starting out.

“Your body likes the repetition of releasing all the knots … that takes predictability. It’s like any good habit,” Pletcher said.

Runners may get a massage once a week to help with stretching, she said, and migraine sufferers may come once a week as well.

Pletcher said it’s important to understand that while massage may feel good, it isn’t only “pampering”; achieving a deep relaxation state is good for both mental wellness and physical activity.

“They definitely go hand in hand,” she said.

Monica Montag, founder and owner of BeWell Associates, helps patients achieve optimal health through a personalized approach to teaching lifestyle skills and providing therapies.

BeWell Associates was founded by Montag about 25 years ago, and offers holistic nutritional counseling. Montag, holistic health practitioner and certified, licensed nutritionist and process acupressurist, said she works to get to the bottom of patients’ common health complaints, oftentimes when conventional medicine is not working.

“We see a lot of people with fatigue,” she said, as well as those struggling with weight loss.

Montag, also registered and board certified in holistic nutrition, said she evaluates how to help the patient and get to the root cause of his or her issues using a variety of testing. One such test, called functional testing, may involve using blood, urine and saliva samples to evaluate how the body is working. Other tests assess the patient’s metabolism, or other ways the body makes energy, she said.

“It reveals how the body is functioning,” Montag said.

Treatment plans are catered to the individual, she said, and use a combination of approaches and remedies, such as change in diet, vitamins and supplements, and lifestyle suggestions.

Though it varies, a client may seek treatment about once a month, she said, and clients of BeWell Associates are all ages, from 3 months to those in their 80s.

“It’s the full range,” Montag said.

Other treatment recommendations may include massage, chiropractic treatment and exercise, she said.

“We look at all of the things that influence people’s health,” Montag said. “We really take everything into account.”

BeWell Associates, located on Easterly Parkway, has two full-time nutritionists on staff, as well as five massage therapists and one integrative psychiatrist, she said.

Daniel Greenberg, licensed acupuncturist who operates the Community Acupuncture Centre in State College, said acupuncture can be a natural way to heal the body.

“Of course I am biased to the use of acupuncture as a medical choice,” he said. “It can be used as stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with Western medicine, massage, chiropractic, etc. There is a misconception that if one practices acupuncture then they must be opposed to the use of Western allopathic medicine, and that is just not the case. There is plenty of room for both acupuncture, and in a greater sense, Eastern medicine, to work alongside Western allopathic medicine … both systems have their strengths and weaknesses.”

The Community Acupuncture Centre, located on Easterly Parkway, provides acupuncture, auricular medicine and Chinese herbal therapy. Greenberg has been practicing in State College in 2004.

An initial visit to Community Acupuncture Centre begins with a one-half hour consult to determine the best treatment plan, Greenberg said, followed by acupuncture treatment. The treatment is done while reclining comfortably, and lasts for about 45 to 50 minutes, he said.

“The experience tends to be very relaxing and often one feels a great sense of calm after the treatments,” Greenberg said. “Acupuncture uses very thin, sterile, disposable needles, much thinner than people may expect.”

Greenberg said fear of needles may keep people away from trying acupuncture, but that needn’t be the case.

“To the delight of many that try acupuncture for the first time they find the needle sensation is not painful at all,” he said.

Acupuncture may play an important role in a person’s overall wellness plan because its aim is to achieve harmony within the body, Greenberg said. 

“Chinese medicine is the largest medical modality in the world and is used to treat a wide range of complaints,” he said. “An acupuncturist’s goal is to bring balance to the body’s function by using very fine needles to adjust the circulatory and nervous systems to operate more efficiently, and thereby improving the health of the organs and the nerves.”

Comparing the therapy to the story of Goldie Locks, Greenberg said the attempt is to guide the person back to a “just right” state – not too hot or too cold.

“To achieve this balance the clinic uses acupuncture and sometimes herbs, but just as important is a frank discussion on lifestyle changes such as dietary goals and stress reduction techniques,” he said.

Some conditions acupuncture may help treat include digestive or respiratory issues like asthma and allergies, anxiety and depression, neurological and pain-related complaints, Greenberg said.

“It can be used in the treatment of long-term chronic conditions as well as acute ones,” he said. “Any age group can get acupuncture, but I would recommend that children be at least 7 years old … any younger and they find it very difficult to lay still for any length of time.”

Greenberg said acupuncture may also tie in with various other treatments, such as surgery.

“That trend is now happening in a number of hospitals on the West and East coasts where an acupuncture clinic operates within the hospital,” he said. “Often there are circumstances where pharmaceuticals or surgeries do not product lasting or completely effective results. Acupuncture can complement these treatments to provide better outcomes, and in some cases with proper management, one can eventually reduce their medications or avoid surgery.”

Dr. Russell J. Hildebrand, president of Hildebrand Chiropractic Inc., said chiropractic is used to treat a variety of conditions in addition to lower back pain, headaches and neck pain.

“Chiropractic is great for back pain and headaches,” Hildebrand said. “However, we see a number of other conditions with excellent results. Oftentimes, patients try chiropractic because nothing else worked. I recommend chiropractic is one of the first treatments people seek out because it is so safe and effective and it is natural and easily handled by the body. Many patients notice they sleep better, have more energy and better digestion.”

Hildebrand Chiropractic, located on Martin Street in State College, was founded in Colorado in 1999 and moved to State College in 2007. In addition to chiropractic, it offers other modalities to help alleviate pain and speed up the healing process, Hildebrand said.

“Most patients come in because they are in pain,” he said. “For these patients removing the pain can be a major factor in their overall health.”

Hildebrand said accumulation of stress on the body due to pain can be devastating for one’s health and wellbeing.

“Many people are not exercising or sleeping well due to pain,” Hildebrand said. “Of course exercise and sleep are essential for our health … chiropractic fits in very well with health and wellness.”

A combination of exercise, good diet, sleep, positive thinking and chiropractic may be able to treat a majority of chronic illnesses, he said.

“That includes prevention of diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer and many others,” Hildebrand said. “There are too many conditions to list here, but if you want your body to function at its best and help your body fight off and resist disease, chiropractic might be for you. We are all born with the innate ability to heal and self regulate our bodies. Chiropractic, like exercise, diet, sleep (and) positive thoughts simple gives your body what it needs to heal itself.”

While massage, acupuncture and chiropractic physically treat the body using a variety of techniques, other approaches may play an important role in overall health, including those that help restore the mind.

Joanie Yanusas, certified professional life, relationships and retreat coach, helps teach clients to listen and to communicate with loved ones and themselves.

A Shaver’s Creek area resident, Yanusas practices in State College and a variety of other locations across the state. In addition to working with couples and individuals, she hosts private and group retreats and speaks publically, including at Juniata College.

Yanusas, who said her “niche” is in communication skills, finds a common problem in relationships is that people withdraw into their own egos rather than listening to their partner.

The goal is to help clients learn how to be curious rather than be “in their own head,” she said, and to resist avoiding negative thoughts because they will keep coming back.

“It’s really embracing them,” she said, to understand what must be done to move forward. “It’s not being afraid of them.”

Yanusas, with seven years of experience in her line of work, said part of the process involves helping the client find out what he or she wants and what’s really going on.

“It’s really looking into yourself,” she said. “To me that’s the ultimate self care. It’s loving yourself and facing those fears that you’re avoiding.”

Many times clients seek out Yanusas because they want change and are tired of having the same arguments, whether with themselves or with a family member. The course of getting to the root of the problem is not easy or fast, she said; it’s a constant project.

“It takes work,” Yanusas said.

Every single entity of a person’s wellbeing is in taking care of themselves,” she added.

“If you’re not happy you’re not bringing your best self to the picture,” Yanusas said.

In sessions, Yanusas uses a variety of approaches and methods, including role playing, journaling and homework. However, none of the work is mandatory and Yanusas said she never makes anybody do anything they don’t want to do.

Addressing underlying issues is an important part of a person’s overall wellness, she explained, because actions only go so far without attitude adjustments. Mind, body and spirit all work together, she said.

 A person can practice certain behaviors, such as eating right or exercising, but if he or she is unable to address mental roadblocks or reasons for stopping these good behaviors, optimal health won’t be achieved.

“It’s a continuous thing,” Yanusas said. “You want to be the best self … it’s a choice.”

And then there are therapies whose remedies can’t necessarily be seen or heard, but rather felt.

Marge Delozier, co-owner of Simply Health Salt Spa in State College, said people seek out the wellness center’s services for a variety of reasons, most notably Himalayan salt therapy. The reason, she said, is because Himalayan salt is known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

“I can’t think of any (health issues) that don’t start with inflammation,” she said.

Located on South Atherton Street, Simply Health Salt Spa, also owned by Nikki Santangelo, consists of three salt rooms surrounded by 11 tons of Himalayan salt. Its services include massage in a salt room, detoxifying iron cleanse foot baths, infrared detoxifying in a salt room, a salt sauna, guided meditation in a salt room, essential oil therapy and an infrared Jade Mechanical Massage Bed, Delozier said.

Conditions associated with inflammation include asthma, arthritis, allergies, skin issues, gout and migraines, among others, she said. And people of all ages have inflammation.

Each visit to the Himalayan salt room helps shrink inflammation, Delozier said.

“The benefits in the salt room (are) cumulative,” she said, explaining clients may visit once a week, every other week or once a month.

“It just depends what they’re trying to improve,” Delozier said.

Salt therapy may be unique to the United States, Delozier said, but it is a longtime treatment in Europe and other countries.

A session in a Himalayan salt room at Simply Health Salt Spa lasts 45 minutes, she said. The patient sits or reclines comfortably, and there is no talking or use of devices permitted. Low lights and quiet music add to the experience.

“It’s just 45 minutes for your body to start to heal,” she said.

The salt rooms are 68 to 70 degrees, and blankets are available as well as disposable booties to put over socks. Himalayan salt is rich in negative ions and minerals. During a session of salt therapy, also known as halotherapy, negative ions are absorbed into the body by breathing the saturated air into the lungs, according to Simply Health Salt Spa’s website. 



Dragonfly Therapeutic Massage and Day Spa:

BeWell Associates:

Hildebrand Chiropractic Inc.:

Joanie Yanusas, certified professional life, relationships and retreat coach:

Community Acupuncture Centre:

Simply Health Salt Spa:

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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