health and wellness

What is a Tension headache? (And what to do about it)

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

If you have ever experienced pain behind the eyes, pressure and/or throbbing in the head, the feeling like you have a band wrapped tightly around your noggin, then you have likely experienced a tension headache. While these headaches are less severe, they tend to be more chronic in nature, and those who suffer from them feel these symptoms most or all the time. What can happen when not accurately diagnosed is a tragic cycle of overmedication and frustration for the patient.

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

When a patient complains of chronic headaches, they have usually tried over-the-counter medication, which helps for a while but doesn’t last. Then, depending on how bad their symptoms are, they are either prescribed a stronger medication or referred to a Neurologist for a consultation. If the patient is never referred to a conservative care provider like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Massage Therapist, then they are likely prescribed a migraine preventative and migraine treatment medication which will not reduce any tension causing the symptoms in the first place. It should be noted that this is referring only to patients with a diagnosis of tension headaches. Headaches are broad in presentation and can have multiple contributing factors and patients that truly suffer from migraine headaches receive benefit from the more pharmaceutical interventions. But if the diagnosis is inaccurate, then the patient is started down a course of care that is ineffective.

What actually is a Tension Headache?

via Unsplashed

via Unsplashed

“Tension headache” is the common name for the medical diagnosis “cervicogenic headache.” This term indicates that the headache originates from the neck or Cervical region of the body. Specifically, the musculature in the back of the neck are chronically tight, which compresses the joints of the cervical spine and puts tension on the Occipital Nerves. The Occipital Nerves travel up the back of the head and are responsible for the throbbing and pressure that are common symptoms of tension headaches. One quick way to test for this is to apply steady pressure to the base of the skull along the back of the neck. If pressure there relieves the headache symptoms, then you likely are having a tension headache.

What can help?

Conservative care is the most effective treatment for tension headaches. Chiropractic care has been shown to reduce intensity and frequency of tension headaches. Other alternatives like Massage Therapy and Acupuncture have also shown to be successful in treating the symptoms of this condition. These methods focus on correcting the cause of the condition by reducing the tension of the neck musculature which reduces the compression and tightness that causes the tension headaches.

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Avoid the Summer Injuries

More injuries occur during the summer months than at other times of the year.

With the warm weather approaching, people are getting outdoors and becoming more active. Accordingly, the health care profession is gearing up to start treating summer-related injuries. Adults and children are both getting outdoors and being active more with the changing of the seasons and whenever people are more active, the more likely they are to get hurt. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “More injuries occur during the summer months than at other times of the year. In addition, injuries are much less frequently reported near the end of the calendar year.”

One of the reasons for Spring and Summer injuries is the quick transition from being indoors and inactive to being outside and exercising. The muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not used to producing and transmitting force which can result in either traumatic injury (like a sprain) or an overuse injury (like shin splints). Either way, you could be trading your summer of fun in for a summer of Physical Therapy.

Here are two ways you can do to help avoid summer injuries:

Warm-up

This is the #1 way to help avoid injury during activity. It doesn’t matter if it is yard work or a pick-up game of basketball, spending five minutes could save you weeks of recovery. Warm-ups not only prepare your muscles to contract better, they also improve your nervous system function, cardiovascular health, and will actually help you perform your task at a higher level. So if you are looking for a leg up in your backyard ultimate frisbee game, take the time to warm up If you are unsure about what a proper warm-up routine looks like, here is a good instructional video from YouTubers TheLeanMachines.

Spend 3 weeks going slow

If you are trying to get back into shape over the summer months and have been inactive for a long time, then you should spend the first three to four weeks doing lighter weight and lower intensity during your workouts. This may sound like a long time, but the biggest threat of injury comes with going to hard too soon. It is better to take three weeks and let your body accommodate to the workload. Remember, health is cooked in a crockpot, not a microwave.

Summer should be about fun, vacations, and activities. Avoid a trip to your local doctor by taking the time to avoid injuries before they happen!

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Dr. Jeremiah Morgan is a licensed Chiropractic Physician as well as a Certified Active Release Technique provider. He currently practices in Downtown Matthews at Pro Active Chiropractic.

Carpal Tunnel: An often misdiagnosed condition

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The Beacon would like to take the opportunity to introduce you to our newest contributor, Dr. Jeremiah Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a licensed Chiropractic Physician as well as a Certified Active Release Technique provider. He practices in downtown Matthews at ProActive Chiropractic on John Street. Let’s give him a warm Matthews welcome!

Think bigger than Carpal Tunnel

A quick internet search on “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome”  (CTS) will show you endless results of the same basic definition of the condition: “a medical condition due to compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expands on the definition, “Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist.” You will also find the same list of symptoms such as frequent burning, tingling, or itching, numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and the index and middle fingers. Carpal Tunnel is arguably one of the most familiar medical conditions; everyone knows about it! However, it is still one of the most misdiagnosed conditions . We need to start thinking bigger than just Carpal Tunnel.

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The nerves that supply the hand travel all way up into the cervical spine, this means that compression on the nerves can happen anywhere along the pathway of those nerves. Pressure anywhere can create Carpal Tunnel-like symptoms!

