BAGHDAD — Since the Army introduced the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program in October, there has been much focus on a holistic approach to physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family well-being.
But what is holistic healing exactly?
According to LTC Erica Clarkson, a United States Forces-Iraq physical therapist, holistic healing is an approach that uses natural methods to improve health, without using drugs or surgery to correct problems.
Clarkson, a Palm Springs, Calif., native, has been practicing holistic healing for 17 years, and has continued to treat servicemembers in Iraq at the Courage Clinic, located in the Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory.
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Some of Clarkson’s holistic modalities include acupuncture, manual therapy, relaxation techniques and prescribed exercises specific to each patient’s physical ailment.
“There are no significant adverse side effects like there are with using drugs to treat problems,” she said. “Different medicines have been linked to ulcers and other gastrointestinal irritations, and even death.”
For LTC Chad Sundem and MAJ Dorothy de Leon, the holistic healing approach has proved very beneficial in recovering from injuries they sustained.
Sundem, the aide-de-camp for I Corps commander LTG Charles H. Jacoby Jr., was suffering from calf strains, a pinched nerve and arm numbness when he began seeing Clarkson. The Moorhead, Minn., native received weekly acupuncture treatments for the problems.
The treatment has been tremendous in helping his condition, he said.
“I didn’t have to resort to any other methods of treatment. Acupuncture healed the problems quickly. In my case, it brought semi-instant pain relief and a more rapid recovery overall,” he said.
De Leon was suffering from plantar fasciitis in her left foot and tendonitis in her right elbow before seeking acupuncture treatments with Clarkson. Although the USF-I Red Team officer had to use anti-inflammatory medication in addition to the acupuncture, she also performed prescribed stretching exercises.
“Before this deployment, I’d always wanted to try acupuncture for other pains, but never had the opportunity. I’m completely sold on the treatment,” de Leon said.
Ice, rest and massage have also contributed to de Leon’s successful treatment, all of which she did on her own time.For those who are not able to receive the acupuncture portion of holistic healing, Clarkson recommends doing Internet research for things that can be done during someone’s down time.
“You will get the most benefit from this when you do the prescribed exercises on your own time, which is much preferred,” Clarkson said. “The Internet is a great resource. Without acupuncture, you can still research and find your acupressure points.”
Each point is linked to a different part of the body, Clarkson said. For example, acupressure points in the right hand are linked to the left foot. By applying pressure to acupressure points in the body, pain can sometimes be relieved.The holistic approach to treatment is also offered at stateside military hospitals, and has become a growing skill set.
“You can’t give a pill for everything. You have to get to the root of the problem,” said Clarkson.
Clarkson said the new holistic approach the Army has taken is a step in the right direction and is gaining popularity throughout the service.
“It has taken the Army a long time to get to this point,” she added. “(The Army) is opening up and seeing the benefits. It’s really a great thing.”