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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Coordinating Care: Using Eastern and Western Approaches

Dec 26, 2012 11:59AM ● By Megy Karydes

“A primary care physician who can coordinate both conventional medicines and alternative therapies is attractive to patients these days,” explains Dr. Joseph Starkman, a family physician at Highland Park’s North Suburban Wellness, about why patients seek him as their family practice physician.

“Also, patients prefer longer visits, where their whole history is taken into account to address underlying issues, rather than a short visit focusing on symptom management,” he adds.

Starkman is among a growing number of osteopathic physicians in the United States. Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO) complete conventional medical school and hospital residencies. Osteopathic physicians are also trained in a form of manual therapy called osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM).

“The use of manual therapy can set an osteopath apart from their M.D. counterparts, but these days, only a small minority of osteopaths use their manual medicine training,” he says.

According to Starkman, he is also among a very small number of DOs that practice traditional osteopathic manipulation (also known as cranial osteopathy), a subtle and effective type of OMM. “Cranial osteopathic treatments can very gently address the effects that both acute and longstanding traumas have on a patient’s health,” he explains. “It is also a means to facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Furthermore, regular osteopathic treatments help patients stay balanced.”

As patients learn more about the benefits of alternative therapies, they are seeking physicians that can incorporate both conventional and alternative approaches for their overall care.

This, notes Starkman, is positive news. “Patients often try to coordinate their own care or try to replace their prescriptions with supplements when they don’t have a single provider to connect conventional and alternative medicine for them. Well-coordinated holistic primary care is a growing need, providing greater safety and allowing patients to most effectively invest their time and healthcare dollars,” he says.

Starkman spends an hour-and-a-half or more during an initial visit with his patients so he can get a good overall sense of their health and needs. “We have an in-depth discussion of their history and what they are looking to achieve,” he explains. “I conduct an initial osteopathic examination and treatment, as well as provide nutritional counseling. If necessary, medications can be managed.” Follow-up visits are usually 60 minutes.

Future visits may incorporate other treatment options to address underlying causes of disease. “For instance, these may include hormone testing/balancing, herbal medicines, whole food supplementation or homeopathy,” he adds. “Like any primary care physician, I refer patients to specialists in conventional medicine when appropriate. In addition, I may refer out to other holistic and alternative healthcare providers for co-management.”

He also is seeing results with his patients trying to lose weight through the use of the HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone. While the HCG weight-loss program, like many alternative routes, is not without some controversy, Starkman notes that he has witnessed success with his patients.

“I have seen many patients lose excess weight safely and comfortably through the use of HCG,” he says. “Through weight loss, they have been able to come off of diabetes and blood pressure medications, as well as improve their sleep apnea and chronic pain. I also work with patients on keeping the weight off by teaching them about raw foods, green juicing and nutrient supplementation.”

Starkman isn’t one to shy away from integrating other therapies when they are safe, legal and effective. He has prescribed medicinal cannabis to patients in the state of Maine for chronic neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, cancer and many other conditions allowable under Maine law. He recognizes that some people may be surprised by the idea of physicians using medicinal cannabis in their treatment, but he says there is a good evidence base for its use in some cases and has published an article on the subject for the peer reviewed journal, Evidence-Based Practice. The legalization of cannabis for medical use in the state of Illinois is up for vote in January of 2013.

“Natural forces exist within our bodies,” says Starkman. “It’s very rewarding to facilitate these forces to promote healing changes for my patients and see how satisfied they are with the results, for themselves and their families.”

North Suburban Wellness is located at 1732 1st St. To contact Dr. Starkman, call 847-242-1210 or visit

Megy Karydes is a professional writer who will be training for her second half-marathon in 2013 in an attempt to stay healthy and active this winter. Find her at