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People suffering with chronic pain will try just about anything to feel better. Rockville physical therapist Andrew Bloch developed an unusual treatment he says could provide the solution many are looking for.
It looks like a lot of slapping, hitting and punching, but Bloch swears it doesn't hurt and actually makes his patients' pain go away. He calls it Reflexive Pattern Therapy or RPT. Bloch developed it over a decade, combining Eastern and Western techniques to help relieve pain.
"The basic principle is to identify these involuntary patterns and when I say involuntary, they're patterns of protection in the body, that you're not aware of," he said.
What looks like slapping, punching and pulling is really his way of resetting the body.
"When you have problems with your phone, what do you do? You just want to reset it," said Bloch, clinical director at Advanced Wellness Systems. "So you just reset it, almost like a default button. It's the same thing I'm doing with the body. I'm basically resetting the nervous system and when you reset it, amazing things happen."
Crossfit competitor Teresa Luz credits RPT with helping her quickly bounce back from a serious back injury during a competition in March.
"I was having difficulty bending over, and everything just kind of tightened up," she said. "I couldn't move."
Dropping out was not an option. Her teammate Jimmy Violand, who is trained by Bloch, spent hours working on Luz using a combination of RPT, meditation and other therapies. Luz's team,12 Labours Crossfit of Columbia, ended up qualifying for the worldwide competition. She gets emotional recalling it.
"For RPT to come in and work on me the way that it did, with Jimmy and Andy, it was a miracle that weekend," she said. "There was nothing else that was working."
Though Luz's pain was acute, Bloch developed RPT mainly for chronic pain sufferers, like Billy Hunter. He has suffered from arthritis for six years.
"I was kind of intrigued because he's slapping folk around and everybody gets up and says they feel better," said Hunter, of Washington, D.C. "I'm a skeptic by nature. I did decide because I have this chronic back pain for over six years now."
After his first RPT treatment, Hunter went from a skeptic to a believer.
"It sounds very strange," he said. "It sounds very strange. But it works! And that's the important thing. It works and I'm out of pain."
We asked Dr. Larry Plotkin - a chiropractor at Elkridge Chiropractic and Kinesiology instructor at the University of Maryland - for his opinion on the unusual therapy.
"There's not one perfect therapy for everybody," he said. "There's probably 5 to 10 maybe 15 percent of the population that is not going to respond to the traditional stuff."
Dr. Plotkin said as long as patients are fully evaluated before any treatment, RPT is worth a shot for chronic pain sufferers who haven't been able to get relief elsewhere.
"We're not doing surgery," Plotkin said. "We're not injecting anything into the body, medication, not that medications are bad, but we're not having to take a bunch of drugs. Sometimes you have side effects to them. So assuming again the condition's been fully evaluated, it's definitely not something that from what I could see, is going to be something that's going to harm them, unless there is an acute condition where it specifically may not be used for."
Bloch said RPT isn't a stand-alone treatment. It's meant to work hand-in-hand with other therapies to get people moving and working on getting stronger and healthier again.
"My job is to help them feel better quickly," he said. "Their job is to get themselves well. They have to be involved in their care to get themselves well. It's not a cure, but it's curative."
RPT is covered by most insurance companies, as it is a form of physical therapy. It costs $175 for the initial evaluation and then $100 for follow-up visits.