Correcting the Cause

The first step to treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome successfully is accurate diagnosis. If someone’s nerve if getting pressed on at the shoulder (a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome), then treating the wrist won’t help because they don’t have CTS. The true cause needs to be addressed. Sadly, many medical professionals are not taught how to accurately test for other sources of nerve compression. However, one encouraging piece of news is that the rates of successful treatment for CTS are increasing, and this is likely because many MDs are referring to Chiropractors, and Physical Therapists for the management of Carpal Tunnel-like symptoms. If you are having pain, numbness, or weakness in the hand, then do yourself a favor and contact your local Chiropractor or PT to schedule an evaluation!

In the meantime:

There are a lot of stretches that are recommended for Carpal Tunnel-like symptoms. Some are more effective than others. In my own clinical experience, the one that is the most effective on the whole nerve from top to bottom is the nerve glide exercise. This is also referred to as a “nerve flossing” exercise. This stretch is designed to help take tension and pressure off the Median nerve through a combination of movements. Here is a good instructional video on YouTube that explains and demonstrates how to do it.

So, before you start wearing the brace or consider aggressive procedures like surgery, have your wrist looked at and treated by a local Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Massage Therapist and see how they can help alleviate your symptoms.

There are a lot of stretches that are recommended for Carpal Tunnel-like symptoms. Some are more effective than others. In my own clinical experience, the one that is the most effective on the whole nerve from top to bottom is the nerve glide exercise. This is also referred to as a “nerve flossing” exercise. This stretch is designed to help take tension and pressure off the Median nerve through a combination of movements. Here is a good instructional video on YouTube that explains and demonstrates how to do it.

So, before you start wearing the brace or consider aggressive procedures like surgery, have your wrist looked at and treated by a local Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, or Massage Therapist and see how they can help alleviate your symptoms.

Michelle Sigler's Trifecta of Healing

 
I felt like I could [originally] help people with just their muscular-skeletal issues. Many think acupuncture is [just] for pain – but it’s actually so much more – anxiety, infertility, allergies… It treats the mind, body, and spirit.
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To long-time massage therapist, Michelle Sigler, 56, of Charlotte, simply doing massage therapy on her clients did not seem to satisfy her deepest desires to help her patients find optimal pain relief.

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“I loved that I was helping people on a very deep level,” she said. “I wanted them to really relax, de-stress, and heal. However, I felt limited by how I could help – I wanted to help them in other areas.”

And so, after trying acupuncture, herself, and finding help and personal relief, she returned to her school, nearly one decade later (this time, at the Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine in Sugar Grove, NC), to become an acupuncturist. That was 2010. She sequentially furthered her education by going on to complete a two-year program of Chinese Herbal Studies at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture in Gainesville, Florida.

Today, she feels she can offer the best possible services – a trifecta, really, of massage, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs - all specifically individually designed for her clients’ health. (She’s also a Reiki Master.) Add in her other specialties such as pregnancy massage, hot stone massage, and facial rejuvenation acupuncture and Michelle feels more than satisfied with the wide range of services she can offer.

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“I felt like I could [originally] help people with just their muscular-skeletal issues,” she said. “Many think acupuncture is [just] for pain – but it’s actually so much more – anxiety, infertility, allergies….. It treats the mind, body, and spirit.”

At the heart of her work is the knowledge that these treatments and modalities offer an Eastern perspective and an alternative to traditional Western medicine-care.

“I want people to know that they have an alternative to their healthcare,” she said. “That they have health freedom and that they can choose which direction they want to go.”

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Michelle realizes that some people’s fear of needles or, of the unknown, is something she must navigate while providing care. “I think that people are scared about acupuncture because they associate needles with getting shots at a doctor’s office,” she said. “[Those types of] needles tear the skin, these needles are [small and] solid.”

However, her overarching philosophy remains fundamental to her work. “[Acupuncture] is based on a Daoist philosophy - the perspective is very different – it’s very holistic cosmic energies of cold, wind, heat, damp, dryness and existing in us,” explained Michelle. “We are born from the earth and so the energies that we see in nature are a part of us – and they resonate with us.”

While acupuncture is used for pain relief and musculoskeletal problems, it can easily be used for any number of other ailments ranging from infertility and hormone imbalance to sleep and digestive function.

The history Chinese acupuncture dates back a few thousand years; it was first referenced in 100 BCE. Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine in which thin solid needles are inserted into the skin at various “acupuncture points” along specific pathways, called meridians, located throughout the body. It is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine which states in order to achieve optimal health, good “qi” or “chi” (energy/life flow), a person’s yin/yang must be in balance. The very light, small needles (smaller than a sewing needle) used are of various sizes and lengths. Sessions range from 20 minutes to one hour. The number of needles used corresponds to the condition being treated, its severity, and the philosophy of the practitioner.

While acupuncture is used for pain relief and musculoskeletal problems, it can easily be used for any number of other ailments ranging from infertility and hormone imbalance to sleep and digestive function.

“I have seen miraculous things,” Michelle said. “I’ve seen people who are very discouraged by the western medical system and get the runaround by one specialist and another… They are not getting relief. I can help people – that’s what keeps me motivated to do this kind of work.”

