By Holly Glen Gearhart
Long thought of as only a part of alternative lifestyles of the 1960s, alternative or complementary medicine found its place in Western medicine in the last 20 years or so. Yoga, herbs, meditation, prayer and massage are often added to medical procedures when addressing chronic illnesses—sometimes even cancer.
The art of massage is more than just a hedonistic indulgence reserved for a day at the spa. In fact, therapeutic massage has been shown to increase blood flow and lessen muscle spasms so that a patient can follow through with traditional physical therapy.
According to research conducted by the well-respected Mayo Clinic, “Studies of the benefits of massage demonstrate that it is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension…some studies have found massage may also be helpful for: anxiety, digestive disorders, paresthesias and nerve pain, soft tissue strains or injuries, temporomandibular joint pain…” among other things.
Massage, herbal therapy, meditation- and/or prayer come under an umbrella of practices called “CAM” (complementary-alternative-medicine). Not meant to substitute traditional medical treatment, practices such as tai chi, reiki and yoga fall under CAM methodology. Today it is not surprising to find medical professionals who readily suggest that their patients seek out one or more of these therapies in addition to treatment—more commonly called complementary therapy.
CAM is the treatment focus for Bastyr University here in the Pacific Northwest. The Juanita university provides free to low-fee treatments.
Seniors can access the services of Bastyr at the Sno-Valley Senior Center, just outside of Carnation at 4610 Stephens Ave. To learn more, call (425) 333-4152. The services are available from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays, and the cost is $5 for members and $8 for non-members.
Some CAM therapies are now covered under the Affordable Healthcare Act. Medicare 2013 lists a number of treatments now covered, including acupuncture.
Do two things before starting any new activity; check with your medical provider and verify your medical coverage before you sign up for treatment.
Healthy eating is also important to overall health and is vitally important to maintain a healthy diet as we age. Having ample fruits, vegetables and proteins in your diet is a challenge as prices skyrocket, a monumental challenge if you live on a low fixed income.
If you cannot afford food or you are physically unable to shop and cook your meals, there is some assistance available to help you meet your goal for healthy options; the local food bank and churches, as well as the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program funded through DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services ).
If you have access to the Internet, visit this link and apply for help; www.dshs.wa.gov, or telephone 1 (877) 501-2233. If you need help filling out information or help with the paperwork, let them know when you call; also your local senior center or church can help you find what you need.
A family member can call for you and get the ball rolling, too. Reaching out for help was the hardest thing I had to do when I first ran out of money and ran out of food, but to my surprise, I found many compassionate people ready to help me. I know you will, too.