Eldon Francis of Olympia wants to reduce symptoms of Parkinson's disease. Salem resident Steve Walery wants relief from balance problems, and burning and shock-like pain in his extremities.
Both hope a new Oregon Health & Science University clinic that melds conventional and complementary medicine for patients with neurological conditions, chronic pain and headaches will provide that relief. The Neurology Wellness Clinic is offered through the OHSU Department of Neurology at the university's Center for Health & Healing at South Waterfront. It infuses traditional neurology treatment with such complementary and alternative medicine therapies as acupuncture, diet, stress management, nutritional supplementation and wellness counseling.
Dennis Bourdette, M.D., professor and chairman of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine, said the clinic's creation is a response to requests from patients, many of whom ask for recommendations on complementary and alternative therapies that will ease their neurological disease symptoms.
"Many patients with neurological disorders seek out complementary and alternative medicine approaches to help them deal with their symptoms," he said. "The idea was to offer something patients are interested in, but by competent practitioners who use methods backed up by research."
OHSU has become a leader in studying complementary and alternative medicine therapies, or CAM – often referred to as "integrative" medicine – for neurological disorders. In 2003, Barry Oken, M.D., OHSU professor of neurology, literally wrote the book on CAM for neurological diseases with help from several colleagues. He also is director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Disorders at OHSU. And the university continues to study such CAM therapies as gotu kola for treating diabetic neuropathy; gingko biloba for multiple sclerosis; and fish oil for Alzheimer's disease.
Bourdette said awareness of the benefits of adding complementary and alternative therapies to a patient's treatment regimen is increasing among conventional medicine practitioners.
"The area of alternative medicine spans a broad range of ideas, many of which make very good sense, such as encouraging patients to follow a healthy diet, use certain nutritional supplements and reduce stress," Bourdette said. "Patients who have chronic illnesses, for example, are more open to exploring alternative approaches because physicians don't have all the answers."
The CAM providers in the clinic are Steven Otsuka Dardis, D.A.O.M., L.Ac., and Lynne Shinto, N.D., M.P.H. Daridis is one of the first graduates in the United States of a fully accredited doctoral program in acupuncture and oriental medicine. He also is a licensed acupuncturist and received both his clinical master's and doctoral degrees from Portland's Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. His expertise is in treating patients using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, massage and other Eastern medicine techniques.
Shinto received her naturopathic degree from Bastyr University in Seattle and her master of public health degree from OHSU. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at OHSU and has received NIH funding to evaluate complementary medicine therapies in neurological conditions. Her expertise is in treating patients using natural medicine therapies which include, diet, stress management, herbs, and nutritional supplementation..
"To me, it's all about the patients and improving patient care," Shinto said. "Patients want to feel empowered. They want to have a say in their health care. Offering an integrative approach gives them some of that voice back. These are therapies you don't need a prescription for, but patients often need guidance."
She said she also views her role as "being an available resource" for clinicians on CAM therapies.
Dardis believes CAM therapies as part of an integrative medicine approach are perfect for neurological disorders, most of which don't yet have cures and must be managed in the meantime.
"Most people realize that when they have a condition that's neurological, they're not going to be 100 percent what they used to be," he said. "The more we start learning about medicine in general, we're realizing that optimal care is not about just one modality, but multiple modalities combined."
Francis, 68, said being actively involved in his own treatment rather than "passively relying on traditional medicines alone" is one of the benefits of the new Neurology Wellness Clinic.
"I believe that a good diet, exercise, stress management and nutritional supplements can contribute to the effectiveness of the overall management of my disease," said Francis, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's six months ago. "Dr. Shinto affirms this approach when appropriate."
Walery, 52, said it was Shinto, a faculty member in the Department of Neurology since 2001, who first suggested many of his symptoms were nerve based, and that he should see a neurologist.
"She first saw me and she said, 'I think you've got something neurologically going on,'" he recalled. "So I went to see one of the neurologists, and they found that I did, indeed, have sensory motor neuropathy and severe small nerve fiber neuropathy. Then I started having all these other problems, and it's been getting worse."
But the Neurology Wellness Clinic has kept his pain and other symptoms "at a minimum." Shinto and Dardis aren't stopping his symptoms, "but I think they're slowing things down. I'll tell you, you really notice things when you don't go (to the clinic). I just don't feel as well."
The clinic offers appointments every Friday. Those interested can call (503) 494-7772.