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Michelle Sigler, LAc LMBT
1118 Sam Newell Rd, #D3
704-641-0188

Giant Genie Pharmacy and Community-Based Health Care

Here we have solutions that nobody else has... We’re applying the knowledge that we learned in school; not many pharmacists can say that in a daily setting.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

To Bill Henning, Pharm.D., pharmacy manager and minority partner of Giant Genie Pharmacy (2925 Senna Dr.), compounding is both an art and a bonus to offering traditional pharmacy services. The pharmacy is one of two compounding pharmacies in Matthews and has been in town since 2010.

“People have to go back to believing the pharmacy is a health-care provider,” said Bill. “We need to be that point of contact in the community because people can reach us.”

In the 17th to 19th centuries, compounding in the US was a function of physicians who prescribed and created their patients’ medications. In the 20th century, with the advent of mass-drug manufacturing, compounding decreased. Today, the industry is experiencing a resurgence as the importance and need for custom-made medications becomes more prevalent.

According to Wikipedia, pharmaceutical compounding is the creation of a particular pharmaceutical product to fit the unique need of a patient. To do this, compounding pharmacists combine or process appropriate ingredients using various tools. This may be done for medically necessity, such as to change the form of the medication from a solid pill to a liquid, to avoid a non-essential ingredient that the patient is allergic to, or to obtain the exact dose needed (not already readily available). It is also the basis for creating bio-identical hormones.

Approximately 5-10% of Genie Pharmacy’s business involves prescriptions for animals.

“It’s exciting…that we can have an impact on so many people from pediatrics to geriatrics,” said Bill. “I have a lot of colleagues who work for big-chain pharmacies…they are put in a more [prescriptive] role where they are expected to fill [a certain number of] prescriptions a day and can’t pick up the phone to talk with people. Here we have solutions that nobody else has... We’re applying the knowledge that we learned in school; not many pharmacists can say that in a daily setting.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The pharmacy retains a staff of four pharmacists and a few drivers – a staple since they offer free delivery.

While the downside of compounding is the cost – approximately $40 - $60 more per month, the individual attention to medication, coupled with a drive for customer service and a “family feel” often makes these Mom and Pop pharmacies more desirable.

“I enjoy it because I wake up each day and get to be excited to come to work,” said Bill.

Tammy Schoolcraft: Reiki for Wellness

Energy therapies like Reiki and Biofield Tuning work at treating the whole person body, mind, and emotions.  People are starting to think outside of the pillbox – they are sick and tired of being sick and tired and are finding relief and results outside of the traditional model.  I am passionate about helping client’s bodies to remember its own potential for healing itself naturally.
Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Seven years ago, Tammy Schoolcraft’s son was plagued by chronic ear infections and incessant anxiety; she tried every method possible to alleviate his symptoms. Thinking outside the box, she ended up taking him to a Reiki specialist. The outcome was immediate and transformative. While he changed for the positive, she changed, too.

According to the International Association of Reiki Professionals, Reiki is a spiritual healing art with Japanese roots. The word, “Reiki” comes from the Japanese word, “Rei,” which means “universal life” and ki” which means “energy. Not associated with a religion or religious practice, the modality is a subtle and effective form of energy work using guided life force energy. Reiki practitioners believe that everyone has the ability to connect with their own healing energy to strengthen energy within themselves. The goal is to achieve strong and free-flowing “ki” (or “chi”).

Reiki is associated with Mikao Usui who is credited with rediscovering this system, passed down by generations. A session is usually 60-90 minutes. The client can either choose to lie on a table or sit in a chair. The practitioner will apply a light touch or hands-off, holding hands slightly above the body.  The practitioner will go through specific standard Reiki hand positions starting at the head or feet. Reiki can be used for relaxation or stress reduction. It is also used to stimulate healing.

Photo courtesy Tammy Schoolcraft

Photo courtesy Tammy Schoolcraft

“My mom was always very open to feelings…so I was a little open to [things]…not in my realm,” she said. A series of subsequent related experiences changed her more fully, guiding her toward an even more natural philosophy and perspective. At first, it was considered “woo-woo,” she said, as family and friends wondered where her new approach might take her. But, after she began doing energy work on some of these same people, perceptions began to change.

She began studying the technique of Reiki and subsequently became a Reiki Master. In 2016, she took a Medical Reiki Training class which helped combine her previous experiences as a medical billing supervisor and pharmacy technician with her new-found energy work. She also met her future Reiki partner, Miri Klements. Together, they decided to introduce Reiki into the greater Charlotte medical community.

They were first offered the opportunity to bring Reiki to the staff at Mercy Hospital. Later, that summer, they were invited to participate in a pilot program offering Reiki to orthopedic trauma patients as an alternative to opioids at Carolinas Medical Center Main (now, Atrium). Subsequently, they were invited in to Levine Children’s Hospital Inpatient Rehabilitation to work with patients recovering from traumatic and nontraumatic brain injuries.

Most recently, she and her Reiki partner have also begun work at the LCH’s Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant Clinic. To date, they have given over 1,000 treatments to children admitted to that unit. This year, they will again provide Reiki to Levine Children’s Hospital HEMONC/BMT patients.

One year ago, she opened her own office to provide clients with Reiki and to further concentrate on her newest passion -the modality of Biofield Tuning.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Biofield Tuning, using tuning forks, is based on the principle that everything in the universe is made of vibration. When a body is out of sync or dis-ease, this methodology assumes the body has lost its rhythm. Tuning forks can be used to assist the nervous system and help stimulate the body to heal itself. By addressing the body on a cellular level, it is believed that a combination of sound and energy waves can help heal areas being addressed. Utilizing sound waves, tuning forks produce sound and vibration which engage the nervous system to help revert the effects of stress and increase energy.

