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Integrative Medicine: The Future Of Chronic Pain Treatment?

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Mary Robb Jackson Mary Robb Jackson
Mary Robb Jackson joined KDKA-TV as a general assignment reporter in...
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CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSPittsburgh.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSPittsburgh.com/Health

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The meeting of east and west is something called “Integrative Medicine” and for many people, it’s the best of both worlds.

“I think the secret today is to understand which treatments are most effective under what circumstances,” Dr. Martin Gallagher said.

Dr. Gallagher is a certified chiropractor, is schooled in acupuncture and he’s a medical doctor as well. He can write prescriptions or recommend herbal remedies.

He employs the best of modern and ancient medicines.

“We’ve come to understand that the things in the east are very effective and have stood the test of time for a reason. They’ve been working,” Dr. Gallagher said.

Treatment of chronic pain is one Dr. Gallagher’s specialties.

“Pain is a very subjective phenomenon, but most people in chronic pain can’t get any relief regardless of what they do,” Dr. Gallagher said.

He’s using the Chinese practice of acupuncture on Mariangela Mancuso.

The 51-year-old yoga instructor from North Versailles was plagued by progressive hip and arm pain for years. The hair-thin needles are said to alter brain chemistry and affect the central nervous system.

“My life had deteriorated to standing or resting on the floor,” Mancuso said.

For two years, Mancuso has been undergoing a regimen of acupuncture including, spinal manipulation and prolotherapy. She believes it’s working.

“I didn’t have a life. So, I can’t say thanks for giving me my life back. I didn’t have one. I have one now,” Mancuso said.

Dr. Gallagher said the American military has also adopted “battlefield acupuncture.”

“The Army is very much involved with the research about how they can take Iraqi veterans and get them off pain medication,” Dr. Gallagher said.

“I couldn’t drive long distances without pain. I couldn’t. It was uncomfortable to sit, uncomfortable to stand,” Aaron LeDonne said.

LeDonne, 31, of Franklin Park, suffered from a herniated disk with pain radiating down his left leg.

“And went and saw a neurosurgeon who wanted to schedule me for surgery immediately,” LeDonne said.

Instead, LeDonne tried prolotherapy.

In this procedure, syringes are filled with sugar water or saline. Before the series of injections, the area is desensitized. A number of injections are given and x-ray or ultrasound is used to guide the doctor.

“The current research shows based on MRI studies and ultrasound is that at the cell level what’s taking place is the growth of new tissue,” Dr. Gallagher said.

Around since the 1940s, prolotherapy is being studied at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard as a way to reduce pain. However, there’s no real solid evidence yet as to how or if it really works.

For LeDonne, his lower back agony appears to be over.

“There’s days when it’s mildly uncomfortable, but that’s the extent of it. I have no limitations,” LeDonne said.

Dr. Gallagher knows that many of his fellow doctors are skeptical and that these treatments are not equally successful with all patients. However, he believes that integrative medicine is the future.

“The shift is taking place predominantly with the public, but it’s also now taking place in the medical field. So, it’s just a matter of time where the kind of therapies we’re talking about are standard therapies,” Dr. Gallagher said.

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