If you have never been to a massage therapist, I suggest you make an appointment now. I have never felt more relaxed than I did after my first professional massage at the Creative Wellness Holistic Health Center in East Lansing. This experience has introduced me to the fascinating and intricate world of holistic health and now I wonder why I never previously considered receiving treatment in alternative medicine. Although the origins of holistic medicinal practices date as far back as 5,000 years ago in China and India, it seems that only recently has alternative medicine been acknowledged as effective by medical professionals.
According to the American Holistic Health Association, ancient healing traditions emphasized the importance of living a healthy way of life in harmony with nature. In the fourth century B.C., Socrates warned against treating only one part of the body “for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.” The term holism was introduced by prominent South African philosopher and British Commonwealth statesman Jan Christiaan Smuts in 1926, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Americans began to consider holistic medicine. This was because holistic concepts often went completely against Western mindsets. Scientific and technological advances began to redefine the concept of medicine and health. People believed that they could get away with mistreating their bodies and living unhealthy lifestyles because modern medicine would “fix” them with a procedure or prescription drug.
[photo2]Holistic Health can include Ayurveda, an Indian form of healing that includes yoga, herbs and messages; Chiropractic, which deals mainly with the spine and manipulating body tissue so as to best heal itself; Homeopathy, which involves creating more of the same symptoms; traditional Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary medicine and massages; naturopathy, which advocates for using natural substances instead of synthetic drugs and medicines; reflexology which involves pressure points and messaging of the feet to heal; along with any other non-Western medicinal techniques, often having their origins in ancient times.
Dennis Martell, Health Education Services Coordinator at Olin Health Center, said to completely understand holistic health one must recognize the difference between allopathic (“conventional”) medicine and homeopathic (“alternative”) medicine. “Allopathic and most Western medicine look outside to reverse the symptoms, while homeopathic medicine attempts to create more of the same symptoms,” Martell said. “Symptoms develop for a reason. They are not trying to say something is wrong; they are actually a signal that the body is trying to cope with the illness.”
[Martell]Martell also defined holistic health as treatment of the mind, body and soul as one, and differentiated western medicine and holistic practices as the difference between curing and healing. “It’s funny that we say alternative in the terms of holistic medicine because it’s really the difference between curing and healing. One must connect with their spirit and their mind as well as treating the body, and people must accept responsibility for their own health,” he said.
MSU houses four medical schools that all focus on human medicine. While Martell believes that allopathic and homeopathic medicine should work side by side in the medical profession, he also thinks that holistic medicine should be incorporated into the university medicine curriculum. “Western medicine is really a dying field. The only thing that is keeping it alive is technology, and in actuality human medicine has not and will never cure anything. The medical profession needs to make the cross over from curing to healing,” Martell said.
Human biology and pre-med senior Kathryn Adams agrees that health care as a whole is more effective from the integration of western medicine and holistic practices, but doesn’t necessarily believe that alternative medicine will ever take the place of modern medicine. “I don’t believe that holistic health care will ever take the place of western medicine, and I don’t think that it should. Holistic health care and western health care are both very beneficial approaches and the best health care is the integration of both,” she said.
Lansing Community College nursing senior Rachel Lindner also agreed with Adams and stated that she saw holistic medicine as more of a compliment to conventional health care based upon an individual’s personal preference. “I think that each person benefits from different things. If a belief system is rooted in conventional medicine such as prescriptions, tests, and medical procedures then modern practices will work best for that individual and vice versa. I think it is safe to say that whichever your choice, whichever comforts a person most, would be most effective,” she said.
Despite an increasing awareness of alternative medicine, it is evident that some people may still develop misconceptions about holistic health and believe that such practices are unable to offer effective healing solutions. “I do think that people believe it doesn’t work and Americans tend to want results they can see and they want them fast,” Lindner said. “We’ve seen such results come from conventional medicine, so it’s hard for some people to believe that things can’t be managed or cured without prescription drugs.”
Although Martell holds a doctorate degree in human ecology and comes from a heavily science-based background, he strongly believes in the practice of alternative medicine and is a certified Reiki instructor. Reiki is an Eastern Oriental philosophy that focuses on energy release and balancing, and sometimes utilizing touch similar to kinesiology or therapeutic touch. Martell said that during his first experience with alternative medicine he noticed an energy that he had never felt before. Born with a congenital disorder, Martell has had over 19 surgeries and understands human medicine and medical communication extremely well, not only in academia, but in relation to his own body.[massage]
“If you expect science to ‘fix’ you that is your first mistake. Many people want someone else to take the responsibility for their body, which is why they depend on a doctor to ‘fix’ them. We must have the ability to cure ourselves; no prescriptions needed. Wellness means to take absolute personal responsibility for your own health,” Martell said.
Not only should people assume complete responsibility over their own health, but they should also come to terms with an illness or disorder. Martell explained that many people feel they are losing something in a battle against a development such as cancer, but they actually are really gaining something in return. “Everyone has the ability to heal despite their illness. Someone with cancer can be very healthy if they are able to accept what they have lost and concentrate on healing what is most important. Nothing is ever really about the body; in the end all we are left with is our mind and spirit,” he said.
A recent survey conducted by the Olin Health Center discovered that students want more holistic health care options to be offered on campus and Martell is hoping to start the alternative medicine revolution right here on the MSU campus. The health team at Olin strives to redefine the definition of health and follows a more holistic philosophy as they prepare to switch from just a health center to an all over wellness center.
The Creative Wellness Holistic Health Center is located at 2025 Abbot Rd. in East Lansing and offers an abundance of alternative and holistic treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology, chiropractic medicine and naturopathic health services.
Anne Subrizi, the marketing director for Creative Wellness, said she sees alternative medicine becoming more integrated into mainstream medicine because of centers like Creative Wellness. “The practitioners at Creative Wellness communicate very well with their patients about their problems and they approach treatment in a fashion similar to a spa or relaxation center. All of the practitioners are beyond certified to treat patients with chronic pain and serious issues.”
It was on a spring break vacation two years ago that massage therapist Lori Robinson decided to pursue a career in massage therapy. “I went to school and received my associate’s degree, but I still was not completely sure what I wanted to pursue as a career. Over spring break I was riding in the car with my family and I thought to myself: I want to be a massage therapist. As soon as I told my husband and kids they looked at me like I was crazy!”
Robinson completed the massage therapy program at LCC and started to work for Creative Wellness last July. She said that her mother-in-law had a big influence on her career aspirations. She was a massage therapist for over 20 years. Robinson was also fascinated by the body’s ability to heal itself and the feeling she felt after helping a client through a painful back pain or pulled muscle. “Seeing them walk out feeling good and relaxed is worth it in itself,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for better results.”
[Robinson]Not only does alternative medicine provide a natural approach to health care, it also encompasses the importance of a healthy mental state. Martell said that holistic health is a whole new mindset to grasp and it does not provide the usual straight linear approach that is found in modern medicinal practices. “It is important to teach people to live whole with personal responsibility despite their illness. Science is never going to cure anything; it will only put an illness into remission. Health is synonymous with freedom. Health is freedom. And a person is able to live with freedom because of their acceptance of cancer. Western medicine only takes away such freedom.”
As I walked out the door after my hour-long massage at the Creative Wellness Center, I felt like an entirely new person. The throbbing sinus headache that I walked in with had magically disappeared and both my body and my mind felt physically and mentally more calm and relaxed. It is amazing that a simple procedure performed by the hands of another individual can provide comfort and healing to the human body and spirit. It only took one massage to hook me in; I’m cannot wait for my next appointment.