“I wasn’t looking for a career, and I don’t [need] to work,” said Tammy. “It just has evolved into something I’ve developed a passion about. It’s something I’ve become so passionate about it’s not work. It’s about being a light for somebody who is trying to make it through their own journey.”

Explaining further, she amplified her belief in her work and the modalities she espouses. “The traditional healthcare model works beautifully for emergencies and treating ‘symptoms,’ but does little for overall continued well being,” Tammy said. “Energy therapies like Reiki and Biofield Tuning work at treating the whole person body, mind, and emotions.  People are starting to think outside of the pillbox – they are sick and tired of being sick and tired and are finding relief and results outside of the traditional model.  I am passionate about helping client’s bodies to remember its own potential for healing itself naturally,” she said. 

In the end, Tammy’s ongoing personal and professional journey toward wholeness and wellness continues to flourish and grow.

“I can’t imagine being without this [work] now,” she concludes.

 Tammy Schoolcraft , Reiki for Wellness, 325 Matthews Mint Hill Road, Matthews.


Dion Lovallo: A Partner for Recovery

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

In Room 103 at 1320 Matthews Mint Hill Road, at least one dozen men and women are discussing their feelings and emotions – everything from finding purpose and a place in life to self-love and emotional stability. This might be a support group for any number of possible ailments, vices or afflictions, however, the 12-step program on the wall provides a clue. This is the Carolina Center for Recovery and these participants are in substance abuse recovery.

On this day, leader, Jim, is using gentle humor with pointed observations and comments focusing on those individuals who appear to need the most support and guidance. It is a comfortable group clearly aware that there is safety and security in knowing that others are going through (and have gone through) similar struggles. However many other facets this institution might provide, the single most important goal is to help participants find sobriety and remain sober.

This is the lifeblood of co-owner, Matthews resident, Dion Lovallo, 28. Dion, along with three others (his father, his sponsor, and his best friend) opened this center just under a year ago. Recovery is a topic Dion knows well – having struggled with substance abuse, himself from the ages of 13 to 22, been in and out of treatment, and then hired as an admissions coordinator at his last treatment center.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

“I found that this is something that I enjoyed,” he said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.” Among his 24/7 duties include handling emergencies, new admissions, and general problems either with staff or clients. He sees his program as “more family oriented – giving them a purpose.” Dion goes to the gym with the group, offers outside activities like barbecues and attends church with interested members. “Helping others helps me stay sober,” he says matter-of-factly.

At this moment, approximately two dozen people are enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program. Having been assigned a specific counselor, they attend several support groups/week and are encouraged to use the Brace Y to work out daily. “Something to get them out of their comfort zone,” says Dion. Prior to entering the program, at least 50% of the participants require detox.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

“Everyone knows somebody who is struggling [with substances],” said Dion, mentioning the ongoing funerals he attends of those whose lives have ended tragically or far too soon.

To Dion, success is “somebody who stays sober.”

“Somebody gave me a chance,” he said. “I just like to give people a chance.”  As a chance was given to him, it is also Dion’s future goal to hire some of his clients-in-recovery to assist him at the facility.

Helping others helps me stay sober

Trevor Cochran: Better Living Through Better Broth

Photos courtesy Bethany Cochran Art

Photos courtesy Bethany Cochran Art

Trevor Cochran, 30, is a Type-A. He was a football walk-on in college (but dropped football after one semester, choosing to focus on his just-under 4.0-grade average). Having graduated college by age 20, he immediately began climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder to achieve maximum success.

His 40-hour work-weeks became 40++. Instead of coming home to sleep, he occasionally slept in at work. He often worked on weekends. He moved uptown to get to work quickly.

As a credit and collections person on the “business-to-business level,” he told himself that the constant pace and ongoing dedication would reap more success and achievement in his life. He would, as he said, always find ways to “fix things” but never get rewarded for his achievements.

Within that period, he developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), acid reflux and excessive daytime tiredness. He also gained 50 pounds.

By age 25, he knew that something was wrong –the medication for the acid reflux made his acne, IBS, and hypersomnia worse while the acne meds exacerbated his headaches. His cholesterol levels were rising, and despite working out and running long miles, he could not reduce his symptoms nor lose weight. (His Hispanic relatives all struggle with some form of diabetes.)

And, so began his journey to find wellness.

When the head of his running group suggested the work of Mark Sisson (Paleo Diet), he immediately closeted himself off one weekend and read everything he could find. He was hooked. Within a year, he lost the weight and nearly all of his symptoms. He was on the verge of changing his entire life.

During this same time, he met his girlfriend (the daughter of a chef); his journey toward good health merged with the exquisite palette of his then future-wife and the necessity to please her. He got “good at cooking,” as he said, and at making spices.

He continued his voracious reading and learned more about clean eating, healthful spices, and the harmful nuances in foodstuff.

He recognized that he had severe leaky gut issues and that drinking bone broth would plug the holes. He looked around and found some bone broths, but found none he enjoyed.

At age 28, he began his last stretch in the business world as a contract employee training his replacements in the business of collections as his employer began outsourcing. His job was intended to end in spring of 2018.

