Each and every one of us play an integral role in the quality of our own personal healthcare. Just listening to your doctor alone isn’t enough. It would be like going to the dentist twice a year, but never brushing your teeth. You need to be asking questions, educating yourself and making an effort to live a healthy lifestyle. Integrative medicine combines conventional medicine with alternative therapies to provide a holistic style of healthcare. It gives you the opportunity to function as a team player in your body’s state of wellness, and helps to address both the symptoms and causes of your health concerns.
As a medical doctor, I use an integrative approach to help my patients deal with chronic pain. Time and time again, I’ve seen the benefits and success of this approach. Here are four reasons it might help you as well.
How Integrative Medicine Can Help with Pain Relief
1. Focus on health, not disease
Health is about more than just being free of disease. It about personalized care, predictive care and preventative care. In practice, integrative medicine considers physical health, psychological health and social health, with a focus on prevention and disease minimization.
This approach typically takes more time than conventional medicine and requires more effort from the patient as well. An integrative medicine practitioner will act more as a guide or partner in your healing journey. By recognizing the body’s innate ability to heal and providing self care strategies, you become empowered to assume control of your health.
Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons that people will seek integrative care, even if that means paying for it out of their own pocket. Integrative medicine works to provide a more well rounded picture of health, rather than just treating disease. Factors like obesity, nutritional status, stress levels, social support, coping skills, ergonomics, and exercise are all considered.
2. Lower your risks
Conventional medicine will often answer to pain with pharmaceutical intervention. And while painkilling drugs do have their place, and can work extremely well in short-term case, they lose their effectiveness over time and they do come with risks.
Serious adverse effects to medications and an escalating rate of unintentional overdoses from prescription opioids can make patients feel uneasy about their treatment plans. Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause digestive issues that inhibit your body’s overall ability to absorb nutrients from food and give you higher rates of kidney and heart disease and reduced healing of injuries.
Pain management techniques in conventional care including surgery and drugs are not adequately addressing the growing population of chronic pain patients.
Instead integrative medicine can provide alternative care options to work alongside conventional treatments or instead of, to help mitigate risky side effects. Therapies including yoga, massage, chiropractic care and acupuncture can all be beneficial for those suffering from pain.
3. Consider nutrition
An integrative medicine approach will assess your nutritional status, and examine the way that you eat. This is important because you change your body chemistry every single time that you eat. Food can increase or decrease inflammation in the body contributing to pain and chronic illness. Inflammation can lead to free radical damage of tissues, impede healing mechanisms and reduce pH levels that affect normal enzymatic reactions that are essential for healthy cellular function.
Studies have shown how eating an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, fish and healthy oils, but low in meat can improve overall health and lower inflammation.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) isn’t nearly as healthy. It’s generally full of processed foods and far too high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. We end up with a surplus of calories, yet deficient in micronutrients. Hi-glycemic foods also contribute to insulin resistance, diabetes and weight gain. They send your body into a pro-inflammatory state impacting your body’s level of pain.
4. Connect your mind and body
Conventional medicine typically compartmentalizes the body according to symptoms and disease, when we really need to start acknowledging the connection that exists between our mind and bodies.
The amount of stress that you feel on a day to day basis can affect how much pain you physically feel. Chronic stress creates a pro-inflammatory state in the body that aggravates your pain, then that pain creates further stress.
Mindfulness practices can positively influence our emotional regulation, behaviour and cognition helping to reduce the effects of chronic stress and pain.
Integrative medicine practitioners practice mind-body medicine encouraging mindfulness, meditation, biofeedback and yoga whenever it would benefit a patient’s condition or lifestyle. Integrative medicine encourages a team approach with practitioners of may backgrounds to help.
Chew on this
Integrative medicine strikes the perfect balance between conventional medicine and alternative medicine. It’s not a case of one being better than the other, but rather combining the powers of both for optimal healing. As a patient it is as much your responsibility to care for your health as it is your doctors.
What are your thoughts on integrative medicine? Share them with us in the comments below.