THEBES, Ill. -- Few people in town know much about the clinic, but they can sure tell when the volunteer medical team arrives because it draws a crowd to the rural Southern Illinois community.
"There's a traffic jam in Thebes," resident Linda Fisher said.
The parking lot across the street from First Baptist Church is full, and it's tough to get by on the narrow street as people arrive for appointments.
The Beulah Land Natural Medicine Clinic operates four times a year from inside the church using volunteer staff from around the state -- and around the country.
The free clinic began in 1994 with a team of volunteers organized by Marion Hauser and her husband, Ross, of suburban Chicago. The Hausers operate the Caring and Medical Rehabilitation Services clinic in Oak Park, Ill.
While the Hausers were attending a church in Oak Park, their pastor, Peter Blakemore, talked about the needs in Southern Illinois, where his parents were raised. After Blakemore began talking about the region, the Hausers came to Thebes to set up the first clinic. "It opened our eyes to see a mission field in our own state," Marion Hauser said. They chose Thebes because of its rural location and a connection with someone in the church who has relatives in Thebes.That first year there were only two patients. This weekend, more than 400 will be treated.
But this isn't any ordinary medical clinic. It's one that draws patients from across the country because of its treatments for chronic pain.
The clinic's practitioners use prolotherapy, a treatment that uses a solution injected into the body where the ligaments attach to the bones. The solution helps the ligaments regrow.
The practice of prolotherapy -- or sclerotherapy -- has been around for years but is regaining popularity. Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said the treatment rid him of lower back pain and learned the practice himself.
Other doctors say the treatment doesn't have any supporting studies to show it works in the long term and no proof that weak ligaments lead to joint pain. Also, doctors say that there is a risk to the treatment because of inexperienced practitioners.
There isn't just one injection for the treatment, but many -- 20 to 70 depending on the patient's complaint, Marion Hauser said.
The injections cause the area to become inflamed, which helps in the healing process. It usually takes between four and six treatments in a series to eliminate the pain. Patients arrive from as far away as Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and even New York for the therapy.
Word of mouth has helped build the clinic's patient list. "Everybody knows somebody in pain," Hauser said.
And chronic pain can affect a person's life in every dimension. Hauser has heard stories about lives ruined because of pain. But the clinic and its volunteers offer hope for the patients. "To provide that for people is a really good thing," she said.
Glenn Hughes, who lives south of Carbondale, Ill., has benefited from the treatments. He's been coming to the clinic for a couple of years, though he couldn't recall exactly how long. He came Friday afternoon to get some help for his knee and ankle pain. Knots rose up as Dr. Ross Hauser injected the area around his knee several times. The inflammation is a good sign, Marion Hauser said.
The staff at the clinic try to find the underlying cause of the pain and help treat that problem, she said. Many of the suggestions offer treatment using natural medicine or nutrition counseling. And sometimes that is in addition to the shots.
Beulah Land Clinic has dreams of building a permanent site in Thebes, but that will take more than the $8,000 already raised for the project. The clinic is a not-for-profit agency that is accepting donations for the work.
335-6611, extension 126