How effective is Integrative Medicine

As the American healthcare system grows increasingly expensive and ineffective and truly patient-centered care becomes progressively difficult to find, more people than ever before are looking for alternatives to the conventional healthcare model. As defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, integrative medicine "combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness." The goal is that this combined approach treats all aspects of a patient: "biological, psychological, social, and spiritual, including all aspects of lifestyle. In a survey of US medical centers using integrative medicine, 75% reported success using integrative practices to treat chronic pain, with more than half reporting positive results in the areas of gastrointestinal conditions, depression, anxiety, cancer, and chronic stress

The principles of integrative medicine:
  • It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient in the healing process
  • It is informed by evidence
  • A holistic approach – all factors that influence health, including body, mind, spirit and life style are considered
  • A philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically
  • Recognition that good medicine should be based in good science, be inquiry driven, and be open to new paradigms
  • Use of natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible
  • Explore the broader concepts of promotion of health, the prevention of illness and the treatment of disease
  • Training of practitioners to be models of health and healing, committed to the process of self-exploration and self-development
Some of the common approaches in integrative medicine include:

Stress Management – help one learn to manage general life stress or situational stress. 

Guided imagery - based upon the belief that the mind can affect the body's functions; this is a visualization technique that teaches people to focus on positive mental pictures 

Resilience Training - helps individuals develop positive strategies to manage stress and develop a resilient disposition

Massage Therapy – helps to relax and detox and rejuvenate the system

Acupuncture - proven to treat pain, nausea, and vomiting, asthma, menstrual cramps, and osteoarthritis.
Hypnosis - extremely successful in certain conditions, such as insomnia, anxiety, phobias and pain management

Meditation and Mindfulness techniques - useful to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body, connect to the true inner self

Hypnotherapy - divert patients' attention away from pain by inducing a state of deep relaxation.

Some guidelines before you embark on this road:
  • Make sure you know what you are trying and why: Find reliable information sources, not stores or websites that want to sell you something, or friends with you anecdotal information
  • Keep your doctor informed
  • Don’t think “either-or”: During an emergency, an asthma attack or cancer may best be treated with a conventional approach. You may switch back when the emergency has passed.
Today people who have been exposed to integrative medicine, prefer the customized, personal care and the whole-person perspective. Because integrative medicine is an approach that puts the patient at the center of care and addresses the full gamut of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health, the benefits are myriad. By employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient's unique conditions, needs and circumstances, integrative medicine uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimal health, thus the effectiveness is greatly enhanced. Current review finds cost effectiveness in more than two dozen high quality studies. Integrative medicine lifestyle change programs have done exceedingly well for those with chronic disease, for people experiencing depression and as strategies to support wellness in all populations.