Through his work at CareSTL Health, a federally qualified community health center, Ross Mattox, DC, RMSK has embraced the opportunity to help patients change their lives.
One such patient is Monteal Paige. When she first visited CareSTL in hopes of alleviating severe chronic pain and multiple chronic health conditions, Monteal was a little over 300 pounds—a lot of weight for her 5’2” frame to carry. “Her situation is common for many of our patients, and obesity is the biggest impediment to getting better,” Dr. Mattox said. “It’s a vicious cycle. Patients hurt, therefore they don’t move, which causes weight gain and only exacerbates their pain.”
For patients like Monteal, chiropractic adjustments can of course alleviate pain, but real, lasting relief must come from major lifestyle changes. That can seem like a daunting task—one that takes hard work and persistence. Although habits can feel impossible to break, Dr. Mattox is doing what he can to ease the way.
Along with his team of interns, preceptors and residents, Dr. Mattox has researched and compiled information for patients on getting affordable or free healthy food and exercise. They’ve put together diet plans tailored to low-income patients and assembled lists of area food pantries, as well as a packet listing every YMCA and community health center in the Greater St. Louis area. “Almost everyone has a reason why they can’t do something—it may be money or transportation or any number of other things,” Dr. Mattox explained. “We find ways around every barrier. For example, we included free community health centers and information on how to get to the centers via public transportation.”
The bottom line, though, is that patients have to be willing to put in the work. And Monteal was more than willing. She started going to water aerobics, an ideal exercise for overweight individuals since the pool reduces the weight and pressure on knees and joints. “Because almost all of our patients are obese and have some sort of joint pain, the No. 1 thing I push for is movement,” Dr. Mattox said. “When they push back, saying it hurts to move, I say, ‘OK, then get in the pool.’”
Monteal discovered she loved water aerobics and started attending multiple times per week. After a few months, she was such a regular that when the instructor called in sick, others in the class pointed to her and asked her to fill in. Now, she’s an official teacher.
Monteal also worked on her diet. “Our goal is not to overhaul someone’s diet, because that’s not realistic and we’re dealing with people with limited resources,” Dr. Mattox said. First, patients are instructed to fill out a simple food diary for a week so their CareSTL team can understand their current eating habits. Not all patients comply with this request, but Monteal was a straight-A student, logging her meals for months. “I have a collection of her food diaries I keep on my desk to show to others,” Dr. Mattox said. Starting with this simple tool and with some sound advice from Dr. Mattox, Monteal’s diet gradually changed, with fruits and vegetables replacing fried foods.
The results from these simple—but not easy—changes were astounding: In just six months, Monteal lost around 70 pounds. “We empowered her to do this, but it was all her,” Dr. Mattox said. “Now she comes in smiling and happy, and she didn’t used to be like that. It’s changed her life and gives me a great example to use when talking to other patients.”
Like so many other patients who are in chronic pain, Monteal simply didn’t know where to start, which left her feeling helpless and depressed. “We told her it was possible and showed her what to do, one day at a time,” Dr. Mattox said. “We taught her to take control of her own health, but she put in all the effort to do so. Monteal now weighs less, takes fewer medications, requires fewer doctor visits, has new friends through her exercise classes and is a happier person.”