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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

When you are ill, you just want to feel better!

I was forwarded an article about the lack of credibility in Wikipedia entries, link here. Is it absolutely shocking that an open source, user-edited and maintained site might not reflect all sides of any story? In my book, no.

In my travels and studies of massage, psychology and personal training, I read a lot of conflicting information. Some “research” is questionable because it’s sponsored by a company or individual with financial ties to the product or service being studied. Some research is questionable if it is not published in an established peer-reviewed journal. (And even peer-reviewed journals may only publish research that reflects the reviewer’s bias.) In my own experience, I think there are some treatments and modalities of wellness care that are ineffective. And some really well-meaning people may practice them, telling clients that if the treatment does not work, it’s because the client did not believe in it. This is hogwash. Belief in a treatment should not be the sole requirement for its effectiveness. If it were, then the placebo effect would be the treatment of choice for everyone! At the same time, I’ve read articles about studies that were published in peer-reviewed journals but were financed by a pharmaceutical company or by a researcher with ties to a pharmaceutical company. Often this research is later criticized by other researchers for its lack of objectivity. The research may or may not be solid, but the researcher’s affiliation makes the results suspect. I’ve also heard stories from clients and friends about medical doctors misdiagnosing them or doing surgery that made their pain and problems worse. So who can you trust for health care information?

For consumers and clients that just want to be healthy and recover from illness and injury, it is difficult to know who to trust. But in health care as well as in all aspects of life, it truly is buyer beware.  That said, reading Wikipedia as a source of factual information is unwise. I like Wikipedia as a starting point for general information and further research, but I take what I read with a huge boulder of Sea salt. As wellness care consumers, we all must be careful to check the sources of our information, to visit health care practitioners we trust and to look elsewhere if our health care providers let us down or don’t succeed in treating us or our conditions.

I consider myself a skeptic with an open mind. I’ve seen medical doctors make horrible mistakes, allow pharmaceutical reps to dictate patient care through use of free samples, free tickets and gifts. I’ve also seen some alternative health care practitioners encourage clients to come back week after week, taking the clients money, promising recovery from a disease or condition while having no success in treating the client’s condition.  At the same time, I’ve seen both alternative health care providers as well as Western medical doctors help people make miraculous recoveries from illnesses and injuries. The human body is still a mystery to the medical and holistic community. There are things we know and things we guess about and things we are still figuring out. We have not yet conquered aging and death, illness and pain. Some might say that illness, death, pain and aging are part of the human condition. We can do our best to maintain a quality of life, try to remain pain-free, illness free, and when we do fall ill, do our best to find treatment and recover quickly. But as of yet, we all have a finite lifespan. There are no magic bullets. Yet health care research, medical providers, alternative health care providers and wellness practitioners can agree on one thing: We all want our clients and patients to live the best lives they can with our help. And coming together on that point is what matters to me.

As a consumer, what can you do to protect yourself, your pocketbook, and your health from wasting time with ineffective treatments?

1. Be as educated as you can about your condition and the latest research on treatment options.

2. Get referrals from friends and family, keeping in mind that what works for one person may not work for another.It doe snot mean the treatment or practitioner is bogus.

3. Check the background of any health care provider that is going to provide you with care ( especially if you are considering surgery or any expensive or untested treatment).

4. If a health care provider offers you a service or treatment and you are not sure of its effectiveness, look it up. Do your homework. Does the treatment have any research to back it up? Is the research reliable?  Don’t just trust Wikipedia for your results! Check out PubMED (for medical research) or PsychINFO (for psychological research) or any reputable research search engine.

5. If you are under someone’s care and you don’t feel you are getting results, it does not mean that person is a quack or is ineffective, it may be that you need a different health care provider or treatment. Sometimes, one doctor may have a different take on an illness. An internal medicine doctor may not know as much about arthritis as a rheumatologist. A Western medical doctor will not know as much about acupuncture as a board certified acupuncturist. A massage therapist may know a lot about your muscle adhesions but will not have the expertise to diagnose an ACL tear in your knee.

There are no guarantees in life. But becoming more knowledgeable about research into a treatment’s effectiveness and a health care provider’s financial affiliations and education, can help you make better decisions about your own health care.

As to the Wikipedia debate, I’ll leave it to the folks fighting to keep their info on the site. I do wonder, though, how important it is to have Wikipedia showcase a particular treatment or school of thought when there are so many more reputable sources for information.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

When I first left corporate America to pursue my own wellness business, one of the concerns I had was about providing my own benefits. As an employee of  a large corporate firm, I had received company paid health care, dental care, disability insurance, 401K, paid sick days, paid vacation days and paid holidays. In return I was required to plant my body in front of a computer for 8+ hours a day between the hours of 8:30am and 5pm or thereabouts.  However, I felt like a caged animal in cubelife–my body needed more movement, my soul needed more meaningful work and my mind craved more variety. After completing massage school, I took the plunge to be my own boss, set my hours AND pay for my own benefits. Which meant I had to learn how to find and understand those benefits. (Something big companies pay a full-time HR specialist to do!)

