Pain Management Expert Bridges Best of Two Worlds

His nickname is Dr. Jet, and he laughs when the reference is made. But the title is appropriate, bestowed upon him by a friend who recognized the scope of territory — both physically and medically — that Moshe Lewis, MD, covers.

Lewis is one of the nation’s leading integrative medicine and pain management experts. He helps patients reach optimal health levels by customizing comprehensive medical treatments with the assistance of an in-house team of specialists, including hypnotherapists, psychologists, osteopaths and acupuncturists.

“I’m trying to bridge two worlds, essentially,” Lewis says.

And when he’s not busy merging eastern and western medicine, he’s balancing his schedule between lecturing in New York City and opening a new office in Beverly Hills.

“It’s sort of a juxtaposing of the east and the west,” he says.

It’s also nothing short of an interesting lifestyle.

Starting with surgery
When Lewis was studying to be a physician, his original line of thinking was surgery. That changed before he finished medical school. His mother, who had been a nurse and inspired him to explore the health care field, experienced a stroke, and watching her work through rehabilitation changed his focus.

“I think anything that happens with your parents tends to inspire you,” Lewis explains. “Being involved there, trying to get her to walk again, and feed her again, because it was a pretty intense stroke, really got my interest going in that direction. And my sister is an occupational therapist, so we spent a lot of time together talking.”

Those experiences propelled Lewis into the world of pain management, and set the stage for his embracing an integrative approach to healing.

“I’m trying to combine the best of traditional pain management but with new alternatives,” he says. Those alternative therapies include acupuncture, Tai Chi, pool therapy and chiropractic.

Staying abreast of all those disciplines is challenging, and Lewis does not pretend to be a master of them all. He works closely with a team of specialists. Every week osteopathic students are in his clinic, and for two years he had an acupuncturist in his office. That familiarity enables him to comfortably refer patients experiencing repetitive stress syndrome to the appropriate specialist.

“We all know a lot of the down sides of getting hooked on pills that may not work or are too aggressive,” Lewis says. “I have to tell patients all the time, ‘Let’s keep in mind, I believe in you and I’m not trying to diminish your pain — but if we simply put you on meds that can form more habits than you have right now, or that will make you dependent, all I’ve done is just essentially make you what I call a functioning addict. So you take the meds, you follow through, but you’re dependent on them and your life is not changing.’ It’s really about what is appropriate for each patient.”

Walking the walk
There’s no doubt that Lewis talks a good game, but he also practices what he preaches. He’s tall and thin, and has always been relatively healthy, and sometimes his patients who are experiencing pain feel that he’s unable to relate to them. Then Lewis explains that he’s not 22-years old any more.

“I’ll be 45,” he laughs. “And my knees and back start to act up. So I find myself focusing on the nutrition end. Even for my son, I try to monitor the amount of sugar and fructose and junk food that he eats, as much of a challenge as that is today. And obviously I do the same for myself. So we go to the gym and play with the basketball. I try to do that with him every single week.”

The challenge, Lewis says, is that many patients who walk into his clinic have the attitude that, “The doctor isn’t going to tell me what to do,” or the excuse that, “I know, but I’m too busy.” And Lewis knows that it’s easy to become a procrastinator.

“We can become that way ourselves,” he says. “We all make resolutions that, by this time of year, have expired.”

But that doesn’t stop Lewis from delivering his message.

Rewarding experience
Lewis says that he looks to provide every patient with the tools they need to accomplish their goals. But he also hopes patients understand that the process takes time, and they are willing to commit the time and attention required.

He tells them: “Okay, take this journey with me. I know how difficult and painful it can be literally, but I’m going to try to be your coach and get you through this process. And it’s not always going to be easy.”

For example, for a male patient in his 50s who is overweight and having issues with his knees, Lewis talks about the importance of gradually increasing the amount of vegetables in his diet, along with increasing his exercise level. He explains the wonders that shedding 60 pounds will do for the patient’s heart. That patient’s regimen may start simply by walking 10 minutes a day for two weeks, and then building up from there. All the while he monitors how winded they may become, or whether or not their knees are acting up.

“Not every patient is going to become a half marathoner, or be in the gym for an hour because they’ve got a fancy membership,” Lewis says. “I really try to acknowledge their pain while taking that coach or athletic trainer mentality. I give them the tools, and then watch to see who takes the baton and makes it through the hurdles.”