When you’re sick or in pain or emotional distress, when you can’t sleep or run or eat without troubles, when your heart pounds or your voice trembles or your ears make funny sounds, it’s OK to go see your doctor. As a complement to your medical treatment, however, you may wish to consider one or more nonmedical avenues.

There is an often-confusing myriad of possible complementary practices from fitness training to nutrition to pain management. The Newburyport Wellness Consortium is a group of local complementary health care professionals of which I am a member. In seeking to help you understand the options available to you, we offer a panel of informative presentations. Our goal is not to sell you on a particular approach, but rather to help you choose wisely what may be best for you.

The panel is called Newburyport Wellness Resources. It will be held Tuesday, March 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Cape Ann Botanicals, 49 Pleasant St. As the flyer says: “Come for the refreshments, stay for the information!” And please let us know you’re coming. Call 978-462-6200 or email carla@capeannbotanicals.com.

Why not pills?

We’re not trying to get you to stop taking the pills that you need. We’re trying to get you to a state where you don’t need the pills.

Virtually all medications are poisons. Given in small doses, however, they may have beneficial effects. Some medications, like the antibiotic fluoroquinolones, are poisons even in small doses.

One good example is the derivative of the dried leaves of the beautiful foxglove plant, digitalis. In small doses, digitalis (digoxin) can have profoundly beneficial effects on some cardiac problems. Given an overdose of digoxin, or sometimes as a result of long-term therapy, digitalis can kill you.

In addition, it’s now well-known that using opioids for pain management has led to a worldwide crisis of addiction. Over time, even in small doses, opioids can lead to insomnia, muscle pain, heart infections, pneumonia and more.

The natural healing arts

The natural healing arts have been effective for a very long time. We have been party not just to curing symptoms, but truly healing everything from chronic pain to gastrointestinal problems, from anxiety to voice tremors, from migraines to IBS.

The arts that we practice share an underlying goal, which is to correct and restore balance to your body and nervous system. Experience makes it clear that a body and nervous system in balance will be not only pain free, but free of many other conditions. We work to engage your own body’s amazing built-in ability to heal you, while conventional allopathic medicine’s treatments are meant to dominate and suppress your natural healing processes.

By choosing these healing arts for relief of a wide variety of conditions, you are indeed striking a major blow against the opioid crisis.


One of the oldest, most time-tested healing arts is traditional Chinese medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbs, massage, diet, exercise and meditation. Around the middle of the Neolithic age, 6,000 or so years ago in China, the first description of acupuncture was recorded in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, Huangdi Neijing.

According to Chinese medicine, you have interconnected pathways of energy (qi) that flow through your 12 major organs and out to the surface of your body. Acupuncture stimulates your body’s natural ability to heal itself by enabling a proper flow of qi, which then harmonizes all systems of your body. When qi is balanced, you experience symptom-free well-being in body, mind and spirit.

Both the National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization recognize acupuncture as an important health care discipline.


Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation, as well as mechanical means, to align and balance your musculoskeletal structure, especially your spine. As before, the assumption is that being in balance will enable your body to heal itself. Manipulating your bony structure mobilizes your joints that have become restricted by injury or repetitive stress, and allows the free flow of energy through your body.

Chiropractic treatments are generally short with the patient fully clothed, and they use no oils nor creams. They have been effective in relieving back pain, sports injuries and muscle strains, as well as pain in the neck, arms and legs and headaches.

Healing arts often begin in the most unlikely ways. Daniel David Palmer was a philosopher of natural healing. In 1895, he accidentally noticed a vertebra out of place in the back of his partially deaf janitor. Harvey Lillard said that he lost his hearing when he “moved the wrong way” and heard a pop in his back. Palmer moved the vertebra back into place, and Lillard’s hearing was restored. Two years later, Palmer started the first chiropractic school.

Massage therapy

Massage is as at least as old as acupuncture. People have always rubbed others as a way to help them relax and to relieve stress and an assortment of pains. Over time, massage techniques have evolved to include not just general stroking, but more specific focused work to relieve deep tissue constraints.

In a typical classic massage, erroneously called Swedish, you are undressed and lie under a drape for an hour or more. The massage therapist then works most of the superficial muscles in your body using some oil or cream. The effect of classic massage is to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as to improve immune function and sleep. In addition, it may increase your range of motion and joint mobility.

Medical massage

Medical massage means simply using soft tissue techniques to address specific medical problems. It uses very precise, gentle stretch and stimulation of particular muscles to correct and balance your nervous system. This leads to changes in the organization of your nervous system and body to relieve pain and many other conditions.

It differs from classic massage in that treatments are short, 10-20 minutes, the patient is fully clothed, and no oils nor creams are used.

The medical massage technique called the Myokinesthetic System, MYK, is useful not only for bodily pains, but also for internal conditions like chronic headaches, acid reflux, digestion problems, anxiety and many more. On average, only three or four MYK treatments are needed.

MYK was developed by a Kansas chiropractor who observed that when he moved the spinal bones into alignment, the attached muscles frequently would pull them out of alignment again. His discovery was that by treating the muscles instead of the bones, his treatments were more effective and lasted longer. Originally called soft-tissue chiropractic, MYK has evolved to treat more conditions than the typical chiropractor.

Fitness training

None of these techniques can be optimally effective if your body is not in good condition. Fitness training helps develop stronger bones and reduce osteoporosis, as well as control your weight by burning more calories. It boosts your stamina so you don’t become fatigued and builds your muscles to support your body’s organs.

At a proper fitness center, you will have a private workout room with the latest in fitness equipment. You’ll work with a single trainer each session and be guided through a program designed specifically for you.


And your body can’t be in good condition if it isn’t nourished properly. By now, it’s widely accepted that healthy nutrition includes not only minimizing your sugar intake, but nonfiber carbohydrates in any form, as well. This is only the beginning.

What you take in is just as important as what you leave out of your body. A consummately clean diet is naturally detoxifying and helps control your weight, boost your energy level and support healthy digestion.

And if you really want a pill ...

CBD, cannabidiol, seems to be the latest equivalent of what century-ago hucksters sold as snake oil. It can cure any ill, modulate any pain, even fix broken relationships and in fact can make your life all that is could possibly be. The interesting thing about CBD is that it comes remarkably close to actually doing some of those things, especially with regard to modulating pain, body temperature and inflammation.

Marijuana and CBD have been used therapeutically for possibly10,000 years or more; hemp, a strain of cannabis and a major source of CBD, may have been the first crop ever cultivated. It was only in the 1930s that those paranoid legislators who make the regulations that run our lives decided the benefits of CBD were outweighed by what they perceived as the downsides. In fact, there are hardly any downsides, and at last, we are being allowed to use these ages-old compounds to our benefit.

Bob Keller maintains a holistic practice in Newburyport. He offers medical massage therapy for pain relief, as well as psychological counseling, dream work and spiritual direction. Many patients call him Dr. Bob and accuse him of doing miracles, but he is not a medical doctor nor a divinity. His expertise is medical massage therapy, understanding this miracle we call the human being. He can be reached at 978-465-5111 or rk2name@gmail.com.

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