Red Cross volunteers fill a variety of positions at Womack Army Medical Center, helping care for patients in numerous capacities while asking nothing in return.
Connie Kern has been volunteering as a reflexologist at WAMC for the past year and has donated more than 1,500 hours of service as a provider in the Interdisciplinary Pain Management Center, also referred to as the Pain Clinic. She has also worked with the Intrepid Spirit program and the Psychiatry Ward. Through her efforts, she’s provided Integrative Medical Reflex Therapy treatment sessions to hundreds of Soldiers suffering from chronic pain.
As a Board Certified Reflexologist with 20 years of education and experience in her field, Kern applies pressure to specific reflex points on the feet that correspond to different areas of the body, including joints, organs and muscle groups. The integrative therapy, also referred to as IMRT, is a hybrid treatment that combines medical and classic therapeutic reflexology with breathing and stretching exercises.
In alignment with WAMC’s mission to be at the forefront in medical advancements, Kern’s work represents a therapy that has not been offered at any other hospital.
Her work with Womack’s Clinical Investigations team represents a pilot study designed to determine whether IMRT Reflexology is effective in treating chronic pain in the military community.
Kern recently presented the study’s finding from the more than 300 individual patients’ therapeutic sessions at the National Military Health Research Systems symposium. The first 113 patients with chronic pain who received the IMRT treatment reported a 47.1 percent decrease in pain. She said that she hopes to continue being able to use her skills and experience to help alleviate pain for injured Soldiers.
“In my opinion, reflexology is a part of the bigger picture,” she said. “It is part of a comprehensive medical program. It doesn’t replace the care they’re receiving, it enhances it. You still need clinical tests. You need medications. IMRT is another part of the overall treatment plan.”
She said that reflexology helps decrease the pain for a lot of chronic pain sufferers by addressing the loss of circulation and the inflammation that comes with an injury, along with providing support to the appropriate body systems to promote healing.
“A lot of Soldiers have inflammation with their injuries,” said Kern. “Reflexology is able to target and help decrease this inflammation, putting less pressure on the injured areas. Less pressure and increased circulation makes it feel better and helps the muscles to release tension. ”
While Kern has years of experience and education in her field, she didn’t immediately start her professional career in healthcare. She was working in real estate when she got injured and was unable to walk for a while. As she recovered, her medical team began talking to her about needing surgery.
“I was in my 20s and scared about the prospect of surgery,” she said. “I ended up trying anything and everything as an alternative. That’s how I found reflexology and was so amazed with the results that I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. And after all these years, it still amazes me, every day.”
Kern said that she is glad that she has the opportunity to share the benefits of reflexology with others.
“Being able to help injured Soldiers manage their pain is extremely rewarding,” said Kern. “While the results are amazing, I always remind everyone that it’s still medicine, not magic. There’s a science behind what I’m doing and the results are absolutely reproducible, reliable and consistent.”
When she’s not at WAMC, Kern sees private clients and provides career training for others who desire to become certified reflexologists. She can be reached at serene.health.reflexology@gmail.com.