Getting back in the groove |

Getting back in the groove

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

As an owner of a flower shop, Jeri Oishi moves her shoulders a lot. So when she couldn’t move her left one over her head she knew she needed help.

The former nurse popped anti-inflammatory medicine before going to the doctor. After receiving a diagnosis of frozen shoulder in September, she was referred to physical therapy to increase her range in motion.

“Before therapy, I couldn’t pull up my pants. The pain was excruciating,” she said, as Jenny Cooper of Emerald Bay Physical Therapy maneuvered her arm during a session.

Oishi also swam, mostly using the breast stroke, as part of her therapy.

The South Shore woman also received acupuncture which she said helped some, but it was her three-times a week physical therapy sessions that brought the most improvement.

She also had two cortisone injections.

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“I wasn’t jumping up and down at that,” Oishi said.

And so it goes with the overwhelming nature of selecting the right mode of healing. These days there are a staggering number of choices that many people like Oishi seek help from the Internet. The search may add to the confusion though.

“There were 20,000 articles about frozen shoulder,” Oishi said.

Many submissions were made by people working through the problem.

“That’s one thing people get a lot of misinformation on. It can be something the patient takes as absolutely true. We try to make an educated decision and not steer them,” therapist Cooper said. “There are a lot of different ways to heal. Physical therapy is certainly one of them, but it’s not the only one. Any treatment can be effective. It takes a lot evaluation.”

South Lake Tahoe certified massage therapist Teri Tucker agrees.

“All are trying to heal the body. We try to bring it down to the body’s innate wisdom in reminding it of what it needs to do,” Tucker said. “Most people try different modalities.”

Tucker said insurance companies have been slow in coming around to cover massage therapy. But at least there’s progress, given how long it took physical therapists to receive reimbursements, she said. Now, it’s a common practice.

Massage therapist Rosemary Manning decided to forego accepting insurance patients because of the minimal reimbursements and the massive amount of paperwork required for coverage.

Even beyond her choice to pass on insurance cases, Manning has also noticed a reluctance from insurance companies to cover the mode of treatment. Massage therapy is sometimes misunderstood by the general public, too.

Manning was forced to move her name out of the massage category in the telephone book’s yellow pages because she received late-night calls from suitors looking for sexual favors.

“It was like the Manning moonlight ranch,” she said.

Most therapists agree insurers will cover massage at least on a limited basis. It stands at a similar crossroads with chiropractic care, which these practitioners have found has gained more attention in medical circles as an authority on pain management, chiropractor Howard Bittner said.

Bittner explained the mode of healing gets it support as a viable option to improve the quality of life. Bittner sees many athletes, nurses, firefighters, paramedics, truck drivers, carpenters and contractors.

He’s discovered many of these patients are seeking drug-free options to their physical problems.

“They may not be a candidate for medicine, but they may be a candidate for chiropractic care,” he said.

Some aches and pains are less traditional.

Bittner has noted how chiropractic care seems to relieve anxiety and depression in some patients. The chiropractor also cited a study out of University of Miami that shows the mode of healing helps adults with addictive behavior.

Lauren Anderson of South Lake Tahoe has discovered it has helped her children. She started seeking the type of care after her third of eight children. Now she brings Nora, 4, to see Bittner.

“Kids are always getting banged around,” she said.

Anderson said taking the children to a chiropractor has been a tougher sell for grandma, who doesn’t understand the need for young people to receive the care.

But Bittner has seen patients as young as 2 weeks old.

“It’s a generational thing. Parents in those days went only to their medical doctors. They brought them into the world and treated them,” chiropractor Don Cannon said.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at