The term 'integrative medicine' refers to the practice of using conventional and alternative therapies together for an overall patient health approach. It does not replace traditional healthcare but rather supports it to use supplements to enhance good nutrition.
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine strives to look at a patient's condition as an individual whole and then seeks to identify the best ways to improve that person's health, including conventional treatments with alternative therapies whenever appropriate. Some people value integrative medicine above all other therapies because it allows them more of a say in their healthcare options and more choices about what will be used on them or for them. Also included in this overall approach are lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, mind-body techniques, and self-empowerment strategies.
A typical example of how this works is when someone suffers from chronic pain due to muscle tension (myofascial) or inflammation. A traditional medical professional would treat the pain with medication or other conventional means. However, an integrative healthcare professional might go a step further and recommend yoga, meditation, tai chi, or another mind-body technique. This helps to calm the patient's anxiety about their condition and make them more receptive to treatment, and decrease stress-related inflammation of muscles.
An Integrative Approach: Dr. Andrew Weil's View
Dr. Andrew Weil is one of the leading practitioners in this field today. He is the founder of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, an academic leader in this area, and an author. In addition, he writes extensively on alternative medicine topics.
In his recent article on UCI Health Online, "A Look at How Integrative Medicine Is Used to Improve Health," Dr. Weil explains that a patient's mind and body must be considered together because they are closely connected, not just physically but also emotionally and spiritually. He describes how integrative medicine treats symptoms of chronic illnesses where there may be no conventional medical treatments available for patients, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and HIV/AIDS.
In workers' comp cases, when pain medications are causing cognitive dysfunction, holistic doctors work with the physician prescribing the medication to find an alternative treatment such as acupuncture or holotropic breathing.
The use of mindfulness meditation can improve adherence to preventive therapies such as statin therapy in cardiovascular disease. The use of music therapy may improve the quality of life in AIDS patients. The use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is particularly important for patients with hepatitis C because their treatments can cause significant fatigue.
The 'Field-Of-Interest' Argument For Using Integrative Medicine
Another important issue Dr. Weil discusses in this article is the growing interest in using integrative medicine to improve health. He writes: "In today's world where healthcare costs are rising exponentially, CAM therapies have emerged as a viable option for healthcare practitioners who want to provide affordable care that exceeds quality standards." He describes how often these days, individuals suffering from a chronic illness will go from doctor to doctor looking for something - anything - that might help them feel better or even extend their life span. And because medications are often so expensive, many people go from doctor to doctor looking for the least expensive medication that will help them feel better.
Conventional medical professionals realize that in many cases, the most cost-effective way of providing healthcare is to use a whole-person approach, including lifestyle modifications and integrative therapies whenever appropriate.