We started taking a special interest in what the medical profession refers to as alternative or complementary forms of pain management when Sharon found out she has temporal lobe epilepsy. That was about five or six years ago.
Sharon probably had this condition, but in a milder form, all of her life. As long as I have known her, and that’s been almost 40 years, Sharon has suffered from migraines, leg cramps, and stomach pains. We now believe these were, and are, connected to her temporal lobe epilepsy.
Of course, her doctors started her on what I call a pharmaceutical buffet line that included anti-seizure medication, also known as anti-epilepsy medications or AEDs, along with a variety of pain killers.
At the beginning of 2009, she took Topamax and Neurontin to control her seizures; Neurontin to control her muscle spasms; Clonazapam, for seizures, anxieties, and Post Traumatic Stress; Xanax for panic disorders and as a sleep aid; Neurontin and Darvocet to deaden the pain associated with TLE; and Botox to block the migraine pain.
Sharon is among the 40 percent or so of people with seizure disorders over the age of 35 who cannot take AEDs because they do not work anymore, and, in some cases, increase the frequency and severity of seizures. And, she stopped taking the prescription pain killers because they, too, stopped working, and because of the harmful side effects.
She took her last, small dosage of Valium a couple of weeks ago, and now suffers the pain that comes during withdrawal from this insidious little drug that should not be prescribed to people with epilepsy, which is why she has developed a reason to be cautious and alert when dealing with neurologists.
Constant full-body pain can lead a person to seek out anything that will provide even a few hours of relief. And, that sometimes can lead to some rather embarrassing actions, such as paying several hundred dollars to a well-known practitioner of holistic medicine who gave her a vial of what I call shaky water. It was supposed to have some kind of healing action going on at the molecular level that you activated by shaking the vial and drinking the shaky water.
We ditched that guy right after he handed over the vial.
Massages worked for a short time, as did acupuncture. Now, to be fair, acupuncture might be an option, but for some reason not many acupuncturists practice within a 30-minute drive from the ranch. The only one we tried gave her some relief for a few days, but when Sharon went back, the person decided to use acupuncture to cure Sharon’s temporal lobe epilepsy. That turned out to be a major disappointment and the source of some nasty seizures.
And, of course, more pain.
Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen only dull the pain for about an hour or so. I started taking turmeric for really bad heartburn, and that seemed to help me, but not Sharon.
To be quite honest here, many people with epilepsy smoke marijuana to control their seizures, but that’s not something Sharon is ready to try because of the pain, which the pot probably would intensify. And pain is definitely a buzz kill.
So, about the only non-drug pain relief has been with Pilates and yoga. But sometimes the pain is too great even to think about them.
For many individuals with epilepsy, the only remaining option is surgery, which Sharon chose not to do because the cure is sometimes worse than the condition. After withdrawing from more than 12 AEDs, tranquilizers, painkillers and muscle relaxers, she chose to manage her epilepsy without drugs. Looking at an alternative therapy for pain and relaxation was a natural step from that point and craniosacral therapy seems to be working.
Craniosacral therapy and Reiki
Craniosacral therapy is said to heal the body in a holistic manner, without the pain or side effects normally experienced with prescription drugs.
The Alternatives for Healing Web site, defines craniosacral therapy as focusing on reducing tension and stress in the meningeal membrane and its fascial connections to enhance the functioning of the craniosacral system, a fluid circulatory system that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. Treatments can be very relaxing and may include subtle manipulation of the bones of the face, head, vertebral column, and the membranes beneath the skull. It is most commonly used to treat headaches, TMJ-related jaw pain, ear infections, strokes, sinus conditions, vision problems and digestive problems.
It is also very effective in helping with autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities and developmental challenges.
Craniosacral therapy is one of 109 practices listed on the site, which include yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology, aromatherapy, massage therapy and meditation.
Craniosacral therapy has been approved, if not formally endorsed, by many neurologists. In Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Epilepsy by Orin Devinsky, MD, Steven Schachter, MD and Steven Pacia, MD, the authors provide a history of craniosacral therapy and its benefits. The text also states that because the work is highly individual, no controlled trials exist. The book describes the therapy as “very gentle and safe with little or no risk involved in treatment. Most patients find it an extremely relaxing experience and on this basis alone, its clinical implications are enormous. Cranosacral work is truly holistic medicine, integrating all aspects of one’s self and working with the body instead of against it.”
Reiki, according to the International Center for Reiki Training, is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by laying on hands and is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s life force energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
The word Reiki comes from two Japanese words: Rei, or God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power and Ki, which is life force energy. So Reiki is actually spiritually guided life force energy.
Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.
People who use Reiki say a treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you.
Practitioners point out that Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and you are not required to believe in any religious or spiritual creed or dogma to learn it or use it. That said, some people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.
Now, some of you may be think this whole idea of complementary and alternative medicines and therapies, also known as CAM, is just a spooky-kooky part of New Age mumbo-jumbo. If so, you may be surprised to learn that the 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that about 38 percent of Americans use some form of complementary or alternative therapy.
These forms may include natural or herbal remedies in additional to the traditional medication prescribed by a physician. They also may include what is known as mind-body therapies, such as what we talked about today. Again, these therapies are in addition to traditional medicines practiced by licensed physicians.
Arts in Texas
Thursday, March 24, at 11am Central, we’ll talk with someone I’ve known for more than forty years, since our days growing up Illinois.
Veletta Forsythe Lill is a former member of the Dallas City Council and the current Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District. She’ll join us to talk about the arts in Big D and about the current and future state of funding for the arts in Texas and in the USA.
Also on Thursday, I will be a guest on “Together Again Radio” with relationship coaches Marsha Dean Walker and Jim Eastwood to participate in a discussion on age discrimination faced by job seekers. The other guest will be attorney Stanley Lubin. That will be Thursday at 6pm Central time.