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What Is Integrative Medicine

What's in a Name?

Allopathic medicine, complementary medicine, alternative medicine, integrative medicine “ many people are wondering what all these different terms mean, and perhaps more importantly, what's different about them? Allopathic medicine “ another term is conventional medicine “ fostere the use of manufactured medicines, surgical procedures and conventional therapy to treat all forms of disease. Alternative medicine is often defined more by what it isn't than by what it is. Alternative medicine is simply considered to be a healing practice that isn't a part of conventional medicine. It may be based on historical or cultural traditions and often has no scientific evidence to support its efficacy. Complementary medicine and integrative medicine are essentially the same thing “ the combination of conventional medicine with alternative methods “ and the terms are used interchangeably. However, integrative practitioners generally use only those alternative therapies for which there is good scientific evidence. When the orthopedic doctor who is managing your chronic back pain suggests chiropractic therapy or deep tissue massage, that's integrative medicine. If your internist recommends you use chamomile tea to help you sleep, that's also integrative medicine.

Integrative Therapies

It is very difficult to point at a particular practice or therapy and say it is integrative medicine, because the field is very fluid. Chiropractic care was once considered quackery, as was herbalism. Today, chiropractic is mainstream and most insurance companies, including Medicare, will pay for chiropractic treatments. A naturopathic physician, for example, usually practices integrative medicine “ he or she may order routine blood tests and prescribe conventional medication for low thyroid hormone while suggesting a specific combination of herbs for prostate enlargement. However, the use of most herbal preparations and supplements is still considered alternative therapy and these are not covered by conventional insurance plans. Some plans cover massage therapy if it is prescribed by a licensed physician, others do not. It's tempting to say that alternative medicine “ or the alternative aspects of integrated medicine “ is medical treatment that is not covered by an insurance plan.

Treating the Whole Person

Integrative medicine is also called by that name because it seeks to heal the whole person rather than focusing on a disease process and is modeled on health and wellness rather than disease. Where conventional medicine favors high technology and expensive therapies, integrated medicine favors low-tech, low-cost and often high-touch interventions such as massage, reiki therapy or acupuncture. Some therapies that were once considered to be fakery or "snake oil" are now a respected part of integrated medicine. Among these are acupuncture, biofield therapies such as qigong and polarity therapy, guided imagery, hypnosis and yoga. Integrated medicine practitioners commonly consider mind, body, spirit and community in prescribing therapy.

Conventional medicine practitioners generally include medical doctors, osteopathic physicians and allied health professional such as physical therapists or registered nurses. Integrative medicine may be practiced by a wide range of healthcare professionals; medical doctors, naturopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians, mental health professionals, mind-body specialists, massage therapists and acupuncturists may all practice some form of integrated medicine. With such a wide range of practitioners “ many of whom are trained and licensed by different organizations.

By: Justin Edgewood