In honor of National Wellness Month, we asked a number of people to share their wellness techniques with us – from yoga and massage therapy to chiropractic care and the use of binaural beats. Each wellness technique may offer some potential benefit, including better focus, the ability to handle stress, a decrease in chronic pain and more.
“I searched for holistic ways to improve my back issues. That’s when I discovered hot yoga.” – Angelina Vrbljanac
Before starting a new wellness technique, discuss it with your primary care provider. Let your health team know what you’re planning – whether it’s yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic or another technique – and why you want to try it. Report back on your experience during your next health care visit.
A Combination of Techniques for Sleep, Focus and Recovery Time
TriWest employee Bruce Jerde is an avid runner, cyclist, hiker, golfer and weightlifter, but Bruce acknowledges that aging has had an impact on his body.
“As I started to age, I discovered my body didn’t recover from my physical workouts like I did in my 20s and 30s,” Bruce notes. “Yoga and massage therapy have helped me recover more quickly.”
Bruce uses massage therapy, the manipulation of the body’s soft tissue, and passive stretching to recover from physical workouts.
“I learned I could improve my flexibility, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, boost immunity and prevent chronic injuries by keeping my muscles toned and toxins flushed through massage therapy,” he said.
Bruce also incorporates yoga and daily meditation into his wellness routine. Yoga provides a core workout, improves stability and sets the stage for a good night’s sleep. Meditation also helps Bruce – he’s learned to use the sound of his breath to slow down his heart rate, get ready for bed or deal with a stressful situation.
For Bruce, yoga and deep tissue massage are standard elements of maintaining his personal health and wellness.
An Auditory Technique to Ease Chronic Pain, Tension and Stress
Kelly Springer, a U.S. Army Veteran and TriWest employee, has a wellness routine that incorporates binaural beats, or what she likes to call “musical meditation.”
Binaural beats are a type of auditory illusion that occurs when two slightly different frequencies are played separately into each ear. The brain perceives a third frequency, called a binaural beat, which is equal to the difference between the two original frequencies. The idea is that the brain will synchronize its own electrical activity to the frequency of the binaural beat, resulting in a state of relaxation or alertness, depending on the frequency used.
“I came upon binaural beats by chance and have found a great multitude of them online, for free, usually on YouTube, but also on Spotify and elsewhere,” Kelly noted.
“For me, suffering from daily debilitating chronic pain, they have been entirely beneficial,” she said. “They’re also useful when I need to concentrate at work to complete complex and time-consuming tasks, or simply to ease tension after a stressful day.”
Kelly expressed that there’s no guarantee it’ll work and that it may take a while to find the right benefit, but with reporting of binaural beats’ effect on reducing anxiety and the perception of pain, along with her own successful experience, she is encouraged by incorporating binaural beats into her wellness routine.
Heat, Yoga and Relief from Chronic Pain
Angelina Vrbljanac has worked at TriWest for 23 years. But for the past ten years, Angelina has struggled with chronic lower back pain. She shares, “I searched for holistic ways to improve my back issues. That’s when I discovered hot yoga.”
Hot yoga is yoga practiced in a heated room or studio. Angelina tries to incorporate three to four yoga classes per week into her wellness routine, but even after just one class said she feels better.
“The combination of heat, humidity and gentle stretches in a hot yoga class worked wonders for my back,” Angelina said. “Hot yoga enhances blood flow, promotes muscle relaxation and alleviates stiffness in the back. It also strengthens muscles and reduces stress, so I feel rejuvenated after each class.”
Angelina did not arrive at hot yoga overnight. She tried physical therapy and acknowledged that while it works for some people, it didn’t for her. “Hot yoga targets the whole body and mind instead of just specific areas,” she explained.
PTSD, Panic Attacks and Techniques to Restore the Body and Mind
Before coming to TriWest in 2019, Patricia Schuler worked in hospitals, administering neuropsychological tests to patients, many of whom were Veterans who suffered from symptoms of head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “I could relate because years earlier, I experienced some traumatic events that resulted in panic attacks and PTSD.”
“I tried almost everything – acupuncture, massage, medication, therapy – all with varying levels of success,” she said. “It wasn’t until I started focusing more heavily on yoga and meditation that I felt a dramatic difference. I found it so helpful for slowing down and paying attention to my body and breath.”
Patricia’s research and reading have shown her that meditation can be effective for those who have experienced trauma. “While these practices are not a quick fix and won’t numb you or take away the pain right away, they can heal by restoring the body and mind over time to a state closer to where they were before the trauma,” Patricia explained.
Patricia is currently working on a 20-minute, twice-a-day meditation practice and finds it worth the effort.
With data showing that up to 23% of Veterans who seek health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) experience PTSD, Patricia believes that both yoga and meditation can be beneficial.
A Provider with a Passion for Chiropractic Care and Veterans
Dr. Te’Lila Robinson grew up as a military kid, with both of her parents serving in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years. She took a lot from her family’s military life – she enjoyed traveling, experiencing different cultures and the tight bonds her family built when one of her parents was gone for training or stationed away from home.
But she also remembers the many injuries her parents had to deal with – “from debilitating migraines and foot problems to neck and back pain.” As a kid, Dr. Robinson was always reading books on how she could help them get better.
Even though she always knew she wanted to work in health care, it wasn’t until after a motor vehicle collision in college, when she was put into physical therapy and given prescription medications, that she saw a chiropractor and started to explore holistic health care.
Dr. Robinson’s childhood passion and interest in holistic care grew into a successful career. She is now a board-certified sports physician and has been a chiropractor for 11 years.
“Many patients are suffering from sciatica, disc herniation and accelerated degenerative changes throughout the spine and extremities, all of which can cause some type of functional disability,” she explained.
Dr. Robinson’s practice serves Veterans in Missouri City, Texas, as well as surrounding cities such as Houston. “Veterans come in with complex injuries that are often co-managed with chiropractic and a medical doctor,” she said. “Treatments range from laser treatments, which help to reduce scar tissue and inflammation, to electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, massage, manual therapy and rehabilitation exercises that help with overall functioning of the body.”
Dr. Robinson sees the relief her patients can receive from chiropractic care. “Seeing my patients’ faces when they realize ‘chiropractic actually works, motivates me every day to keep changing lives through what I do,” she said. “When I hear that a Veteran is finally able to enjoy a vacation or is able to walk in a grocery store without a cane or is able to wear heels to church, it brings me joy.”
The wellness techniques described in this article are all different, ranging from binaural beats to chiropractic care, but each one has been incorporated into a wellness routine.
Explore Wellness Resources Available to You
- Veterans can learn about VA’s Whole Health program including helpful videos, handouts and online tools, on a range of health basics.
- Yoga and meditation information and resources can be found at the Veterans Yoga Project, Meghan’s Foundation and Operation Warrior Wellness.
- Find information about acupuncture therapy and pain, including potential benefits it may bring.
- Check out VA’s mindfulness, relaxation and meditation resources, including audio recordings and videos.