Over the years, he had squirreled away his monies. When he married his wife, they began to squirrel it away, together. Both knew they “didn’t want to be in middle management for the rest of [their] lives.” He knew he had “way too much entrepreneurial spirit.”

He perfected his bone broth and soon perfected his spices. He found and rented a commercial kitchen dedicating the required 48-72 hours to make his broth. When digital pressure cookers hit the market, he changed that time to just under 10 hours. He began educating people about the benefits of his products.

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He began his company, Pure Old World, Inc., full time that same spring of 2018 - launching at the Matthews Farmer’s Market. “Matthews has been just great,” he said.

Today, less than one year in business, he can “cover his costs” and is now in multiple stores with plans for expansion. He’s also done many “pop-up” events in the region, trying to spread awareness for his products.

Currently, he purchases bones from two local NC/SC farmers who are using sustainable agriculture and keeping an eye on environmental concerns. After confirming all the necessary qualifications, he inspects and walks the farms thoroughly before he chooses them. He’s looking not only for free-range and organically fed but for chickens using non-GMO feed; he must also be able to “walk with them in pasture.” He is currently negotiating with four more local farmers.

In the next handful of years, Trevor’s goal is to branch out into small regional companies – in other directions – clothing, shoes and, especially, eyewear. He says he has no interest in doing work on a national or international level. “Everything we like to do is about freedom, and not just by us but for others,” he said. “Understanding the trade network – where the goods come from. Focus on employing people locally.”

When he purchases a commercial kitchen, he’d like to host events and branch out into producing “cooking fats.” He also wants to sell bone broth in local coffee shops since customers drink it “like coffee and tea.”

...lives can get better through the foods [you] eat. If you can change your diet and lifestyle, it can change your life.

He proudly regales the stories of customers who say his bone broth and spices have helped heal various ailments. “You feel better about [this] work,” he says, in relation to the previous professional work he did.

“I want people to understand where the bones for their bone broth comes from – that it matters,” said Trevor. “That the food they are buying impacts their local environment and for people to understand that if they (also) have an autoimmune condition, their lives can get better through the foods they eat. …If you can change your diet and lifestyle,” he added, “it can change your life.”

Holly Prouty: Holistic Health Through CranioSacral Therapy

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Approximately 20 years ago, Mineral Springs resident Holly Prouty, a long-time RN and Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), was in the thick of trying to help alleviate her husband’s ongoing and severe brain-related medical problems. Despite trying numerous modalities, they could not find him relief from pain. After four major surgeries and advice to do more invasive treatments, she felt, on his behalf, that they had done enough.

A suggestion to try a “cranial-something” practitioner down the hall from her neurologist led both Proutys’ lives in a different direction. A respected nurse, speaker, and consultant, Holly had no intention of changing what had become a successful, wide-reaching career. However, she could not disregard the nearly instant and sustainable long-term relief that craniosacral work had given her husband.

She took on the task of becoming his primary therapist by studying and becoming certified as a craniosacral therapist (CST), which then infused itself into her other specialties.

“I was well grounded, and people knew me in my work,” she said. “…..When I said I was doing this, they were intrigued. Everything I’d done (before this) culminated in this work…a new profession. I just really felt like divine intervention had a plan for me.” She began working on clients and performing this technique on the many babies in her care.

Why should it surprise us that we can tap into the body’s own inner wisdom to facilitate a positive response through the use of our hands and an innate desire to help? In my mind, this is health as it was meant to be...allowing the body to do what it was born to do best.
— John E. Upledger

As the intensity of work and her passions continued to merge, it was during a solo drive down the road, that she distinctly heard a voice say, ‘You are going to be a craniosacral therapist.’ She pulled off the road and proceeded to have a singular debate. At that moment, on that day, she said, “ok” – and her life changed forever.

As she began treating people in increasingly larger numbers, her mentor, fresh from a car accident suggested she take over her book of business. Twelve years ago, the work “just came.”

CranioSacral Therapy, developed by Dr. John E. Upledger, is a bodywork approach using a light touch to release tension, relieve pain, and improve whole body health. Upledger, an osteopathic physician and professor of biomechanics at Michigan State University, led a team of various scientists from 1975-83 to create the basis for CST.

The session takes place in a quiet setting; the patient remains fully clothed as the therapist touches parts of the body to monitor the rhythm of the fluid that flows around an individual’s nervous system. The therapist then uses delicate, manual techniques to release restrictions in problem areas and relieve tension on the brain and spinal cord.

“I know I shouldn’t be amazed at the results, but I am amazed,” said Holly. “You just trust the process. You trust what you do and you have confidence in it. What you are feeling for is so minute. You are feeling for wave-like movements in the fluid in the body….I work where the body tells me to work. When changes are occurring in their body you get release signs (abrupt halt, a rhythm, or waves, for example). You stay there until their body completes that process.”

Some of the conditions believed to be helped or cured by CST include newborn feeding issues, reflux, ear infections, fibromyalgia, headaches, neck aches, temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ), stress, and pain.

Now, she gets client referrals from Western practitioners (neurologists, dentists, psychologists, specialists, pediatricians, chiropractors, etc.) and even sees the practitioners herself, working trauma through the tissues with a light touch. She has seen nearly miraculous results. “I have had sessions where I knelt down in thanks-giving for having learned a modality that has such an effect in changing people’s lives,” she said.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Humble in approach, Holly firmly detracts from any praise given to her workings and eschews being known as a healer, by repeatedly stating that it is the patients who heal themselves.

