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Elements Louisville East Client Turns to Massage for Relief from Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain

The concept of holistic healing is becoming more popular as alternative treatments for common conditions continue to move into the mainstream. For Julie Diehl, taking a holistic approach to treating the chronic pain she battles day in and day out from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia isn’t just a treatment option, but a lifestyle necessity.

Julie, 53, has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was 7 years old and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about three years ago. She has tried many different approaches to help with pain management throughout the years such as traditional medicines, physical therapy and chiropractors. But it wasn’t until 2007 when she had a pinched nerve in her neck that she tried massage.

With a debilitating pain level and a left arm that was numb from her shoulder to her hand, Julie turned to the Elements Louisville East studio in hopes of finding some level of relief.

“Nothing was maintaining my comfort level, so I decided to try out massage,” explains Julie. “I experienced a drastic difference with massage. I went from being debilitated to living a normal lifestyle and feeling pretty good most days.

"Massage has turned into a maintenance thing for me. If I don’t go regularly, then I have a lot more pain. Massage is one piece of the puzzle for me that I know I need to live a healthy lifestyle.”

Now, almost seven years later, Julie continues to alternate getting a massage every two weeks with going to a chiropractor to minimize the chronic pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. To help her maintain her day-to-day health and ability to work at a computer as a graphic designer, Julie also exercises regularly, eats healthy and enlists the help of a naturopathic doctor, as well as a traditional medical doctor.

“Julie’s lifestyle and holistic approach both go into how effective therapeutic treatments are going to be for her,” explains Colleen O'Connor, massage therapist and studio owner at Elements Louisville East. “Julie takes the steps necessary to keep her moving forward, which is lovely from a therapist’s perspective. When you have someone like Julie who participates in their ongoing health, that’s the best approach you can take with massage and overall wellness. Julie really is the perfect client.”

Julie and Colleen both agree that a lot of people with rheumatoid arthritis may feel like they don’t have a lot of options for relief and not think that massage can help. In Julie’s case, massage was the turning point that brought her relief when she was in excruciating pain from a pinched nerve and it is one of the most important elements to help her maintain her pain levels on an ongoing basis.

“For me, I carry most of my stress in my shoulders and back. So if I wasn’t getting the kinks worked out regularly, then I’d have a lot more pain,” explains Julie. “Massage helps maintain a much better level of pain management and flexibility for my body. When you feel better and you aren’t constantly in pain, you can have a better attitude on life. I look forward to getting my massages so they make me feel better mentally, too.”

Colleen explains that massage, in addition to regular activity and healthy lifestyle choices, can help the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. By activating joint fluid and working on maintaining mobility, the less pain clients can have in the long run.

Everyone’s condition and treatment plan are different, but Colleen says that when working on clients with arthritis, a therapist typically won’t apply deep pressure at first and won’t be pushing directly on the joints.

“Julie has said to me that she can’t imagine what she would do without massage in her life,” reflects Colleen. “When you have arthritis, a lot of people just want to sit, which is really contradictory to what you need to do with arthritis. Julie understands that and she’s definitely very aware of who she is and what she needs.”

To help her stay in tune with her body, Julie also has found it helpful to meditate regularly. She says that she can tell when she needs a massage or an adjustment from her chiropractor. Julie believes that if you can become more aware of your body and give the treatments like massage enough time to tell a difference, then you’re going to feel better physically and mentally -- not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.

“Feeling better is a process and working on your health is a lifetime process. There isn’t a quick fix,” says Julie. “With the whole medical realm today, people think you should be able to take a pill to feel better instantly. But I don’t really see it that way.

"You have to work with your body and see what it needs that week or that day. It’s important to look at it holistically. You don’t just have to feel bad and not have any options for relief.”

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