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The Healing Touch

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The Healing Touch


Reprinted with permission from

The Multiple Sclerosis Assoc. of America

"The Motivator", May/June 1998

Before acupuncture, Duane Perron of Dracut, MA couldn't walk even 100 yards without collapsing with exhaustion. Diagnosed with progressive-relapsing MS in 1978, the registered pharmacist was forced to quit his job in 1980 due to his severe symptoms. By the time he got in touch with an acupuncturist late last summer, he was literally a prisoner in his own home. The optic nerve in his left eye didn't function; he couldn't hear in his left ear; he had trigeminal neuralgia on the left side of his face; he dragged his left leg when he attempted to walk and he couldn't lift his left foot or wiggle his toes on his left foot. He also had terrible spasticity in both legs which made it difficult for him to do almost anything.

Now after just seven months of treatment, Mr. Perron, at age 65, has a new lease on life. His symptoms have drastically improved to the point where he has "no fatigue" and he and his wife even have season tickets to a local major league baseball team, something he could never have considered when his symptoms were so bad.

"I can also walk in the sand and ocean again. That's the most exhilarating thing because I have not been able to do it. I never would have even considered acupuncture, but I was going downhill to the point where I got desperate. My wife and I began to pray and we believe that God led us to my acupuncturist, Cynthia LaBruzzo," Mr. Perron marvels. "She is very, very caring. She agonizes over every single patient she has. She wants to make them better. She certainly has helped me. Acupuncture is not a cure, but at least it's allowing me to live like I did 20 years ago. All I ever asked God for was to stop the MS from getting worse. With acupuncture, it has, and I have never been happier."

Like many medical doctors who reject acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine as kooky and even dangerous, Mr. Perron's neurologist told him not to practice it. "I can't tell him what I am doing. He thinks I am getting better because of the medicine he is giving me," says Mr. Perron. "I may have needed medicine at one time. Now I have something better. I don't need his medication."

Have you tried everything and your symptoms still haven't improved? Instead of reaching for yet another medication, you may want to give alternative therapy a try like Mr. Perron and thousands of other MS patients across the country and around the world. (Of course, never make any change to your daily medical routine until you have consulted your physician.)

Since so many patients are finding great results with alternative therapy, MSAA hosted "The Search for Wellness Alternative Therapies Conference" in Pennsauken, NJ on May 16, 1998.Because the world of alternative therapy is vast and includes a variety of techniques and philosophies, this article will only discuss the methods involved in healing touch.

What is alternative medicine? Dr. Jonas Salk, creator of the Salk polio vaccine, is one of the many who believed there were two approaches to fighting illness; from the outside, by attacking the symptom or infectious disease agent directly with external means, such as drugs or surgery, or from the inside, by triggering the remarkable healing power of the body's own system.

This philosophical distinction is at the heart of the difference between mainstream medical treatment and alternative or complementary therapies. Mainstream medicine offers the best of a powerful arsenal of drugs to choose from, while alternative treatments seek effective "triggers" to stimulate the body's natural immune system responses. These "triggers" may be in the form of herbs, nutrients, mind/body/spirit relationships, and healing touch.

The purpose of all forms of healing touch is to help restore the body's sense of balance. "In all of our work, we are trying to help the person come into a state of balance, which in medical terms is known as homeostasis, which is a state in which the body is able to readily respond to demands, whether inner or outer. But we believe it's more than a physical thing. The body, mind, and spirit must be in balance. This is something traditional medicine does not look at," explains Sister Em McGlone, BSN, and a member of Medical Mission Sisters. An educator and practitioner in the field of holistic health since 1978, she founded the Center for Human Integration in Philadelphia in 1981.Sister McGlone teaches others to heal themselves through therapeutic touch, touch for health, foot reflexology, and BASIC massage.

"As of yet there is no scientific validity to this concept, but in a sense there is. You learn in high school chemistry that the universe is made of atoms which are electrically charged, implying that we are energy and therefore affect each other's energy," Sister McGlone explains. "If a person's energy is in balance, then the body is more capable of doing what it needs to do. Our bodies were created to heal themselves. When we are out of balance, the body becomes less and less able to heal itself. The more you bring the body into balance, the healthier you become."

To give you an idea of what types of alternative therapies employ healing touch, here's an overview of the various methods.


