My first love was ballet. Ballet has shaped many aspects of who I am, especially as a doctor. Through my dance training, I learned what it means to work hard to achieve my dreams and live my passion. I also learned that working hard is required to get where I want to be, but does not guarantee I will get there. Also, I have the choice to make things easier on myself or harder on myself. Those same principles apply to achieving mental, emotional and physical health. Perhaps one of the most applicable lessons I encourage my patients to adopt is from one of my ballet masters, James Clouser. He said, “Do it right, right now.”
What did Mr. Clouser mean? He meant that I could employ what he was teaching me in terms of correcting my ballet technique at the time, or not. Correcting a technical critique requires the student to diligently practice and to keep the correction at top-of-mind awareness both during and outside of ballet class. I remember a specific correction Mr. Clouser gave me regarding how to hold my rib cage. I practiced it throughout class, but also practiced it while riding in a car, standing in line, and even envisioned it in my mind’s eye while at rest. As motivation, I kept my end goal in sight, as correcting it would lead to being able to turn more pirouettes, jump higher leaps and give a better performance on the stage. While at times it may have seemed easier to “cheat” my technique and focus on other things, the reality is cheating never works. At some point, I would have to correct my bad habits, or I would never improve my dancing.
Likewise, when it comes to achieving our best health possible, it takes time, commitment and focus. Some patients ask me why they should consider choosing my suggested holistic method of healing for something like joint pain over taking NSAID medications. My answer is you could improve your body’s health and radically decrease your joint pain in 3-6 months by taking a holistic approach, or you could cover up your pain while causing other health problems in your body at the same time. It is your choice.
What do I mean by “holistic approach?” I mean that joint pain is not JUST joint pain, and it is important to look at the entire system to treat it appropriately. Furthermore, each patient’s joint pain is likely to have a unique cause and therefore will require a unique treatment plan. For example, joint pain may be a result of a widespread inflammatory process. Common causes of inflammation range from eating foods that your body does not like, to chronic emotional turmoil, to your body’s physical alignment needing adjustment. Inflammation may also be rooted in deficiency in the system, meaning the body may be lacking appropriate building blocks to restore balance. Finding the root cause of the deficiency becomes imperative to solving the joint pain. Very commonly a patient’s joint pain is a result of a mixture of mentioned possible causes, and successful treatment comes from dissecting the problem and solving each element of imbalance. To put out the inflammatory fire, a combination of regular acupuncture, massage, nutritional guidance and sometimes behavioral health is the answer.
Doing it “right” when it comes to achieving and maintaining health is a varied and individualized process. There is no one size fits all answer. However, a determination to do your best goes a long way, and finding a team of health care practitioners that is a good match for you is also important.
Happily, my diligence, determination and hard work paid off for me in the dance world. I went on to dance professionally and still am teaching ballet classes to this day.
Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at https://hhacumed.com, or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.