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Published on November 01, 2016

Mindful Medicine: Consider osteopathic care for chronic pain

Osteopathic care

Osteopathic medicine – hands-on diagnosis and treatment – by Katherine O’Rourke, DO (right) helped Dani Sulik (left) recover from chronic pain.

The pain started with a purse. Dani Sulik of Kendal, Wis. packed the purse – "it weighed as much as two bowling balls," she says – during a trip to California for her niece's wedding and for a trip up the Pacific coast.

After wearing the purse for several days, Dani experienced a stinging pain in her shoulder, a pain that would soon become much worse.

"Eventually, the pain was like an arrow through my chest," Dani says. She tried pain relievers and muscle relaxants, but Dani wanted another option. A friend recommended Katherine O'Rourke, DO, a family medicine provider at Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics Elroy.

Katherine O’Rourke, DO, Gundersen St. Joseph’s Hospital and Clinics Elroy

Knowing Dr. O'Rourke specializes in osteopathic medicine – hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a system of therapy known as osteopathic manipulative medicine – Dani admits she was initially skeptical.

"I'd been to providers who used 'manipulation,' and I saw no change in my condition," Dani says. "With Dr. O'Rourke, I had a completely different experience."

Through a series of joint and muscle movement and massage techniques, and with no medication, Dr. O'Rourke isolated Dani's pain and provided near immediate pain relief.

"I practice complementary medicine," Dr. O'Rourke says. "I'm a doctor, so I can treat conditions with medication and procedures, but I also offer indirect, hands-on, often gentle techniques and practical recommendations to patients to help ease their pain or condition."

After her first visit, Dani was given techniques to continue at home, including use of a Thera Cane® for self-massage. "I appreciated Dr. O'Rourke didn't just throw a pill at my pain," Dani says. "She took time for me. She listened, and she was open to a variety of treatments before resorting to medications or more invasive procedures."

"It's my job to put a patient's body in the best possible position to recover and return to a more balanced, healthy state," Dr. O'Rourke says. "As I treat a patient, we talk about practical things they can do to help the condition or prevent it from continuing. I encourage them to be mindful of the day-to-day activities that led to the problem so their recovery continues when they leave the office. It leads to better outcomes."

Dani now sees Dr. O'Rourke as her primary care provider. She also has replaced the purse that caused her so much pain with a cross-body bag for better comfort while on vacation.

"Dr. O'Rourke recommended it," Dani laughs. "I'm looking forward to traveling pain-free…and I'm grateful for her care and advice. I'd recommend her to anyone."

If you are looking for pain management options, consider an appointment with Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics Elroy. Call (608) 462-4116 or visit

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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