Integrative medicine may be an unfamiliar concept among patients and arguably an underutilized treatment option for an array of medical conditions. It is a holistic approach to medicine that focuses on treating the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Since the program’s inception at UF Health, more than five years ago, the integrative medicine team has supplemented the care of many patients who find traditional methods and pharmaceuticals are unable to provide optimal results. Mike Husted’s journey is an example of how integrative medicine can provide new alternatives and hope to treatment plans.
Mike Husted grew up in Florida and graduated from Deland High School. Husted, who now lives in Port Orange, made a career serving in the U.S. Air Force and served in Texas, where he boasts that he married a Texas girl. After his career in the Air Force, Mike earned a master’s degree in social work. He continued to serve his country through his work with the Department of Veteran Affairs and assisting wounded soldiers seeking medical care at the VA Medical Center adjacent to Fort Hood, Texas. He loved his work and spending time with wife and family, but Mike was forced to retire early due to chronic pain of his jaw. He said he struggled to maintain an adequate quality of life. “I was miserable all the time,” he said.
In 2009 and 2012, while living in Texas, Mike underwent two surgeries to address dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which caused chronic pain of his jaw. The first surgery attempted to repair the joint and the second was a total joint replacement on the left side of his jaw. Although, the total joint replacement surgery was a success he suffered from residual effects including atypical trigeminal neuralgia, or ATN. Damage to the trigeminal nerve can result in constant burning, aching, hypersensitivity and ear pain.
When Mike decided it was time to come home to Florida, his surgeon referred him to the care team at UF Health where he would be able to receive specialized treatment for his condition. He committed to a two-hour drive from Port Orange to Gainesville to meet with members of the UF College of Dentistry – M. Frank Dolwick, D.M.D, Ph.D., a professor and chair of the department of oral and maxillofacial surgery, and Monica Fernandez, D.D.S, M.S. a clinical assistant professor in the department of restorative dental sciences. Mike praised the providers for their exceptional care, but he continued to struggle with the side effects of his previous surgeries.
The traditional course of treatment for ATN begins with pharmaceuticals, but Mike said although the medications were helpful, he had experienced too many side effects. He explored options including further surgeries and possibly a nerve block, but he was not a good candidate for those and he was reluctant to seek further traditional methods.
“After you’ve been hurt, you don’t want to take the chance of making it worse,” he said. “I would wake up in the morning not knowing what kind of day it was going to be and sometimes, I just stayed home.” The smallest incidents such as a cold breeze or the noise from a restroom hand dryer would trigger increased pain, headaches and frequent migraines.
To find relief for Mike, Fernandez referred him to Irene Estores, M.D., the director of integrative medicine program at UF Health. After an individual consultation, Estores recommended medical acupuncture to help relieve Mike’s facial pain and sensitivity.
One thing that distinguishes receiving medical acupuncture at UF Health is the personalized consultation by a fellowship trained integrative medicine physician to determine the best patient care. Mike found confidence in knowing that Estores is a physician and a medical acupuncturist.
Acupuncture involves piercing the skin with very thin needles in specific patterns and points on the body. This method, originating in China, is now widely accepted and practiced as a component of integrative medicine.
Mike completed eight weeks of treatment with acupuncturist David McMahon, A.P., at UF Health Integrative Medicine – Spring Hill. Acupuncture provided immediate relief and subsequent sessions alleviated even more side effects.
“It has helped reduce the sensitivity,’’ he said. “I can do more things with my wife and get out more.”
Mike will need long-term care and he is continuing weekly acupuncture treatments with a provider in Deland. He anticipates less-frequent care will be required as he continues to experience positive effects. He credits the multidisciplinary care he received at UF Health for his improved quality of life.
“Not all of the pain is gone,’’ he said. “But my bad days are better and my good days are better.”