Fashion and fitness are only two of many areas in our society which change and evolve constantly with trends, but medical and health topics also have hot topics consumers should be aware of; one of the current health hot topics we’re hearing a lot about is “integrative medicine.”
What is integrative medicine?
Sometimes called IM or “integrated medicine,” integrative medicine is based on a “partnership between the patient and the doctor, where the goal is to treat the mind, body, and spirit, all at the same time” (WebMD). Not just a trend brought forth by holistic practitioners, integrative medicine is practiced in leading hospitals and health care centers nationwide in places like the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine.
According to WebMD: “The Duke Center for Integrative Medicine is a classic model of integrative care. It combines conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques — all in the effort to treat the whole person. Proponents prefer the term “complementary” to emphasize that such treatments are used with mainstream medicine, not as replacements or alternatives.”
If you’ve been using massage or doing yoga for years the idea of integrative medicine isn’t new to you, but public attention and funding for IM didn’t blossom until 1993 when a landmark study found one out of every three Americans had used at least one form of alternative therapy (often without telling their doctors).
What is the difference between conventional medicine and integrative medicine?
The Duke Center for Integrative Medicine clearly compares how conventional medicine works to how integrative medicine works:
Conventional medicine intervenes as needed, relies on the patient to achieve health goals, and is directed by the physician. In contrast, integrative medicine plans across the patient’s life span, supports the patient to achieve goals, and is “guided by a partnership among patient, physician, and a team of clinical experts.”
A patient utilizing integrative medicine offers conventional medicine looks to diagnosis and “fix” the symptoms of a medical condition, while integrative medicine looks beyond the symptoms so the root cause of a health condition can be understood and healed.
Some holistic practisioners may only use alternative or naturalistic therapies, but integrative medicine utilizes both conventional medicine practices (blood tests, xrays, etc) and alternative therapies together for a patient.
National leading hospitals and medical schools have so embraced integrative medicine, 46 “highly esteemed academic medical centers” (including Duke, Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, and more) are currently a part of the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine, with a mission “to advance the principles and practices of integrative healthcare within academic institutions” (according to the Consortium’s website).
As leading medical institutions, current health care practitcioners, and the public continue to embrace and advance integrative medicine more and more health insurance companies may begin to cover things like massage, tai chi, or even yoga classes (!).
I’m interested, but what now?
Second only to the popular “are we there yet” question is “what now?” You like what you read (maybe have heard about it before), but your insurance would laugh if you asked them to cover a yoga class so what can you do to incorporate complementary therapies into your own life now without taking out a second mortgage on your house? Thankfully it is affordable and easy to start out learning/doing meditation, tai chi (even from your chair!), yoga, and even massage on your own (just click on the links for more information).Anything you can do for a healthier life in general (exercising, eating healthy foods, stress relief) follows the principles of integrative medicine and will help you be healthier overall.