“You can’t heal if your mind, body, and spirit aren’t together – healing is (done by) all three of those. They are very important and integral to the process,” said Holly.

“I know what the Lord wants me to do,” she added referencing when much-necessary synchronicities occur. She says this is something she will continue passionately doing until it is “made known to me to quit.” In the end, she conveys the wonderment of it all. "It was a journey for me – it was a jump over [to another perspective].”

Holly Prouty RN IBCLC CST, 1312 Matthews Mint Hill Rd, Matthews, website.

A New Yoga: Combining Body Awareness and Healing

The origins for “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health” involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put Liz Belser E-RYT 500 in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery. The two decided to join forces and offer a class for addiction recovery.

Yoga for Addiction, Recovery and Mental Health, Mondays from 7-8 PM. Brace YMCA, 3127 Weddington Rd, Matthews.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

With a new class, “Yoga for Addiction, Recovery, and Mental Health,” starting this month at the Brace Y (Mondays 7-8 p.m.), long-time yoga teacher and Matthews resident, Liz Belser will be doing what she does best in all her classes – bringing awareness to the body and helping accentuate the breath.

“I always weave into my classes the “tools,” (which are) anywhere from breathing – there’s all kinds of breathing that can (help) people (cope with) anxiety and stress – down to places of being present and aware,” said Belser.

A Matthews-based practitioner, Belser’s classes and workshops have primarily revolved around yoga for mental health – a topic she knows well, having suffered from depression and anxiety. She will bring to the mat her knowledge and understanding of the complexity these stressors trigger. “It’s always a work in progress,” she said. “Sometimes it will (be ok) and sometimes it will rear its ugly head… All the (same) tools worked for me and I just had to share it.”

The origins for this new class involve serendipity - having taught other yoga classes at the Y, a mutual acquaintance put her in touch with Dion Lovallo, owner of the new Carolina Center for Recovery, also in Matthews. The two decided to join forces and suggested this class to Y leadership. To both of them, this would be a win-win for all.

Lovallo’s clients are given Y privileges as a way of integrating mind and body. It is mandatory for those in the highest level of treatment to exercise and/or work out at the fitness center daily. For Belser, this would be a way to stretch her repertoire, connect with, and help a new group.

“(This will be) different than the mental health group, but, there’s always going to be a mental health piece. I’m still teaching the same tools, but there will absolutely be another layer of compassion - another layer of sensitivity,” she said.

I’m so excited to move forward and get this going. It’s funny how the universe works. As a community a few years ago, I don’t think we could have gotten this going. But the recovery center is now here and the Y is onboard.

“I’m so excited to move forward and get this going. It’s funny how the universe works. As a community a few years ago, I don’t think we could have gotten this going. But the recovery center is now here and the Y is onboard,” said Belser.

For Lovallo, this is a natural progression of the recovery and healing process. “We always wanted to incorporate yoga somehow but didn’t know how to do it. This just showed up and worked out perfectly,” he said. “For myself, since I’m (also) in recovery, being in fitness (is important)….anything to get people out of their comfort zone helps in many ways.”

Belser understands the complexity of these issues.

“What sets this class apart from other yoga classes is an extra level of mindfulness and compassion,” said Belser. “If people have been through a traumatic experience, and may just be fearful, they may worry about where to stand in the room or recognize there may be the possibility of triggers. That being said, I won’t hand out (exercise) straps... You never know what emotions or experiences someone is bringing to the class,” she said. “(I’ll be) bringing into it (the importance of) reconnecting with the body, rather than assuming that people already have that connection to the body and body awareness.”

“Addiction is a place to disconnect,” she said. “We want to help them connect to their body safely and feel resilient in that moment, feel strong in that moment - this is instrumental in cultivating self-belief. Just being in that moment and acknowledging your body is a step toward healing,” said Belser.

It’s not my place to understand what someone’s diagnosis is, what someone’s struggle is. I’m not a therapist; in yoga, it’s all about the body experience.

Will she ask information of the participants? “The only information I’ll ask is if there’s anything they want to share. It’s not my place to understand what someone’s diagnosis is, what someone’s struggle is. I’m not a therapist; in yoga, it’s all about the body experience,” she said.

To that aim, she’ll be available before and after class, for anyone in need of some help. She also plans to attend an AA or NAMI group – something she’s never done. “I’ve gone into this very humbly because I haven’t had an experience with addiction. (Regarding attending a meeting) I don’t mean to come into it with judgments, but with curiosity and compassion, so that I can teach with an open heart.”

Belser says she’s already been approached by people curious about the concept, but mindful of the stigma that taking the class may hold. “A student asked me if they will call (the class) that, but I feel strongly about (doing so). There are people who I know must be thinking, ‘If I walk through that door at that moment (class time), then I’ll be judged as an addict or in recovery, or dealing with some sort of mental health issue.’ ” However, Belser said she is happy that the subject (and the descriptive name of the class) aren’t being “sugar-coated.”

