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Pain Relief Through Integrative Medicine

By Karen King
In spring 2016, Karen King couldn’t walk. An intense back pain, triggered by another condition, suddenly made it unbearable for her to get out of bed. King, a pathologist specializing in transfusion medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was determined to treat the pain in a way that would allow her to regain mobility and get back to work. King turned to acupuncture and massage. She went to the Integrative Medicine & Digestive Center at Johns Hopkins, and now all her treatments—both traditional and alternative—are a part of her prescribed care.

My Worst Day

It was Friday, March 11, 2016. I know that day by heart. I couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was debilitating. My doctor prescribed opioids, but I’m a small person—just 4 feet 11 inches—and the drugs wiped me out. The pills helped relieve my pain, but they put me into the truly intolerable situation of not being mentally clear. I thought, There’s got to be a better way for me.

What I Did to Get Better

I went to the center and started with acupuncture, which was phenomenally helpful. I noticed a difference immediately. I also desperately needed a massage. Before this, I’d get the occasional massage at a day spa, but now I didn’t trust just anybody to touch my back. I wanted someone knowledgeable. I also wanted these treatments integrated into my overall care, so that all my doctors knew what was going on with me.

Me Now

I went from barely walking with the help of a walking stick to logging 12,000 steps the other day. I’ve also been able to increase the amount I work. I’m getting acupuncture every week and a massage every three weeks. I still take some traditional medications, but I can make it through the day unclouded.

Illustration of a woman walking on the back of someone with acupuncture needles in it
Image above by Maria Hergueta

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