Roosevelt: South Loop Wellness Center Offers Healthy Alternatives
By Ryann Rumbaugh
The Red Line Project
Posted: Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011
Chicago resident Melissa Fray recently underwent surgery for a severe medical problem. She is experiencing several complications from her surgery and has turned to acupuncture as a solution.
“After my first [acupuncture] session, my post-surgery problems were cut in half,” said Fray. “We’re expecting them to completely go away after four sessions. It’s been life-changing.”
Acupuncture has been said to help medical problems and reduce pain in patients who have recently had surgery. Fray has been receiving acupuncture treatments right here in Chicago – not in Chinatown, but at Interchange Medical Wellness Center in the South Loop.
On the busy corner of Roosevelt and Wabash, this loft-style studio is home to chiropractors, estheticians, personal trainers, masseuses and nutritionists that work together to keep the mind and body strong.
Lights are dimmed in massage rooms while soothing music sets the mood for relaxation. Mirrored studios are lined with state-of-the-art workout machines and Pilates equipment.
Those with spinal problems can see a licensed chiropractor, those looking to lose weight can meet with personal trainers and nutritionists, and those looking to get pampered can get a massage or a facial – all in one place.
Dr. Patricia Zemaitis offers her expertise in chiropractic, but has grown passionate about treating patients using acupuncture. At Interchange, she practices a Western style of acupuncture as opposed to traditional Chinese styles.
For those who aren’t afraid of needles, acupuncture is a way to relieve stress, clear up sinuses, relieve menstrual cramps and maintain general health. By inserting small needles into certain pressure points on the body, problem areas can be targeted and blood flow is increased.
According to Dr. Steven Braverman, rehabilitation consultant to the Army Surgeon General, the earliest uses of acupuncture date back to around 200 BC. At the core of this ancient medicine is the philosophy that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, flows throughout the body and must be maintained in order to be healthy. The use of needles directs the Qi to problem areas in the body.
Zemaitis said that the learning process never ends and the benefits of acupuncture continue to amaze her.
“I don’t know everything. I choose certain needle patterns on a lot of my first-time patients and it works, so I keep on doing it,” said Zemaitis. “Sometimes I don’t know what does it, I just know that these points work. And I’m going to keep doing them until they stop working.”
The doctors at Interchange work with patients on tight budgets in order to fix stressful medical problems. Zemaitis said she works to accommodate patients with skyrocketing hospital bills.
“I’ve had a lot of cancer patients, and I offer them deals on acupuncture packages so they can continue with therapy that relaxes them,” Zemaitis said. “We also like to feature our services and treatments on sites like Groupon to save people money”.
Interchange recently featured a deal on Groupon – five acupuncture treatments for $109. Typically, one acupuncture treatment is priced at $75. Interchange offers deals like this to help patients who might not be covered by health insurance.
Fitness work is part of Interchange's overall wellness treatments. (Photo by Ryann Rumbaugh)
Another way Interchange works to strengthen the mind and body is by offering fitness components to treatments. Physicians at Interchange said that by combining posture awareness with breathing and toning exercises, customers will quickly see and feel changes to their bodies.
Pilates is a fitness system that dates back to Germany in the early 20th century. Its creator, Joseph Pilates, based his system on the notion that the mind controls the muscles. Instructors at Interchange teach the system as well as the philosophy behind Pilates’s work.
To some, Pilates might just seem like another class that the neighborhood gym offers. To others, it is a saving grace. People use Pilates not only as a workout, but also as a form of rehabilitation.
Pilates instructor Steve McClure took to the system after blowing out his leg doing martial arts in college. He used Pilates to regain his strength and said it got him in the best shape of his life.
“I regained a lot of body control by using Pilates,” McClure said. “You have to use your body and brain at the same time to do the exercises, which makes it a great workout.”
McClure said he works with a lot of post-surgery patients as well. He has seen martial artists, gymnasts, dancers and other athletes turn to Pilates after substantial injuries forced them to quit their sports.
“Most of the poses and workouts that we do in Pilates are very similar to gymnastic moves,” he said. “I even had a former gymnast come in and finish one of her exercises with a gymnastics dismount because her body was so used to performing these moves.
Some customers at Interchange simply come to relax and be pampered. Experienced masseuses offer their services for both relaxation and injury rehabilitation.
Zemaitis said she sends many of her back patients for deep tissue massages in order to relieve tension in certain areas.
“When someone experiences back pain, the muscles around the problem area tense up to guard the weakness and create even more pain, which can be reduced after a deep tissue massage,” Zemaitis said.
Others choose to get massages to relieve stress, increase flexibility and improve range of motion. Interchange stresses that patients need to embrace massages as a necessary part of health and wellness as opposed to a simple luxury.
Facials are also typically thought of as luxury, not necessity. Certified estheticians at Interchange provide facial therapy to people of all ages to clear up acne, aging scars and revitalize skin.
One masseuse and esthetician is stressing the importance of facial wellness by offering reduced prices on all facials and donating money to cancer awareness.
Renee DuBois is personally donating 10 percent of all her facial proceeds during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to Imerman Angels, a Chicago-based global cancer support network.
DuBois recently earned certification to provide safe facial treatments to recovering cancer patients as well as those who are currently in treatment. Interchange is the first wellness center in Chicago to add the cancer-specific services to their menu of facials.
“Renee does whatever she can to make sure her patients are taken care of,” Zemaitis said. “She’s like our cancer specialist. I know my patients love her.”