“We all have our own addictions; one person’s addiction may (or may not) be as serious. We are all struggling with something, whether it’s (serious) or you’re having a crappy day,” Belser said. “Hopefully I’ve presented it in a way that will allow people to come thru the door and just see what happens.”

I can only speak from personal experience. It’s invaluable to discover and use and see the efficiency and success from your own ability to find your strength and create change in your whole being. It may happen in baby steps, but you might, in a moment, say that you feel better now than an hour ago.

“I can only speak from personal experience. It’s invaluable to discover and use and see the efficiency and success from your own ability to find your strength and create change in your whole being,” she said. “It may happen in baby steps, but you might, in a moment, say that you feel better now than an hour ago.”

Ultimately, the healer becomes the individual. “Nothing major changed. I didn’t give you a box of pills. I didn’t say you were healed. YOU created that change,” said Belser. “That’s all I’m doing is guiding and (letting) you do the work. I don’t know what kind of price tag that you put on that. To be walking around as a human being who is healing and thriving. I just think that’s amazing.”

Caroline Kramb: The Hidden Strength of a Snowflake

Photo credit: Ally Henning

Photo credit: Ally Henning

When the curtain goes up for the “Nutcracker,” danced by the Matthews Ballet and Dance, at the McDowell Community Center, one dancer in the group will be happy to be alive, well, and again dancing in this year’s production.

Matthews resident, Caroline Kramb, has been dancing with this group since she was four years old.  She is now 15 and has taken on such roles as Angel, the lead – Clara, Chinese, Ginger Child, Waltz of the Flowers, Candy Cane, Spanish, Gold Angels, Party Girl and Soldier.

This year, as in previous years, she will exude the joy and passion that dancing invokes in many. “Caroline is a dedicated student with a passion for dance,” said dance studio Program Director Amanda Sheppard. “She loves performing onstage, and is always a joy to watch.” This year, she will dance the part of “Snowflake.”

Also, as she has in previous years, Caroline will be grateful for this opportunity. However when she performs, many in the audience will be unaware of her ongoing serious medical struggles, her courageous approach to her illness, and her willingness to share her story in an effort to fundamentally help others.

Approximately 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 12, Caroline developed a severe rash and became extremely tired. What her family thought would be a common trip to the doctor turned out to much more serious. Her bloodwork showed that she had a rare blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).  Systems include low platelets and chronic bleeding. “We were in utter shock,” said her mother, Brooke.

Upon diagnosis, Caroline was rushed to Levine’s Children’s Hospital for a short stay and subsequent 18 months of treatments including infusions and heavy doses of steroids – protocols that left her feeling weak, tired and sick.

“It was hard for me with dancing, just going to school and just living my normal life,” said Caroline. “I had to push myself much harder than the other girls. (Although I knew) I am just as healthy and strong as the other girls… (I had an) autoimmune disorder. I looked good, but you couldn’t tell I had to work harder.”

At points, she missed days of school after eight-hour treatments needed every six to eight weeks – “all of that was very emotional,”  she said. She was also banned from (her) competitive swimming and all activities for which there might be a propensity for getting hurt (should she fall, hurt or bruise herself, it could cause internal bleeding). Both she and her mother, Brooke, said she felt “embarrassed” to not be able to do things that other kids could do, and longed to just “be like others.”

With that in mind, she ardently chose to continue her weekly dance lessons and maintain her participation in the annual Nutcracker productions.

“I just get really excited for the Nutcracker,” said Caroline. “I’ve had dance in my life longer than anything else I’ve ever done. Being able to (dance in) the Nutcracker every year (gives me) a sense of assurance. When I was a lot sicker, a lot weaker, I still had that event to look forward to, to participate in.”

To her dance teachers and fellow dancers, keeping this routine was paramount to keeping her spirits up. “I know that dance is (Caroline’s) “happy place” and her way to escape her illness,” said Sheppard. “She shows such amazing resilience for someone so young. I think dance has given her the strength to never give up but to always remain determined and focused.” 

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

According to Brooke, the Nutcracker and Caroline’s continued participation in dance lessons (two hours/week for dance classes; up to five hours a week during Nutcracker rehearsals), as well as her family, friends and faith all “helped her cope as well as thrive.”

During her second stay in the hospital, in the chemo-bays, she saw young kids playing but realized that older children had nothing to do with themselves during this stressful and difficult time. The “lightbulb” went off. Caroline said to her mother, “For my birthday, I want to invite my friends, but I want them to give donations so we can make our ‘bags.’ ”

The “activity bags,” as they were called, were intended to be filled with “things to do.” To date, she has made and delivered close to 100 bags and also made several hundred bracelets to pay for the bags, all of which are donated to children/teens also undergoing treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital.  

Caroline has also become an ITP activist.  Two years ago, she started her own Instagram page called “World Free of ITP,” which she created to “express my feelings…I would talk about when I had to go to the hospital and my thoughts about the journey - to (help others) understand how real this disorder is.”

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Last summer, she applied for and received a scholarship to attend an ITP conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where she met with other teens struggling with the same issue, and those hematologists who care for them.

“Before I was sick, I was the wimpiest and weakest person out there,” said Caroline. “I’d cry when I got shots. I wouldn’t take pills. But, after going through all that, I honestly didn’t have a choice. I had to push myself to get stronger and get over my fears. I honestly think it happened for a reason…Coming out of being sick, I just knew, ‘I just want to help other people….so they don’t have to go through this.’ ”

Caroline now wants to be hematologist. When she turns 16, she has been invited to shadow her lead hematologist at the children’s hospital.

