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Going Back to Basics: Alternative Health Care in Globe-Miami

Mary O'Donnell at her yoga studio in Globe. 'Photo by Jenn Walker

If you want to avoid surgery or medicine, consider some of these century-old options

When we are in pain, we instinctively want to stop it as quickly as possible. Modern medicine has helped make this possible. If back pain is the problem, we pop a couple pills, from Advil to Vicodin, and carry on with our day the best we can.

Yet people all over the world have been treating their pain effectively long before modern medicine came along. Now, many of these these treatment methods are making a comeback under the umbrella of “alternative medicine”. 

Even here in Globe-Miami, there are practitioners in town who treat clients using these methods, several of which have been around for centuries.

We spoke with a few of these practitioners, and they gave us the skinny on what services they offer, and why you might consider being their client next time you have a health problem.

Desert Oasis Wellness – Dr. Julie Grahe-Keel, DC FIAMA

I’ve never tried acupuncture or chiropractic treatment for my ailments. Prior to writing this article, my only experiences with either were observing my mom while she lay on a table with a field of needles planted in her lower back, or while a doctor popped her spine into place as I sat in a chair and watched.

So one of my first questions to Dr. Julie Grahe was what does acupuncture feel like? Since we were sitting in one of the treatment rooms at Desert Oasis Wellness in downtown Globe, she showed me. I rolled up my sleeve, and she she pricked my elbow with a hair-thin needle. I wiggled it back and forth. Painless. Had she stuck me in the webbing between my forefinger and thumb, I would have felt something more, she said. 

According to Grahe, acupuncture can heal point-specific pains anywhere in the body, like shoulder and knee pain, as well as digestive problems, indigestion, addiction and depression. Acupuncture is an ancient practice based on the theory that channels run throughout your body, from your eyes to your toes. By stimulating different acupuncture points in the body using these metal, hair-thin needles, acupuncture will balance electromagnetic energy and relieve blood stagnation.

Grahe specializes in both acupuncture and chiropractic care, and has been working in the office on Broad St. as a certified chiropractic and acupuncture practitioner since 2005. Depending on a client’s condition, Grahe might treat him or her with acupuncture, chiropractic, or both.

Chiropractic is focused on adjusting the spine when it’s out of alignment, she explains. She grabs a rubber spine model on the shelf behind me to demonstrate, bending it to the side. Even slight misalignment can significantly affect the body, she explains, specifically the nervous system. The nervous system controls both the endocrine and immune systems; whenever these systems are jeopardized it prevents the body’s ability to heal.

So far, she has successfully treated anything from neck, jaw and sinus pain to arthritis, tendonitis, sporting injuries, earaches and work-related bodily stress. She helped a client go from 40 to four cigarettes in a matter of months, prevented a client from having tubes surgically put in her ears, and treated a client so that he no longer had to use glasses.

There are instances, however, where a client’s condition is beyond her realm of care, usually when their condition requires urgent treatment. Sometimes you need a doctor, she says. To help a person regain optimal health, it may require a combination of both traditional and alternative medicine, she says.

But if she can help prevent or postpone a surgery, she considers it a success.

Touch the Sky –  Mary O’Donnell, LMT

“Pain is a great teacher,” Mary O’Donnell says. “It’s something we don’t need to medicate or numb, but we need to embrace it and use it as a catalyst for change.”

This might sound unusual coming from a licensed massage therapist. Pain is almost always the symptom clients ask O’Donnell to treat – in the shoulders, back, hips and feet.

Make no mistake, she is highly successful in relieving her clients’ ailments. Yet she maintains that pain is extremely useful in helping to understand one’s body, signaling manifestation of life imbalances. Knowing how to read it can be extremely helpful in understanding what’s going on internally.

O’Donnell is also a certified yoga instructor; she became certified shortly after receiving her massage license and starting her clinic, Touch the Sky, in 2001. And, she has a heavy background in science. Prior to becoming a massage therapist, she was a biomedical engineering student.

Often she knows what is ailing a client simply by looking at them.

“Even just watching them breathe, you can get a really strong clue of what’s going on with their body.”

She can also find what is going on in someone’s body by observing range of motion in the joints.

Once she is able to pinpoint the problem, she can apply the appropriate massage techniques to treat them, sometimes focusing on a bodily system, like the lymphatic, circulatory or musculoskeletal systems.

By alleviating physical tension in the body, she often simultaneously treats other symptoms in her clients as well.

As she went through training in Swedish and lymphatic massage, she realized the profound effects that the lymphatic system has on the body’s emotional state. By physically helping clients release lymph drainage, she is able to lift the emotional and mental states of her clients as well, she says. 

