Integrative Rehab Medicine provides drug-free remedies for pain
By D. K. Christi
When pain strikes, the most common approaches are medications, steroid injections and surgery to ease the symptoms or cure the pain. Dr. Sebastian Klisiewicz, a regenerative medicine specialist, suggests a non-pharmaceutical, whole-person approach for qualified candidates, which may be combined with more traditional methods when required.
“The regenerative medicine approach takes cooperation by the patient and is not for everyone,” says Klisiewicz, a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). “Therefore, we have an extensive consultation and evaluation to determine what else might contribute to the patient’s pain, and we establish a plan for a whole-person approach.”
This approach to healing requires some things of the the patient. It typically includes changes to diet and exercise, as well as physical therapy appointments and additional healing interventions to deal with presenting symptoms. Popping a pill to end the pain or even surgery may seem easier, but resolving the root cause and easing pain without pharmaceuticals is the least invasive. In the long run, this approach offers less risk and a less painful recovery, Klisiewicz said.
“Surgery is often the first approach offered by traditional medicine for patients with back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain — the three most requested pain management areas we treat,” he explains. The fourth-most requested area for Integrative Rehab Medicine is neuropathy (weakness and pain from nerve damage).
For some patients, a barrier to seeking integrative care is that many insurance plans favor traditional medical approaches like surgery and pharmaceuticals and may not cover alternative procedures. And some regenerative medical therapies are not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, office visits, traditional tests such as X-rays, rehabilitation therapy and other integrated therapies may be covered by insurance.
What does a regenerative medicine approach look like?
After an initial, in-depth evaluation of the presenting problem and discovery of related medical issues, an appointment is typically scheduled for nutritional support to aid in healing. The dietician makes recommendations for diet changes and supplements which may help the patient to heal and generally feel better by gaining the benefits of previously missing nutrients.
Initial appointments are not rushed and typically last longer than other doctor appointments, as Klisiewicz aims to examine the whole person before making a diagnosis and charting a course for healing. For some patients, a minimalist approach may provide adequate pain management. For others, more extensive therapies may be recommended for optimum healing.
Whatever is prescribed, compliance is key — even if it’s difficult. For example, Klisiewicz is upfront with patients about their need to quit smoking if they want the best shot at mitigating pain. Regenerative healing needs no saboteurs from other medical conditions arising from unhealthy habits.
“The most important aspect of the treatment is listening to the client,” says Klisiewicz. “You have to ask the right questions to determine the best plan of treatment.”
According to Nancy Smith, one of Klisiewicz’s patients, the thorough evaluation and regard for the whole person makes an immediate difference.
“There is no ageism – he treats the condition with no bias regarding age,” she adds.
Smith was referred to Klisiewicz by her Lee Health primary care physician because of her unique back and spine issues.
“After a thorough examination and diagnosis including other presenting pain issues, six months of treatments that included platelet-rich blood plasma injections, nutritional support and rehabilitation therapy, I have my active life back,” she reports. “I swim, I bike, I dance, I climb mountains and enjoy my life. Am I the same as at 25 years of age? Of course not. But the excruciating pain that made it impossible to sleep and be active is gone.”
Cutting-edge treatments can come with controversy
Controversy has swirled around some of the treatment modalities that are just proving themselves through the careful persistence of qualified professionals such as Klisiewicz, who points out that DOs have equivalent training to MDs, just a different approach.
Stem cells in particular have been touted by some as a “miracle cure” but also have evoked ethical concerns. Stem cells can derive from many sources; the most widely accepted form of stem cell therapy involves injections with the patient’s own stem cells. Injections require careful follow-up procedures, often including rehabilitation therapy and careful discernment regarding diet and use of medications.
Other regenerative therapies for pain which are growing in use and acceptance involve using platelet-rich plasma, such as the therapy Smith reported benefits from. Another promising regenerative treatment is prolotherapy, also known as regenerative injection therapy. Because stem cells and platelet-rich blood plasma are from the patient, rejection is usually not an issue.
Regenerative injection treatments — as an alternative to pharmaceuticals and surgery — are often integrated with physical therapy, nutritional support and laser and electromagnetic therapies.
Qualifications of staff members are an important research item for anyone considering integrative medicine.
In addition to Klisiewicz, the board-certified staff at Integrative Rehab Medicine in Estero includes Eunika Klisiewicz, acupuncture physician and doctor of oriental medicine; Dr. Thomas Reid, who holds a doctorate degree in physical therapy; Floyd Meyer, a physician assistant with a master’s degrees in public health and medical science; Julie Hill, a registered dietician and certified functional medicine practitioner; and Patricia Curr, a physical therapist and pilates instructor. Nursing professionals support the team.
Regenerative medicine specialists often work with traditional practitioners
A substantial number of muscular, skeletal and nerve issues can be relieved with integrative rehab medicine.
“I had a bad case of neuropathy from spinal stenosis and surgeries,” says patient Bruce Grady. “My family practitioner referred me to Dr. Sebastian as the neuropathy was getting worse and I saw myself in a wheelchair in the future. I was unstable and had a hard time walking.”
After six months’ treatments with platelet-rich plasma injections, Grady reports improvements in pain with each injection. He says his next treatment may be the last one he needs.
“I couldn’t be happier. I’m sure the improvement is at least 80 percent, and working with Dr. Sebastian and his staff is wonderful,” says Grady. “It’s obvious they love what they do.”
Klisiewicz calls integrative medicine the “new wave of healing,” but he does not practice it in a vacuum. A well-known speaker at Lee Health and a writer and expert in his field, Klisiewicz compares notes and treatment plans with medical doctors and surgeons as needed to ensure each patient is able to explore all possibilities for treatment.
“My goal is to help the patient regain a functional life – eliminate the pain and return quality to their life so they can enjoy pickle ball, tennis, golf and walking,” says Klisiewicz.
Klisiewicz says about 70 percent of his patients are able to heal through regenerative medicine. Some patients may not have been the right candidates and others may have medical issues which require surgery or specialized medications.
Integrative medicine is growing in popularity as more people become curious about alternative approaches to healing, particularly among athletes and aging populations who want their active lifestyles restored.
Visit www.irehabmed.com for detailed descriptions of each therapy and a list of medical conditions Integrative Rehab Medicine treats. The office is located next to Estero Community Park at 9250 Corkscrew Road.