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Debi Brownell's story: Healing persistent pain with long-term solutions.

Healing persistent pain with long-term solutions.

Debi came to the Vanderbilt Center for Integrative Health after an injury and eight months of lower back and leg pain, painkillers and muscle relaxers. She wanted to feel like herself again. She could hardly stand and was limited in what she could do around the house and with her family.

Osher Center for Integrative Health

Debi Brownell

Finding Help

What was your main goal when you started treatment at VCIH?

I was looking for an alternative to the injections recommended by a back specialist. I found VCIH on the web and made my appointment. I wanted a long-term fix, not a Band-Aid.

How has this clinic experience differed from your past medical treatments?

When I met Roy Elam, M.D., it was unlike any visit to a doctor I'd had before. He listened to me, and I felt like he cared about me. Dr. Elam wasn't in a hurry to get to his next patient and, unlike other doctors I'd seen, didn't go in and out of the room during my visit. He made sure I was comfortable, and he was very easy to talk to. I began to think there actually was help for me.

What treatment and classes have been beneficial to you, and how?

Dr. Elam said that although my diagnosis sounded bad, there were some things that could be done to relieve my pain, including yoga and Pilates. I started using the services at VCIH gradually, with the exception of physical therapy. Julie Richard, physical therapist, worked with me in the pool and introduced me to ways to get back pain relief while doing everyday things like making dinner. I began yoga with Emily Epstein, therapeutic yoga instructor, and we started very slowly. She developed a routine for me to practice at home. My nutrition/health coach helped me deal with weight and sleep issues. These included eating the right things to help my high blood pressure and tracking my calories and nutritional intake.

How has VCIH supported your growth and healing in the areas of mind, body and spirit (purpose and meaning)?

All the programs I've participated in at VCIH have helped me. I love yoga and all its healing effects, not only on my body but my mind and soul as well. The people at VCIH are my heroes.

How have you incorporated the teachings here into your daily practices?

I am crazy about yoga. In fact, I want to spread all the good of yoga. I am studying to become a yoga instructor and, hopefully, with enough training, become a therapeutic yoga instructor like Emily. I practice yoga three to five times a week. I honestly don't think I'd be as pain-free as I am without the yoga practice. I want to pay it forward and be able to help others through.

What else would you like to share about you and your story?

I am practically pain-free. I am able to do things that I never thought I'd be able to do again before I came to the center. I can do things around my house, with my family -- including camping vacations. I never thought that those vacations would be possible before I came to the center. And I am traveling and meeting wonderful people through yoga as I train to become an instructor. Namaste.

Osher Center for Integrative Health