December 19, 2008

Darcy Downey Interviewed in University News

Healing the issue of alternative medicine as therapy
By: Laura Casey

Posted: 11/20/08

Sometimes, ankle wrapping and ice packs just don't do the trick. When it comes to this, Saint Louis University (athletic) trainers turn to alternative approaches to treating a wide range of sports injuries.With a common goal of alleviating pain, techniques such as chiropractics, acupuncture, massage therapy, laser therapy, "rolfing" and light therapy are methods that make up these alternative approaches.Unfortunately, every injury is unique.

There is no one, universal algorithm applicable to every case."You have to look at treatment options on an individual basis," Miya Sullivan, SLU's assistant athletic trainer, said. "Of course, we want to try and use all of the services we have at SLU, but if that doesn't work, I would be open to trying alternative approaches."

Darcy Downey, clinical coordinator for athletic training education, reiterated this sentiment."It's definitely something to look at if 'regular' measures aren't working," she said.Regardless of the effectiveness of these so-called "regular" measures, alternative treatments are becoming a more standard method of therapy.

According to an article on, more than 36 percent of adults over the age 18 have sought some type of alternative treatment.Because of their cheaper prices, alternative treatments are becoming more popular. The same online article said that 60 percent of healthcare companies have jumped on board to this trend.

One of the therapies that SLU (athletic) trainers are currently using is laser light therapy. Sullivan explained how she has been having good success with an alternative treatment called "light therapy" on some athletes. This is the same therapy that Lance Armstrong and his teammates made use of during the Tour de France.

Downey said that many of these alternative treatments could be effective. She emphasized a technique called "rolfing," a structural integration technique featured on Oprah. Rolfing is similar to a deep tissue massage, except it uses a whole-body approach. It is a series of 10 sessions designed to realign the body's structure to reduce pain. She said SLU doesn't use this approach too often. At the University of Texas (where she used to work), however, the rolfing technique was used frequenly.

Along with physical measures, Downey also emphasized looking at nutritional aspects, as they can have a huge effect on healing. Freshman Nicole Kent, a member of SLU's field hockey team, said that each team works with a dietician who outlines what they should and shouldn't be eating. Athletes are educated on what the makeup of the food they each should look like and encouraged to be conscious of how it affects them. While they are not required to take dietary supplements, Kent said that some men's teams are required to take a protein supplement called "Muscle Milk" after workouts.So, why are these approaches labeled as alternative or unconventional?

Many of these methods are based off of unscientific methods, principles and knowledge. Many of them also lack a scientific model for experimentation. Some people, including Sullivan, say they think that the power of the mind may play a part in the results of these treatments. The power of the mind can affect the healing process.

Whether or not skeptics agree, the effectiveness of these measures is incontrovertible.

"They definitely have a place," Downey said.

© Copyright 2008 St. Louis University News

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