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The new wave in wellness

Alternative therapies like massage, hypnosis and acupuncture are yielding real results

March 12, 2014

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Acupuncture therapy is one of the most popular services Beaumont Health System offers as part of its Integrative Medicine program.

If there was a chance you could reduce pain, alleviate stress and improve nearly every function in your body — without a trip to the pharmacy — would you be interested?

Odds are, most of us would jump at the thought of pitching a few pill bottles from the medicine cabinet. Maybe that’s why alternative therapies and integrative, drug-free medicine options are becoming more popular with patients around metro Detroit.

At least that’s what Gail Elliott-Patricolo of Beaumont Health System says. She’s the director of Beaumont’s Integrative Medicine program, which offers a number of programs for patients, including yoga, naturopathy, Reiki and clinical massage. One of the most popular options with patients, she said, is acupuncture therapy.

“The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture (as beneficial) for just about every bodily function. It can help with the reduction of pain, infertility, treat urology issues, gastrointestinal issues, migraines, neuromuscular problems. The list goes on and on for the successes of acupuncture,” said Elliott-Patricolo.

The idea of acupuncture, she explained, is that cells in the human body contain huge amounts of energy, and our bodies are composed entirely of those cells. So when acupuncture needles are strategically placed on certain nerves, they act as something of a receptor, encouraging the brain to direct healing to that area.

The hospital’s Reiki services work in a similar way, with gentle touch on or even placing hands just above an affected part of the body, drawing energy to that area to promote restoration.

Beaumont has seven acupuncturists on staff and, in February, booked 800 appointments for the therapy. The ancient Chinese methodology is quickly picking up popularity in the United States among many physicians.

“The hospital now supports it for its employees, which is very exciting to me. Insurance in some states already covers acupuncture. I think we’re going to see more and more of that in mainstream medicine,” said Elliot-Patricolo.

In the Macomb area, certified massage therapist Beth Pellerito also takes advantage of the healing power of nerves and pressure points in her work. As part of her treatments, she integrates reflexology. She said that when pressure is applied to certain parts of our feet, corresponding organs throughout our body react.

“When you have problems in different areas in your body, deposits will settle in your feet. When you apply pressure to those areas, you break up the deposits and increase blood flow to those nerves,” said Pellerito, who has specialized in therapeutic massage for more than 30 years.

Reflexology treatments, booked through her website at,  are done by walking the thumb through different points on the feet, which are laid out much like the human body: the big toe represents the head, sinus and neck; the midline of the foot represents the spine; the heel represents the lower back; and so on.

Over several sessions, when reflexology is combined with therapeutic massage and gentle stretching, Pellerito said, a client could see a significant improvement in whatever symptoms are bothering them.

“It can do a lot of good for a lot of people. I had a pregnant woman in here with a lot of nausea, so I worked the ball of the foot, which is the diaphragm, and it stopped her nausea. It just promotes homeostasis,” she said.

Some of those symptoms can be relieved without ever touching the body, but rather tapping into the mind, according to certified medical hypnotherapist Kim Manning. She said she works with lots of physicians who feel that their patients’ problems might lie in the subconscious.

“Letting go of an erroneous belief can relieve a psychological pain. But if there is real pain from a physical mishap, through hypnotherapy we can learn to distract,” said Manning, who practices in Bloomfield Hills. “We teach ourselves to be vigilant for pain, so we’re always looking for it. If we’re looking for the pain, we’ll always find it.”

Manning recognizes that some people might be apprehensive to try hypnotherapy because of incorrect stereotypes they’ve seen and heard about over the years, mostly in the media.

“They have this belief about what hypnotherapy is because of what they’ve seen on television programs. They think it’s someone taking over your mind, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” she explained.

The process, instead, walks patients gently into a subconscious state, which Manning says we already naturally slip into and out of all day long. Have you ever been driving to a destination you travel to frequently and sort of “zoned out?” Yep, you’ve been hypnotized.

“Highway hypnosis is when you remember getting in your car and you arrive at your destination, but you missed the bits in between, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did I get here?’”

Manning further explained on her website,, that our mind is like a two-sided business card, with our conscious mind on one side and our subconscious on the other. Both sides exist all the time, but we flip back and forth between which side is facing up. And when we bring our subconscious mind to the forefront, we can learn things about ourselves that our conscious mind normally hides away.

“We each come with our own history, our own beliefs, our own perception. I have to enter into (a client’s) world to find the answers we need,” she explained. “I have a lot of clients that come to me for weight loss. If knowledge was the problem, they wouldn’t need my help. They know what they have to do to lose weight, so what’s keeping them from doing the very thing they want to do and want more than anything in the world? Maybe they subconsciously don’t want to be seen, they want layers of protection or it’s learned behavior. The answer is always within the client — so we have to undo that knot.”

About the author

Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki covers Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin and Bingham Farms along with Birmingham Public Schools, Oakland County Parks and Recreation and Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center. Esshaki has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2011 and attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Oakland Community College.


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