Janet Rueger works on Iraq War veteran Bruce Kellogg during a Body Talk therapy session in Ashland.

The body talks

Her ministrations don't look like much to the casual observer, but for Bruce Kellogg, Janet Rueger is a "miracle worker."

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — including migraines — plagued the U.S. Army veteran when he came to Rueger, an Ashland chiropractor, on a local acupuncturist's referral. Rueger realized Kellogg, 50, would benefit not only from chiropractic work, but from an alternative therapy known as BodyTalk.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder is totally up the alley of BodyTalk," says Rueger. "Nothing traditional seems to work with these vibrational frequency injuries."

Since a mortar round exploded near him in Iraq — the impact's effects soon after exacerbated by pressure inside an aircraft — Kellogg sought treatment for pain and cognitive difficulties, which mainstream medicine simply haven't alleviated. Because veteran's medical benefits didn't cover his appointment at a local pain clinic, Kellogg says he paid $400 for an appointment and another $100 for prescription medications. However, the treatment only dulled his migraines — but not the fire in his sciatic nerve — and did nothing to piece his mind back together.

"They treat the symptoms," says Kellogg. "They don't really treat the injury."

A Portland-based nonprofit group, Returning Veterans Project, gave Kellogg options for complementary therapies usually not covered by insurance. Both Rueger and Medford acupuncturist Teresa Bresnan volunteer their services through the organization.

"I thought, gosh, with BodyTalk, I could help them," says Rueger.

The 60-year-old chiropractor has been practicing BodyTalk since 2002 after it solved some of her own health conundrums, including headaches, digestive discomfort, chronic fatigue and general aches and pains. The method was developed by Australian chiropractor and acupuncturist John Veltheim, who with his wife, Esther Veltheim, founded the International BodyTalk Association in 2000. The privately held, worldwide company headquartered in Sarasota, Fla., conducts seminars to train and certify its members, according to its website, www.bodytalksystem.com.

Suggested by a homeopath, BodyTalk overlapped some of Rueger's knowledge about traditional Chinese medicine and India's counterpart, ayurveda. Chiropractics and craniotherapy had been steering her toward some techniques used in BodyTalk, says Rueger, but she still confronted limitations in her original disciplines.

"With BodyTalk, we're casting a really wide umbrella," she says.

Following "protocols" and working within sections of the "body-mind," practitioners say they tap into the body's energy circuits, asking the body what it needs to stimulate self-healing. Sections address actual body parts and systems, its sensory perception, consciousness, memory and emotions; societal factors, such as work, finances, culture and religion; and the more esoteric electromagnetic frequencies and "chakras" — energy centers assigned to spots on the body by the ancient Indians and Chinese.

Practitioners start sessions by asking the body for permission. Cradling a client's arm, practitioners receive "yes" and "no" answers according to the arm's movements: away from the body affirms the question; toward the body negates it. Practitioners compare this "neuromuscular biofeedback" with the alternative therapy known as applied kinesthesiology, which uses manual muscle testing to diagnose medical conditions and prescribe treatment.

At first glance, it appears BodyTalk practitioners are manipulating clients' arms, but after enough repetitions — sessions can last up to 45 minutes — clients may wonder where their limbs end and practitioners' begin. Rather than clarifying the movement's origin, Rueger says it's not totally necessary but serves to double-check her intuition and illustrate the process for the client. Absent of the movement, she adds, her work seems like a "woo-woo psychic."

A self-described "skeptic," Kellogg admits Rueger "doesn't do anything that would seem dramatic." But after a month of 45-minute BodyTalk appointments twice a week — coupled with weekly acupuncture from Bresnan — his migraines are less frequent and painful, his gait is no longer hobbled by sciatica, his memory's improved and his mind feels "clearer."

"It's like a cloud of emotions had passed away," says Kellogg.

Bresnan says she refers clients to BodyTalk, in addition to counseling, when she believes symptoms carry "an emotional component," including the memory of accidents or history of abuse. She says she's been shocked by first-person accounts of battlefield conditions since she started volunteering treatment about eight years ago to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The trauma is not letting them heal."

Kellogg says he hopes cognitive therapy at the Veterans Affairs rehabilitation center and clinics in White City will speed his healing. Until then, he says he plans to continue treatments with Rueger and Bresnan as long as they can provide it free of charge.

"It's got my body functioning better now."

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