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Caring for the Whole Person


Mind • Body • Spirit

By Alexander Germanis

From elementary biology to high school anatomy class, to everyday life experiences, it is self-evident we human beings are very complex. Unfortunately, the more complex the system, the wider the variety of problems that can arise within that system. Furthermore, a malady in one system can result in other problems in seemingly unrelated systems, be they physical, mental, or spiritual.

Recognizing this interconnectedness of the overall picture of human health is a cornerstone of osteopathic medicine. Osteopathic philosophy and practice recognize that our physical ailments can affect other aspects of our health, and rational treatment methods should likewise take the whole person – physical, mental, and spiritual – into account.


Midwest Pioneer

Pioneering into something new, no matter how big or small, is a commendable act, requiring perseverance and fortitude to overcome unforeseen challenges. For Joseph Brooks, DO, launching a career in medicine was, in itself, pioneering – a first for anyone in his family. Counting himself lucky to find a mentorship program in high school, he was drawn to a field of medicine that was founded by a Midwest pioneer, Dr. A.T. Still. Dr. Still founded osteopathic medicine and A.T. Still University, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1892, where Dr. Brooks graduated in 2007.

“In college I spent time shadowing osteopathic physicians and liked the combination of non-pharmacologic treatments and traditional medicine, including hands-on Osteopathic Manipulation Techniques (OMT).” Dr. Brooks shares. “We (osteopathic physicians) also embrace and add to the growing body of scientific research discoveries, with a clinical focus on applying the best evidence-based medicine to each individual patient.”

“Osteopathic medicine as a profession is growing and, as a student, I felt it held a promising future, one that would continue to be relevant and helpful for millions of aging Americans for years to come,” he continues. “As I got further along in college I learned more about the philosophy of osteopathic medicine, and its whole-person approach resonated with my upbringing and Midwest values.”

Following four years of college, four years of medical school, and a four-year post-graduate residency at University of Missouri where he specialized in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R), Dr. Brooks began his career in Davenport, Iowa in 2011. After 12 years of practicing medicine, treating a broad range of conditions, Dr. Brooks felt the time was right to venture forth yet again into new territory. In 2023, he opened a private practice, Vitality Physical Medicine (VPM) in Davenport.

“VPM offers PM&R services that are rare in this area – period,” avers Dr. Brooks. “Iowa has the fewest PM&R specialists per capita in the whole country. This means many people don’t know what we can do for them. Also, the trend for the ever-bigger insurance and health corporations in the U.S. is limiting the choices patients have access to. Our new practice is a small physician-owned clinic, which used to be the norm in Iowa and now is almost unheard of in the area.”


Different Strokes

One of the things setting an osteopathic physician apart from many others in the field of medicine is the DO’s willingness to listen and explore many different treatment avenues with patients in order to find what works best for each person.

For instance, onabotulinumtoxinA, more commonly known as Botox®, frequently associated with its cosmetic use for over 20 years, has many therapeutic medical applications. The injections, however, have been utilized in the medical field since the 1980s. In 2010, the FDA approved the use of Botox® “to treat spasticity in the flexor muscles of the elbow, wrist, and fingers in adults with stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS),” Dr. Brooks outlines. “In 2016, they approved it for the treatment of lower limb spasticity in adult patients.”

Spasticity is a condition experienced by more than 25 percent of stroke survivors. When recovering strength in their stroke-weakened limbs, they often develop increased reflexes, resulting in a drastic increase in muscle tone and a tightness in their muscles. This is known as spasticity.

Botox® injections can be very effective in treating this condition, its efficacy lasting for about three months, with follow-up injections performed every 90 days. Reducing muscle tone and improving function, Botox® injections are a first line treatment for post stroke spasticity.

“Starting injections early can prevent permanent contractures and decrease caretaker burden for activities of daily living for those experiencing moderate to severe spasticity,” says Dr. Brooks. “Unfortunately, Botox® doesn’t help improve limb range of motion when limited by chronic tendon contracture. Patients should seek evaluation early to prevent contractures. The combination of early stretching and therapy with Botox® injections probably has the best chance of regaining the most useful functional independence.”

Targeting specific muscles, the doctor uses electromyography (EMG) to guide the medication into the tightest areas of specific muscles. “My training in osteopathic medicine with its emphasis of the neuromusculoskeletal system and my residency training in PM&R with its neurodiagnostic (EMG) training and musculoskeletal (MSK) medicine training, has been very complimentary for understanding the dynamic structure and function of the nerves and muscles affected by spasticity after stroke or TBI.”

Offering this treatment since 2011, Dr. Brooks uses Botox® to treat cervical dystonia, and upper and lower limb spasticity caused by stroke, TBI, or MS.


Use the Body to Heal the Body

In an arguably overmedicated world, perhaps one of the most refreshing aspects of osteopathic medicine is its drive to avoid overprescribing pills and to instead use techniques like OMT to alleviate painful conditions.

An under-utilized technique, according to Dr. Brooks, OMT has proven effective in helping patients with many conditions including neck, lower back, and myofascial pain, thereby reducing the number of medications taken for the same conditions.

Although many people go to DOs for primary care, they often aren’t aware of OMT. “Osteopathic medicine includes a structural exam and a system for diagnosing somatic dysfunctions of the musculoskeletal system, which was started in 1892,” Dr. Brooks declares. “Many osteopathic manipulation techniques have developed since that time to restore normal structure and function to the body and promote healing and wellness.”

A safe treatment option, OMT also compliments other techniques employed by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, such as exercise, stretching, therapy, medications, injections, and surgery. “Even if your DO or MD doesn’t offer OMT they can make a referral to a specialist like me,” says Dr. Brooks, “just like for any other procedure.”

Vitality Physical Medicine also offers many other PM&R services including EMG/NCS diagnostic services, which are often needed to clarify a nerve or muscle diagnosis like carpal tunnel syndrome, radiculopathy, or neuropathy. They also offer musculoskeletal pain management consultations, including treatments such as trigger point injections and peripheral joint injections.

“The biggest thing is diagnosing patients the best we can and offering a variety of effective treatments,” Dr. Brooks assures. “When I meet patients who have done the same treatments over and over again without any effectiveness, I suggest trying something different.”


The Future of Medicine

Over the last 12 years Dr. Brooks has treated thousands of patients. Whether by getting a more accurate diagnosis, more effective treatment, or an honest education about conditions people are living with, he aims to improve the quality of life of all his patients. VPM aspires to promote health, focusing on osteopathic principles of whole person healthcare.

More and more doctors are coming to recognize the importance of the osteopathic school of thought. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine have the same scope of practice as MDs in all 50 states and in most other developed nations as well. “In the U.S., we are the fastest growing profession in the health sciences, with many new DO schools across the country,” Dr. Brooks states.

“I think our philosophy of caring for the whole person (mind-body-spirit) and embracing science will continue to create value and be valued by patients in the U.S. and abroad,” he concludes. “As I look forward to 2024, I think Vitality Physical Medicine will improve the quality of life for people who want to get treatments here.”


Vitality Physical Medicine is located at 5335 Eastern Avenue, Suite C in Davenport, Iowa. If you or a loved one is in need of pain management, non-surgical orthopedics, or rehabilitation for stroke or brain injury, please call us at (563) 424-6400. To learn more about us, please visit us on the web at www.VitalityPhyscialMedicine.com.