I found my own health insurance plan through an insurance “broker.” U.S. Benefits  group is the broker I currently use and recommend in Chicago. But now you can also find out about health care plans through a government website.  I am usually fairly skeptical when it comes to government-sponsored anything. But I admit, I am impressed by the new government sponsored website “healthcare.gov.”  It’s a web portal that explains the new Affordable Health Care initiative and simplifies the insurance purchasing process for those that may not be familiar with purchasing their own healthcare plans. I took a test drive and I have to say, it is super easy to navigate.

Navigating the Healthcare.gov website

1. Want to find a health care plan that fits you/you and your family, click here.

2. Want to read about illness prevention? Click here.

3. Not sure how your hospital compares with others in the area? Check it out here.

4. Confused about the new Affordable Care Act? You’re not alone. That’s why this new site gives you plenty of info about the new law and how it impacts you here.

5. Are you looking for specific info for your particular situation? Click here if you are a healthy individual, someone with a health condition or if you are pregnant. Senior citizens can learn how the new law impacts you here.

6. If you run a small business, there is great info here to help you make good health care decisions for you and your staff.

7. Hard working Human Resource professionals of companies with more than 50 employees can learn how the Affordable health Care act effects you and your company here.

8. Have tons of time on your hands and love wading through government regulations? The new site even has a page for you! The Implementation pages gives you access to the actual regulations, authorities and requests for comments here.

Check out the new website and let us know what you think in the comments section of this post!

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Basic Acupuncture.
Image via Wikipedia

According to Jenny Dubowsky at Acupuncture Blog Chicago, “A national survey, published online in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that three-quarters of the med students (future physicians) surveyed believe that conventional Western medicine would be improved by integrating more complementary treatments such as: massage, herbal medicine, yoga, acupuncture and meditation.

The data was gathered by researchers at UCLA and UC San Diego from 1,770 surveys received from students at 126 medical schools throughout the United States. There was some hesitation however and students wanted more scientific evidence about the effectiveness of the treatments, not surprising since their training is based on Western studies.”

Read her entire post here.

Now we need the insurance companies to catch up! (Sadly, in the state of Illinois, most insurance companies will not cover massage therapy as a treatment for injuries or chronic muscle tension conditions. However, in Washington State, my fellow massage therapists are able to bill insurance companies directly. )

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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

Chicago is famous for many things. Chicago is “the Windy City,” The Second City,” the home of the Cubs, the White Sox and da Bears. Chicago also has the dubious honor of being one of the top 20 most “fat” cities in the U.S. But there are those of us that want to change that last claim to fame for Chicago.

One group that is making serous headway in tackling high blood pressure, obesity and activity levels of Chicagoans is Building a Healther Chicago.

Building a Healthier Chicago

Building a Healthier Chicago (BHC) is a collaborative of local and national stakeholders working to strengthen efforts to promote the health of Chicago residents and employees.

Through collaboration BHC promotes and tracks the adoption of selected programs, practices, policies, and supportive environments throughout the worksites, schools, health care organizations, faith based organizations, parks and neighborhoods of Chicago. BHC works with community organizations, academics, health care and government to improve the health of all citizens.

To make a significant impact on the health of all Chicagoans, BHC works to support its stakeholders broadly in:

  • Increasing physical activity levels
  • Improving healthy eating
  • Prevention, detection and control of high blood pressure

Why focus on physical activity, nutrition, and blood pressure?

Physical inactivity and obesity are at epidemic proportions in the U.S., resulting in an increased prevalence of many chronic diseases. Meanwhile, health care expenditures associated with physical inactivity and obesity continue to rise.

Becoming a Stakeholder in Building a Healthier Chicago

Working Well Massage is a stakeholder in Building a Healthier Chicago. If your firm is involved in promoting wellness or has a workplace wellness program you are proud of, consider joining BHC as a stakeholder!

Building a Healthier Workplace Resources

American Cancer Society Workplace Solutions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Center for Value-Based Health Management

Federal Occupational Health

Health Enhancement Research Organization

Health Resources and Services Administration

National Business Group on Health

National Wellness Institute

Partnership for Prevention

Start! For HR Professionals (American Heart Association)

WELCOA: Wellness Council of America

WellSteps

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