“People holding incredible tension in their bodies, I say bodies because it’s not just physical, it’s emotional, spiritual, and mental, and these bodies overlap one another and one can affect the other,” she explains.

Julie Grahe at Oasis Wellness. Photo by Jenn Walker
Julie Grahe at Oasis Wellness. Photo by Jenn Walker

While learning massage, she explored other ways to regulate emotional and mental states, through yoga and ‘pranayama’, or breathing techniques, which she has shared with her clients. She watched a client heal a shattered clavicle through yoga.

She also offers electromagnetic field therapy, using several devices that work with the body through subtle vibrations, increasing the voltage, or electric charge in the body.

“Every cell in our body acts as a battery, and it goes anywhere from 70 to 90 millivolts,” she says. “That’s optimum health, that’s where we want to be at.”

But these days that is not where we’re at. Modern day living – i.e. degraded foods, sedentary lifestyles, being surrounded by computers and TVs – introduces noxious vibrations into the body, O’Donnell explains, decreasing the voltage within the human body to 50 to 70 millivolts or lower.

“I’ve seen in my own practice clients come back from what doctors said was a sad case,” says O’Donnell. “Shoulders that didn’t have any range of motion and very little cartilage have regrown cartilage and detained full range of motion when the only option was surgery.”

A client with longstanding sciatic problems found a nerve had repaired after this treatment.

“The most significant result of massage, yoga and vibrational healing is a reduction of stress. That’s the cortizol that’s running rampant in most peoples’ bodies right now because of the times and the pressures that we are living in,” she says. “And stress is a killer.”

If she doesn’t hear from a client, that’s a sign that her treatment is working.

“They show progress when they don’t call,” she laughs. “And that’s my ultimate goal, is to help them to not depend on anything or anyone.”

HOPE Clinic – Chad Campbell, PA

If you had spoken to Chad Campbell several years ago, he would have told you he was about ready to throw in the towel and quit family practice.

“I was ready to flip burgers and be done with medicine, I was just burnt out,” he recalls.

After ten-plus years practicing as a physician’s assistant in Globe, he remembers thinking, “there has got to be more to medicine.”

Then, after winning a scholarship, he enrolled in the Andrew Wilde Fellowship of Integrative Medicine in Tucson, and his outlook on medicine changed in a very dramatic way.

Chad Campbell. Photo by LCGross

“It completely changed the way I wanted to do practice,” he remembers.

Specifically, it spawned his desire to use integrative medicine – which considers the mind, spirit and body – in addition to conventional medicine, to treat his patients. After graduating from the fellowship three years ago, he started HOPE Clinic, where he offers integrative or conventional medicine, or both, to his patients.

His patients run the gamut of health problems. He often sees people who are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, emotional disorders and obesity.

In conventional medicine, if you have diabetes, you are prescribed a medication. If you have high blood pressure, you are prescribed another. While Campbell can prescribe these medications, he also offers his patients other options.

“How do you want to approach this,” he asks them. “Do you want to look at herbs, supplements, mind, body? Or would you like to go for the medication?”

The way he sees it, being able to offer options to his patients gives him freedom.

“I’m there helping the patient in their journey, I’m not dictating their journey for them,” he explains.

An alternative route to medication might look something like this. After looking at the patient’s lab work, Campbell will learn about his or her sleep patterns and stress levels, their relaxation techniques, and their eating habits. Based on the assessment, Campbell and the patient form a plan together to treat the patient without medication.

For a diabetic patient, this might involve exercise, foods with a low Glycemic Index, planned meals and an adjusted sleep schedule. He has been able to get diabetics off insulin this way.

Another patient had a testosterone level that had fallen to 120. Campbell assessed and treated the patient’s sleeping habits, and his testosterone rose to above 700 within two months.

Without a doubt, the most common lifestyle change Campbell prescribes to his patients is dietary, he says.

A simple food sensitivity, for instance, will cause inflammatory reactions in the body (stress has a similar bodily effect).

“Foods create reactions in our body that our bodies don’t like. So a lot of times, if that is what is the problem, you can remove it. It works. Let thy food heal thy body,” he says. 

In kids, food sensitivities often come out through behavior. Campbell has been able to get ADHD kids completely off their medications by finding out what foods they are sensitive to and eliminating those foods from their diet. For one patient, it was dairy. Kids who were getting kicked out of school are now getting straight As by making small changes to what they eat.

Talking to him now, you would think Campbell is a different person.

“I love it, I would never change what I do ever, now,” he says. “I think that if people could see how much their lifestyles affect the health of their bodies they would be more willing to change it.”

About Jenn Walker

Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.

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