The World Health Organization recognizes at least 40 medical problems, ranging from allergies to MS, that can be helped by acupuncture treatment. A highly popular form of alternative therapy, acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing art which rebalances "chi" disturbance in the patient to restore health. The premise of acupuncture, like all Chinese medicine, is that all life and the entire universe came from a single source called Tao, which was created by two opposing forces - yin and yang. To be healthy, there must be a balance of yin and yang in the body. This balance is found in the flow of an energy called "chi" (chee), or the "life force". Flowing in exact patterns called meridians, this chi energy nourishes every part of the body. If one or more of the 14 meridians becomes blocked or immobile, it causes an imbalance in the chi flow. Toxins then accumulate in the various systems of the body and the immune system weakens.

To restore health, an acupuncturist uses little needles as antennas to direct chi to the various organs or functions of the body. The needles also are used to drain chi where it is excessive, to heat up parts of the body that are too cool or stagnant, to decrease or increase moisture, and to reduce heat. A painless procedure, the needles penetrate just below the epidermis and do not draw blood or cause discomfort. As Mr. Perron reported, acupuncture can help relieve a whole host of MS symptoms, including pain, fatigue, and spasticity.

Also growing in popularity due to its ability to relieve MS symptoms is acupressure. A form of acupuncture, acupressure uses fingers and thumbs instead of needles to press chi points on the surface of the body. Like acupuncture, it relieves muscular tension which helps trigger the release of endorphins, the neurochemicals that relieve pain.


The ancient Oriental diagnostic and healing art, shiatsu (shee-AH-Tzoo) is derived from the Japanese word "shi," meaning finger, and "atsu," meaning pressure. Also known as "Japanese Finger Pressure Massage," shiatsu originated in China thousands of years ago. It is an acupressure-massage technique in which the shiatsu practitioner's fingers, palms, knees, and even legs are used to promote energy flow throughout the body. Because of this, shiatsu does not only treat symptoms, but the body as a whole.

To correct energy imbalances and to make the body healthy and strong, the shiatsu practitioner works on relieving energy blockages to promote energy flow through the meridians. When energy is blocked, it flows to the "tsubo" or acupressure points. Shiatsu's goal is to remove these blockages and to restore the flow and balance of energy to make you feel your best.

Simply put, the ancient Chinese and many people today believe that touch heals, explains Eiko Fischer, a Shiatsu practitioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Wellness Center in Collingswood, NJ. "All parts of the body are related. We live off each other's energy," she says. Born in Kyusho, Japan, Eiko came to the U.S. when she was 29 but didn't start practicing shiatsu until she reached 50.Like many who practice alternative therapy, Eiko believes that helping others feel better is her calling. "Some people have the technique, but they need the caring to really make it work," she explains. Because it is important to keep harmony with the subject's body and respiratory rhythm, Eiko breathes with the person and controls his or her breathing. Each shiatsu session, which is never hurried, usually takes about an hour and covers the entire body.

BASIC Massage

According to the Center for Human Integration in Philadelphia, BASIC (Body And Spirit Integrated Consciously) is neuromuscular integration which facilitates change. By structurally realigning the physical body, the musculoskeletal and nervous systems in particular - more healthy body integration is achieved. The BASIC neuromuscular work is performed in 10 progressive sessions. Changes in structure are achieved through muscle manipulation and myofascial release. Fascia is the connective tissue in and around muscles, which encourage movement. Sometimes this tissue adheres to one another due to stress or trauma. By helping to break up the fascial layers, the sessions help to improve a person's movement, and to decrease pain and fatigue.

Another part of BASIC neuromuscular integration is neurological which may use emotional stress defusion or the craniosacral system. Discovered by William G. Sutherland, an osteopathic physician at the turn of the century, craniosacral therapy is based on the premise that the 29 bones of the skull can move. By massaging the head, craniosacral therapists attempt to revitalize the central nervous system by facilitating the flow of cerebrospinal fluid within and around the brain and spinal cord. By doing so, this therapy can help remove the blockages and restore the harmonious flow of body fluids. Lack of symmetry of the craniosacral rhythmical motion throughout the body is used to determine pathological problems. Experienced practitioners are able to encourage the motion by touching various points all over the patient's body. If craniosacral therapy is successful, the body will correct the imbalance itself.

Once people finish BASIC neuromuscular integration, then they are ready for BASIC massage, a deep-muscle, full-body massage which offers muscle tension release. Almost anyone will benefit from BASIC massage, says Sister McGlone, even if they have not gone through BASIC neuromuscular integration. "The BASIC massage practitioner is trained in the art and skill of 'listening with the hands' to work with the body at the rate and depth the body allows," she explains. "We are consciously attempting to integrate the body, spirit, and mind. Touch enables you to get in touch with yourself. We lose touch with ourselves when we lose touch with each other. We don't see ourselves as healers or medical therapists. We see ourselves as facilitators and educators. Our goal is to help the person heal him or herself."

