ROCHESTER, Minn. – From pain and nausea to fatigue and anxiety, there’s some kind of drug to help alleviate symptoms. But even as medicine develops, some believe there are other ways to solve health problems that don’t include a prescription or pill bottle.
Larina Brobst of Rochester is one of those people. She is no stranger to a hospital. Because of a rare heart condition, Brobst says she’s been in and out of emergency room for years.
“I was in the ER every week to two weeks,” she explains.
That is until her cardiologist recommended she begin acupuncture treatments about a year and a half ago.
“It took probably five or six appointments before I got really strong and I knew that by then, I hadn’t been in the hospital,” says Brobst. “The treatments just really help the pain either here or in the middle of my chest. I also get it for fibromyalgia and for migraines and Alex does all of it at the same time.”
Every two weeks, Brobst sees Alexander Do, a licensed acupuncturist at Mayo Clinic.
Acupuncture is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine and has been around for at least 4,000 years. Modern research speculates that inserting small needles into a specific point on the body can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain killers.
“Certain conditions respond faster and have been backed up with research, so I like to call that my A-list,” Do explains. “Some of those include migraine headache, osteoarthritis, anxiety depression, IBS and generalized chronic pain.”
Do explains that a common misconception is that sticking needles into your body is painful, but he says it’s quite the opposite. He says that an acupuncture needs is much smaller than hypodermic needles, which are used to administer vaccines like flu shots. Do says you can fit about five to seven acupuncture needles into a standard hypodermic needle. As a form of pain relief, he says there are little to no adverse affects, which is another reason Brobst prefers acupuncture over other over-the-counter pain killers.
“Those have side effects, they hurt your stomach, they hurt other things — but when the needles are done, you have several days where you feel much better and there just aren’t side effects,” she adds.
She is not alone in wanting to cut back on pharmaceutical fixes. To address an increased interest in more natural and non-traditional treatments, Mayo Clinic founded the Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program. It offers services that are not typically apart of western medicine. The treatments like massage, acupuncture, and aromatherapy are meant to compliment and not replace medical care.
“Hospital-based massage therapy is a lot different than what you might see on the outside,” says Nancy Rodgers, one of the clinic’s nationally certified massage therapists.
Rodgers explains that in the clinical setting, massage can be recommended to help patients cope with pain and stress associated with a wide variety of conditions, including cancer and heart disease.
“We do a lot with nausea,” Rodgers adds. “A lot with nausea with our patients where they’ve taken enough nausea medication and they just can’t quite get it under control — so we have some different techniques within our massage scope, our pressure points that we show them that we can work with nausea pressure points and of course we also offer them aromatherapy.”
Aromatherapy has only been utilized by Mayo Clinic for about five years. Rodgers says it began in the Pediatric Department, and now all nursing staff is educated on the use of aromatherapy. They have spearmint and ginger oils to help with nausea and lavender for relaxation.
“We’ve had a great, great response all the way from the pediatrics on up. They’re very well used and very easy to use with just the inhalation,” Rodgers adds.
The Complimentary and Integrative Medicine teams work very closely with each patient’s medical doctors when administering these kinds of treatments.
“We never advocate the discontinuation of medication or treatments that their primary care has suggested for the patient,” Do explains.
Outside of the hospital setting, there are businesses offering non-traditional therapies scattered all around the Med City. One of the newest is able to stay afloat by offering something no one else in the are currently does. It’s called floating or float therapy. Tanks are filled with 10 inches of water and more than 800 lbs. of epsom salt, which allows the body to float effortlessly.
“Your senses get to have a break and your right brain takes over and does this thing in the nervous system called a parasympathetic state where it produces a lot of great hormones that are beneficial to our bodies and help us heal like endorphins and serotonin and oxytocin,” explains Jon Maki, the owner of Nalu Float.
Many of Maki’s clients find floating helps reduce anxiety, depression and stress. A small study out of Sweden does back that up, however not much clinical research has been done about the benefits of float therapy. Regardless, the clients keep coming back, even if all it does it give them 60-90 minutes of total relaxation.
“You’re just with your thoughts and you can kind of feel where your body is if you’re checking in but otherwise you just get lost with where your body begins and ends which is a really unique and neat feeling,” Maki adds.
It doesn’t seem as though the demand for some of these therapies is going down any time soon. In fact, Mayo’s Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program is in the pilot phase of offering Reiki, or healing hands — a service that Nalu Float does currently offer.
It is recommended that you have a conversation with your doctor before beginning any new treatment or therapy. For more information on the these therapies, follow the link below: