Alternate Roads

Alternate Roads

The practice of integrative medicine — combining traditional medicine with complementary and alternative therapies — is on the rise throughout Southern Oregon.

Here's an introduction to five modalities you may have heard of but know little about.


Rolfing Structural Integration, a therapy developed by Dr. Ida Rolf in 1971, focuses on removing tension from the body's connective tissues. Tension can be caused by injuries, emotional and physical stress, and the regular lumps and bumps of life.

"Think of the connective tissues as a fibrous package that holds all the muscles, bones, organs, glands, blood vessels and nerves in the body," says Medford massage therapist Rex A. Holt, a certified advanced Rolfer. "By getting the patterns of strain or tension that appear in this package out, people's posture becomes more upright."

After being Rolfed, muscles can more smoothly expand and contract and are more resilient, resulting in fluid and graceful movement patterns, improved circulation and less likelihood of injury.

Holt recommends a series of eight to 12 sessions over a year, which he says typically solves the client's problem. The first session lasts an hour and a half; subsequent sessions are 15 minutes shorter.

During the initial session, Holt watches the client walk. "That helps me determine where the lines of strain are," he explains. The client, who is asked to wear loosely fitting shorts and a T-shirt, lies on an electric table while Holt begins Rolfing.

Holt offers consultations and treatment for children 5 years of age or younger at no charge.

Zero Balancing

This hands-on technique, designed by Fritz Smith in 1973, aligns the "energy body" with the body's physical structure to promote relaxation and relieve stress- and pain-related symptoms. Alignment happens as "fulcrums" are placed along the body's meridian lines.

"The 'energy body' is like a capsule or a field that acts as a container that holds the physical body and the emotional body," says massage therapist Shanti Rae Lobaugh, owner of Rae of Light Healing Arts in Ashland. "And a 'fulcrum' is when I take the client's bones in my fingers, and I hold a point along the meridian line to allow the energy in that part of the body to change."

During a 50-minute session, the fully dressed client reclines on a massage table while the practitioner moves around them, placing fulcrums. Results can be immediate or gradual over a course of sessions.

Lobaugh likens Zero Balancing to a combination of osteopathy and acupressure. "When I place a fulcrum, I'm giving your body the space to move into its own aligned position," she says. "That's what I love about it — your body knows where it should be."


Reiki is a form of healing touch, even when the practitioner's hands don't make contact with the body.

"You can just put your hands over their body," says Dr. Robin Miller, owner of Triune Integrative Medicine in Medford. "It's often described as clearing or moving out energy that may be blocked."

The theory behind Reiki is that humans are made of energy, and this bunch of bouncing molecules naturally creates an energy field around a person's body.

"The environment, viruses and emotions can create holes in that energy field, and Reiki helps to improve, strengthen and smooth it out," Miller says.

Clients lie, fully clothed, on a massage table while practitioners put their hands on or over areas where they sense the body's energy field is damaged. Reiki practitioners are trained to "read" the body, basing their treatments on a combination of their own professional intuition and consultations with the client.

"Usually people feel better after one session," Miller says. "But it's case by case, and long-term goals look different for every patient."

Cranial-Sacral Therapy

The body's cranial-sacral system is extensive: It encompasses the skull, vertebrae and sacrum; the membranes in and around the brain and spinal cord; and the brain and spinal fluids. This system has a natural "rhythmic motion" — a sort of tide that flows throughout the tissues and fluids — that can become compromised through stress and disease.

A doctor or therapist who is trained in cranial-sacral techniques manipulates the system, bringing the motion back to its normal rhythm through the use of "a very light touch."

"It can be so gentle because we're not imposing a technique or a fix on the system; we're sensing what it's already trying to do and helping it do it," says massage therapist Judith Sanford, owner of Cranial Sacral Therapy & Massage in Ashland.

People who seek cranial-sacral therapy are looking to relieve debilitating stress and issues related to a compromised central nervous system. Sanford has treated clients with Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute pain from injury or illness, chronic pain and whiplash. Sessions are typically an hour long, and the patient lies, fully clothed, on a massage table.

Colon Hydrotherapy

Constipation is the most common reason people use colon hydrotherapy. A progressive irrigation of warm water fed through a nozzle into the rectum over about 45 minutes, the practice breaks up waste matter and achieves complete evacuation of the body's 6 feet of colon.

"It simulates the bowel's natural system called peristalsis — a wave-like hydraulic action of water," explains Tashina Wilkinson, a colon hydrotherapist at Hidden Springs Wellness Center in Ashland.

This results in a "clean, hygienic internal environment for the body," says Wilkinson. "Health benefits include relief from constipation, body detoxification, improved digestion, increased energy, clearing away mental fog, better nutrient absorption and support for other healing processes."

To get over any "ick factor," Wilkinson recommends consulting with a potential therapist. Most therapists respect the safety and dignity of their clients, she says.

At Hidden Springs, the client inserts the nozzle in private and remains comfortably clothed or covered. All water used (typically 8 to 10 gallons) goes through three purification systems and is heated to 100 degrees before being gravity-fed through the nozzle. There is no odor as the waste is contained in hygienic, disposable equipment that's approved by the Food and Drug Administration and replenished anew for each patient.

"People also want to know, 'Does it hurt?' " says Wilkinson. "During the session we work with essential oils that work with digestion, the liver and relaxation. We use hot towels to pamper, and there's massage and reflexology. Most people find it very refreshing and relaxing."

When seeking complementary and alternative health care modalities, it's up to each individual to find what's right for him or her. If you receive conventional medical care for existing health issues, be sure to consult your doctor before trying a new form of therapy.

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