Today, Caroline’s platelets are stable and she is considered in remission (there is no cure for ITP). She remains fixated on the goal of learning more and helping others. “Definitely the way she has reached out to others – she has done this entirely on her own,” said Brooke.

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

“Because I have ITP, it is like an obligation to know everything; to be informed and understand the doctors because I want to help others,” said Caroline. “I want to help understand even other blood disorders because I want to know how to give back and find other ways to help.”

For more information, contact the Platelets Disorder Support Association.

 

The Matthews Ballet and Dance Center’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed Nov. 24, 25, Dec. 1 & 2 at Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell Street.  

For tickets, contact www.matthewsfun.com or call 704-321-7275.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor Outreach in Bella Sera

Earlier this year, when a Bella Sera Villas (Bella Sera Way) elderly resident showed signs of impairment and began walking the subdivision alone, alarmed residents took action.

Forming the “Neighbor-to-Neighbor Outreach Connection (network),” Jody Brewer, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Lorrie Klemons, RN, MSN & Senior Patient Advocate, marshaled their resources, drew from their professional careers and experiences and set out to blanket the 158-unit complex, in an effort to reach out and touch any/all of the mostly over-55+ residents to determine whether they were in need of a “check-in.”

Lorrie Klemons.jpg

“There’s already a lot of connecting going on,” said Brewer, “especially in the cul-de-sacs.” However, Brewer added, that with an aging population going in and out of the complex and some “elder-orphans” (phraseology for those who are alone by design, death of a spouse or living far from relatives/friends), the necessity to stay-in-touch becomes paramount.

To date, the duo have gathered approximately 30 recipients/residents (adoptees) and approximately 15 volunteers/residents (adopters) who are now participating in this program.

To blanket the complex and do an accounting of the needs/desires of those residents choosing to opt in/out of the program, Brewer and Klemons (residents and co-chairs) used a spreadsheet, created flyers (since many older people don’t use computers) and met with the volunteer-residents to discuss a good way to approach often wary neighbors.

“There needs to be a trust factor,” said Brewer.

“(The intention was to show) How to be a volunteer, set boundaries, (learn) the best way to approach the residents, how to provide additional information,” said Klemons. “Very low-level stuff, not major.”

bella sera community.jpg

According to the group’s brochure, the network has been created to address “social isolation, loneliness, no near-by family.” The intention is to reach out to others on a “semi-regular basis” to “make sure all is well.”

According to the group’s brochure, the network has been created to address “social isolation, loneliness, no near-by family.” The intention is to reach out to others on a “semi-regular basis” to “make sure all is well.”

“This (network) was intended to create neighborliness and to make sure that no one was sitting home alone, unattended to,” said Brewer.

Their flyer states that they have “decided to re-energize the “Wellness Check” program of the past. The  volunteer duties are to phone, text, email or knock on the door of a fellow resident” to determine the (ongoing) “wellness” of that individual.

All participants are given a senior resource directory and a “Vial of Life” kit for emergency situations.

Plans for the future include more meetings, more reach-outs and the possibility of sharing this program with other subdivisions in the area.

Outdoor Bootcamp for Modern-Day Gladiators

Fitness Camp I.jpg

Driving past Stumptown Park, drivers may catch a glimpse of men and women working out in a variety of ways. Called “Camp Gladiator,” they’re seeing individuals participating in an outdoor-only fitness boot camp, which offers classes three times/week;  three times a day to nearly 60 clients.

Based on increasing interest, Stumptown Park is one of two workout locations for Camp Gladiator franchise owner and born and raised Matthews resident/personal trainer, Jeff Kelly, 27. He hopes to double that number by early next year.

Fitness Camp.jpg

While average age is 25-45, this year-round camp is intended for “all fitness levels. It’s a go-at-your-pace boot camp,” said Kelly, adding that he’s “here to push you….(It’s for those who) want to maintain their health and fitness or they want to get back to where they (once) were.”

“Our campers can bring their kids – several bring babies in strollers and (their) children,” he said.  “One camper uses her child as a weight,” he added, laughing.

Gladiator offers 10 five-week camps each year;  themes are structured around endurance training, strength and agility, metabolic training, peak and a wrap-up week.

Kelly said he’s thrilled to be bringing a sport he loves to a town he loves even more.

55+ New Friends Meetup Group

More than one dozen men and women residing in the towns surrounding Matthews meet three times/week for a Squirrel Lake walk and then coffee at Publix at Fincher Farms. Called the "55+ New Friends Meetup Group," they range in age from 55-80's; none are originally from North Carolina and have moved here from as far away as England, as well as from other states across the country. Matthews resident and New Friends Meetup founder, Anna Langill, started this as a way to connect people with same interests. "There wasn't a way for seniors to meet each other," she said. They also meet up for holidays and go to movies, dinner and other events. 

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

The People of Matthews: Four Buddies on Bikes

Four buddies out for a ride on a warm fall day, biking their usual daily "60 miles or so." Ranging in age from 44-68, they had stopped to check one of their bikes. Members of various local biking clubs, the oldest one (left) has clocked in about 14,000 biking miles this year.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro