The Whole Stuff:
Brookline Practitioners Heal the Natural Way
By Susie Davidson
In the past decade, recognition of alternative medicine as a viable healing option has grown by leaps and bounds. The public, and, finally, after historic reticence, the medical establishment, have come around to grant chiropractic, herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage, dietary supplements, guided imagery, varied bodywork and other non-drug approaches legitimacy, to the point where insurance companies now often cover costs.
Alternative healing centers are sprouting at even the most staid medical institutions. Leading the way is the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center psychiatrists are prescribing herbal medicines; Des Moines' Mercy Medical Center offers meditation, massage therapy, yoga and art therapy for cancer patients. At New York's Beth Israel Medical Center, physicians, chiropractors and practitioners of homeopathy, clinical imagery and other complementary modalities work together. Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is testing alternative programs in heart surgery.
Harvard Medical School's Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies mirrors holistic health practices at Faulkner, St. Elizabeth's, Spaulding Rehab and other local hospitals. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, self-hypnotic relaxation techniques resulted in less pain medication and shorter operating room stays, with more stable vital signs.
In Brookline, many capable and caring alternative practitioners are available for consultations and treatments; they reflect the innovative and compassionate nature of the town itself.
Bonnie Rotenberg came into homeopathy when her 8-year-old daughter was plagued with colds and flulike illnesses. "Conventional medicine didn't have any answers, so I searched alternatives and discovered homeopathy," she says. "It caught my attention. I soon learned how homeopathy could successfully treat illnesses that might otherwise debilitate an individual for a lifetime - chronic back pain, arthritis, alcoholism, depression."
She began her practice at 124 Harvard St. five years ago. "Brookline, where I have lived for 18 years, is so very diverse - students, elderly, immigrants, 'natives', just about everything. They're intelligent and curious."
"Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that was founded by an early 19th century German physician," she explains. "The medicines are natural substances derived from mineral, plant, or animal sources. Classical homeopathy states that a single remedy should cover all symptoms: mental, emotional, and physical. A good homeopath would not prescribe one remedy for a headache and another for a weepy mood. Homeopathy states that symptoms are a statement of dis-ease, or imbalance. The human organism tends to express symptoms as far away as possible from vital organs. But if the symptoms are suppressed, this can mean the dis-ease goes deeper and becomes more serious.
"In the late 19th century, 15 percent of U.S. doctors were homeopaths. Today it's quite common in Europe. French pharmacies are required to carry homeopathic remedies and it is the British royal family's official medicine."
She cites homeopathy's success in treating smallpox, of no small concern in these times.
It will be twenty years in November that Dr. Cheryl R. Lubin has been practicing chiropractic in Brookline (she's at 1842 Beacon St.). A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Mass. at Amherst, she minored in dance.
"When chronic lower back pain hampered my daily dancing in a New York City jazz dance company," she recalls, "a Manhattan chiropractor, whose treatment incorporated the now in-vogue Pilates technique, eliminated my lower back pain and strengthened my postural musculature." "Thats when the 'ah ha!' hit: 'why not become a chiropractor'?"
She graduated from Life University in Marieta, Georgia in 1982, and set up shop in her hometown of Brookline.
"Ive found that through the years my background in dance and exercise has been a wonderful adjunct to my chiropractic practice," she says. "First and foremost, chiropractic is extremely successful in alleviating nerve interference and restoring a sense of well being to the patient. I design and integrate an individualized exercise regimen: for some patients our exercise goals may be to strengthen chronically weak musculature, reduce bodily stress, optimize body biomechanics, or even meet a combination of patient needs.
"Over the past twenty years, Ive worked with many professional and amateur dancers, athletes, and runners. I employ several chiropractic techniques: one is a low-force, gentle approach called Activator Methods, an extremely specific and painless method that allows me to work on spinal disc injuries, extremities, and even children with great success. Active, athletic patients love this technique because I am able to restore the problematic mechanics in an ankle, shoulder, or wrist with no or little down time."
"Chiropractic is now more popular than ever, since lower back pain, neck pain, and headaches are so prevalent," she says. "People are savvy enough to know now that taking a pill for pain does not address the underlying problem, and in some instances causes additional problems. Instead, people of all different ages (my youngest patient was two days old and my oldest thus far is 94) know that eliminating nerve interference optimizes the innate healing power of the body and that, coupled with stress-reducing exercise, is a prescription for health."
"Have you noticed how you can recognize your friends from far away?" asks Barry Levine, Feldenkrais practitioner based at 124 Harvard St. "You can do this because you know their walk, their posture and how they are in their world. These habits of movement and function determine how a person will feel and perceive themselves and how they will react in certain situations."
"The Feldenkrais Method," he says, "gives you a chance to do it over again, learn to move differently and recognize habitual patterns of behavior while discovering new ways of action so that posture and emotional outlook can be altered and changed.
"Our lives were shaped by early experiences before we were aware enough to reject their effect," he continues. "Ordinarily, we learn just enough to function. The Feldenkrais method teaches functional integration through slow gentle movements. The method helps to eliminate pain, movement restrictions, improve posture, breathing, coordination, and relieve tension and stress. People who come to see me have been in car accidents, or have various types of physical pain; they also come to improve their golf or tennis game."
Levine came to be a Feldenkrais practitioner after receiving a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Administration and working as a licensed social worker and a Nursing Home administrator. While teaching exercise classes at the Boston YMCA, he saw people repeatedly "doing the same hurtful things to themselves. "A friend," he says, "told me about Moshe Feldenkrais' ideas. I traveled to meet him and took his next training.
"I later became an assistant trainer and have been teaching people to become practitioners as well. I've been practicing this method for 20 years and have been in Brookline the last 12. I've taught at Brookline adult ed classes, and at two hospitals in the area.
"Brookline is a wonderful place to be. This method is unique and people have been very appreciative and open to the benefits and changes it can give to their lives."
"There are millions more office visits to alternative practitioners than to primary care doctors," says Barry Oken, M.D., Director of Clinical Neurophysiology at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. "People spend an estimated $3 billion per year alone on herbal medicines, with projected annual growth of 15 percent."
Mercy's Dr. William Jagiello, osteopathic physician and chairman of its integrative medicine committee, says "illness doesn't exist in a vacuum, and good medicine will integrate spiritual, emotional and cultural factors.
"At some point in the future, there won't be conventional and unconventional treatments," he says. "They'll all be melded into one system. The important thing will be identifying the best treatment for each patient, rather than whether it's mainstream or alternative."
BARRY LEVINE - Feldenkrais 124 Harvard St. 617-738-9597
Dr. GRANT R. HOU: Acupuncture, Herbals - Shanghai Acup. and Herbal
Svcs. 1419 Beacon St. 617-975-3813, Pager 781-317-4528
Dr. CHERYL LUBIN: Chiropractor 1842 Beacon St. 617-232-7566
BONNIE ROTENBERG: Homeopathy 124 Harvard St. 617-730-3703