Integrative Medicine – Combining Conventional and Alternative Therapies

Integrative medicine is a holistic approach that emphasizes healing while adhering to evidence-based therapies and making use of all appropriate therapies – diet, exercise and complementary treatments are included in its purview.

Each year, Mayo Clinic integrative medicine experts teach thousands of people practices designed to relax the mind, soothe the body and revive spirit – helping them feel better while managing their health conditions more effectively.

Conventional Therapies

Alternative treatments, whether combined with conventional medications or used alone, aim to maximize your body’s capacity for healing. They may include acupuncture, yoga, dietary supplements, wellness coaching and meditation; typically these alternative therapies have less invasive procedures and side effects than conventional pharmaceutical drugs.

Integrative medicine practitioners do not dismiss conventional therapies outright or readily embrace complementary and alternative medicines (CAM). Instead, they study and improve practices that could benefit their patients.

Conventional therapy refers to medical care provided by health professionals holding medical degrees (such as doctors of medicine and osteopaths ) who utilize pharmaceutical, radiation or surgical interventions to treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation or surgery – this form of therapy is known as biomedicine, mainstream or Western medicine. Other health professionals who provide conventional care include nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists – many are also practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies; many are board-certified by medical organizations which promote adherance with the Medical Code of Ethics.

Alternative Therapies

Many practices once known as alternative medicine are now known as complementary and integrative medicine (CIM) or integrative therapies due to increasing research on their safety and effectiveness, as well as increasing integration with conventional treatments.

CAM and integrative practitioners often employ nutritional supplements, herbs or other natural treatments to treat conditions, while suggesting diet changes to prevent or manage disease.

Physical approaches include massage and acupuncture – in which needles are placed into specific points on the body – among many others. Other physical therapies include yoga and tai chi.

Meditation and prayer can also be considered integrative therapy as they help calm both mind and spirit. Furthermore, many therapists promote social interactions as an integral component of wellness; some studies even indicate that those closely connected with family and friends live longer than those without such bonds.

Behavioral Changes

Integrative Medicine is a therapeutic form of healthcare that puts the individual at its core, treating their complete array of physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual influences on health. Integrative Medicine uses personalized strategies with interventions from multiple scientific fields that combine to bring healing and restore wellness for individuals.

Integrative practitioners often recommend lifestyle modifications that can promote overall health and wellness, such as yoga, acupuncture, nutritional supplements and wellness coaching.

As part of this process, you’ll work closely with your practitioner to develop an individualized health plan designed specifically for you. Effective collaboration amongst doctors and complementary therapists is paramount for its success as you collaborate together towards meeting the health goals. Open communication between all members involved is also key for the best results when working together on such matters.

Behavior change can be an intricate and delicate process for most individuals. A study on two-week integrative medicine inpatient treatment found that functional improvements were associated with patient-related process variables such as ability and willingness to change, emotional/rational disease acceptance, mindfulness practices and overall life and health satisfaction.

Lifestyle Changes

Integrative Medicine provides more than the traditional approach to healing by emphasizing lifestyle changes that promote overall well-being. Such lifestyle changes may include stress reduction and resilience training, acupuncture, massage therapy, animal-assisted therapy, nutrition advice, mind-body therapies such as yoga or tai chi. [3]

Integrative medicine practitioners avoid unproven and potentially risky methods by opting for evidence-based practices instead. They may consult with doctors trained in naturopathy, osteopathy or conventional medical disciplines.

Studies demonstrate the power of combining traditional and alternative medicines to improve health outcomes. One such study revealed that patients treated with both western and Korean therapies were more likely to survive a stroke than those given conventional medicine alone.

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