Spinal Touch

The goal of spinal touch treatment is to bring your spine into balance through muscle relaxation, and in turn, relieve pain and improve mobility and fatigue. Based on the premise that so many toxins are stored in some muscles that they cannot relax, spinal touch therapists lightly touch key areas of the spine to re-direct the inner energies of your body. By re-directing this energy, your muscles can again relax and gently pull the spine into its more natural position.


Reflexology is the ancient healing art of massaging the hands and feet to reduce stress and pain. Practiced by early Egyptians, reflexology is based on the understanding that reflexes in the hands and feet correspond to all the organs, glands, and parts of the body. By massaging specific pressure points on the hands and feet, an impulse or "reflex" is sent to the corresponding problem area. The massaging of these pressure points releases endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers and mood elevators, sending them through the system. The benefits reported from reflexology include stress and tension relief, increased energy, improved circulation and balance, and pain reduction.

Therapeutic Touch

Developed in the early 1970's by nurse-researchers Dolores Krieger and Dora Kunz, therapeutic touch (TT) is a scientifically proven, research-based nursing intervention. TT practitioners suggest that in a healthy state, the energy field surrounding a person will be "balanced" and that another person - correctly attuned to the positive and negative charges of a fellow human - can physically feel the other's energy. By moving his or her hands within the energy field around a person in a four-step process that usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes, the TT practitioner helps the body to normalize itself and therefore improves the flow of blood and nerve conduction. TT can also help patients think clearer, reduce body pain and spasms and help reduce other symptoms. Sessions are usually conducted with the patient fully clothed and lying down on a bed.


Invented by the ancient Greeks and practiced as early as 1250 B.C., chiropractic medicine is the most popular form of alternative therapy in this country. Meaning "done by hand," chiropractic is a method of restoring wellness through adjustments of the spine. Based on the theory that health and disease are life processes related to the function of the nervous system, chiropractors treat subluxations (partial dislocations of the spine) in an effort to restore normal nerve flow. Traditional chiropractors focus on the physical stress and trauma to the spine, while "network" chiropractors like Gary Noseworthy, D.C., of Mt. Laurel, NJ, also treat the emotional, mental, and chemical factors that create tension in the spinal system and soft tissues.

"We are not treating a condition, we are allowing the body to express optimum health by treating the subluxations, the interference on the nervous system that can cause weakness," explains Dr. Noseworthy, who has been treating people with MS for 10 years."Most alternative therapy does the same thing. We are taught from the beginning in medical school that healing comes from inside out. You need to remove the interference to allow the body to heal and then offer diet and other lifestyle suggestions to prevent the body from going back to the same stressful condition."

Since stress can greatly increase a person's MS symptoms, Dr. Noseworthy's "whole Body" approach helps to reduce it. "I have seen a big change in my MS patients when they come regularly for therapy and start to reduce stress in their lives. Their fatigue is reduced, their spasms are reduced, and their strength returns," he says.

"Alternative therapy allows the patient to take more responsibility for his or her health, whereas traditional medicine depends on the 'man in white' to fix people's ills," says Dr. Noseworthy. "Traditional medicine does great with acute care, but it has failed miserably in helping people to stay healthy. Alternative therapies are filling in that gap."

Joyce Billings, age 39, is a patient who believes wholeheartedly in chiropractic. A patient of Dr. Noseworthy's for the past few months, the divorced mother of a teenage son can already report a dramatic improvement in her symptoms. Diagnosed with MS in 1985, Ms. Billings hasn't been able to work since, although she has volunteered as a counselor at MSAA headquarters. She initially experienced extreme numbness and fatigue and lost sight in both of her eyes. Eventually she regained her sight in one eye, and she can drive and do low-impact aerobics for exercise, but her fatigue keeps her from returning to work.

Now with the combination of using the Enermed, non-invasive, pulsed electromagnetic therapy, exercising regularly and using chiropractic, she feels better than she has in a long, long time. "Dr. Noseworthy has helped me more than any other doctor. All these years no one has been able to help me feel better. After I leave his office, I feel more energetic, and I can think clearer. When I first went to his office I was feeling tired, and I came out feeling energetic. That convinced me to continue," she marvels. "For years I have wanted to get out of the rut I have been in, but I didn't have the energy. Now I am determined to live the best way I can despite the MS. I am so glad that I found alternative therapy. I wish I had tried it years ago."

Reprinted with permission from

The Multiple Sclerosis Assoc. of America

"The Motivator", May/June 1998

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