Sometimes chronic pain is a thief, robbing enjoyment from life’s brightest moments. At other times, it’s a mosquito, endlessly irritating. For healers, including our natural medicine practitioners in Portland, chronic pain is an enormous puzzle that we piece together. Our naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and other health experts work together to “solve” the puzzle of pain relief for each patient. Heart Spring Health’s collaborative care approach ensures that the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—is addressed in the therapeutic process. Natural medicine practitioners from an array of healing traditions can work together to eliminate pain.
Our Portland naturopaths and practitioners of all healing modalities are adept at spotting opportunities for interdisciplinary contribution. One of our naturopathic doctors (NDs) may initially recommend dietary and lifestyle changes for calming the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, for instance. Inflammation can contribute to chronic pain, as indicated by a University of Toronto study. This research found that inflammation increases the presence of a certain protein that signals pain to the brain long after the original painful illness or injury has been resolved. By reducing intake of inflammatory foods, patients may be able to avoid the need for anti-inflammatory prescriptions. Concurrent with these dietary changes, an ND at Heart Spring Health might recommend stress-reducing massage as well as pain-relieving acupuncture and chiropractic services. In Portland, we are blessed with a deep pool of standard and traditional healers who can collaborate for exceptional health care.
Let’s see how collaborative care works in practice when treating chronic pain. Here’s the story of one patient who realized pain relief by working with Heart Spring Health’s following specialists: Angela Cortal, ND, Alexandra Jackiw, LAc, and Carrie Staller, DC.
Collaborative Care Pain Management Case Study: One Patient’s Story
Dr. Angela: A woman in her early 50s came to see me seeking help with severe hot flashes, which were impacting her sleep. She was overall fairly healthy, eating well and exercising regularly. By working to balance her hormones, we have substantially improved her hot flashes and are working towards complete elimination. During our work together, she mentioned some nagging upper shoulder and arm complaints, and due to her regular and high intensity work-outs, I told her that I thought acupuncture would help improve her overall physical health.
Dr. Alexandra: Before I saw this patient for the first time, I was able to get the background on her case from Dr. Angela, meaning I went into our first visit with a foundational understanding of her health, and was immediately able to hone in on her primary concerns within the context of her overall health. We’ve used acupuncture to help resolve her chronic back pain; bring her out of several episodes of acute shoulder, knee, and foot pain; and also relieve stress, thereby supporting the hormonal balancing work she’s doing with Dr. Angela. Recently she came in with a digestive complaint, and Dr. Angela and I collaborated on a treatment plan and herbal remedy specifically tailored for her.
Dr. Angela: More recently, the patient contacted me about an acute foot pain. I was out of the office and could not determine whether it was due to exercise-related trauma or an acute injury. She was, however, able to get in to see our chiropractor Dr. Carrie right away.
Dr. Carrie: When this patient came to see me the first time on Dr. Angela’s recommendation, her foot pain was so severe it was affecting her ability to exercise. I worked in communication with both Dr. Angela and Dr. Alexandra to resolve her pain, which had decreased by 50% on her second visit, and was 100% resolved by the third appointment. I know that her speedy recovery was due in large part to the collaborative effort that the three of us coordinated. Her body responded well to chiropractic treatment because it was complemented by acupuncture and a comprehensive hormone-balancing treatment plan. She was so pleased with her results, she asked me to evaluate her back, as she had been experiencing pain on and off in those areas as well. The back discomfort was also completely resolved within three treatments, again thanks to the team approach.
Dr. Angela: So what we are able to offer our patients is a comprehensive and integrative care approach. It is much more than simply having a wide variety of healthcare practitioner types and expertise at our clinic. We work very closely together, so that together we can come up with the most efficient treatment plan. That ensures our patients get the best care, that they are not receiving redundant services from different providers (which can easily happen if practitioners are not communicating thoroughly about each patient) and that together we can adjust our treatment plan, modifying as new gains are made in our patients’ health.
Why limit your care to a single healing modality? Chiropractic care offers multiple benefits for pain management. Massage also presents unique pathways to pain reduction, such as trigger point therapy. Likewise, acupuncture can deliver fast pain relief, even for chronic conditions. And we’ve just skimmed the surface of healing approaches. Psychological and spiritual components also play an important role in chronic pain reduction. At Heart Spring Health, a caring team of multi-disciplinary health care professionals will collaborate to tackle your chronic pain.[Photo Courtesy of Ana Labate via FreeImages.com]