Health and Fitness

Published on April 14th, 2009 | by Guest Contributor


Address Your Health Concerns with Integrative Medicine

With healthcare having become such a question mark in the last few years, Americans are looking for ways to take a more active role in addressing the needs of their health. The advance of global medicines opens up a number of new health care options for Americans. With it’s wide variety of safe and effective treatments, many people are turning to the curative power of Integrative Medicine.

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative Medicine refers to healthcare services and education not often found in traditional Western medical centers. Integrative Medicine incorporates the art and science of caring for the whole person – body, mind and spirit – to treat and prevent disease, encouraging patients to create optimal health conditions.

Unlike contemporary Western medicine, many global medicines offer holistic health care treatment whose results have not necessarily undergone traditional ‘lab research’ verification. Mind-body techniques, energy healing and manipulative body-based practices are not necessarily easy to quantify. Integrative Medicine centers are attempting to bridge this gap by providing an evidence-based, patient-centered approach to holistic health care.

Photo by thomaswanhoff.Energy Work

Energy Work

What is the difference between CAM and Integrative Medicine? Integrative medicine is often confused with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) so it’s worth taking a few minutes to understand the difference. Complementary and alternative medicine is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. They differ in that one is used in conjunction with conventional practices while the other is used in lieu.

* Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. For example, aromatherapy (a therapy in which the scent of essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees is inhaled to promote health) helps lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.

* Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. For example, diet and nutrition might be used to treat cancer instead of the usual surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy recommended by a conventional doctor.

A Growing Interest in Integrative Medicine

A recent study by the National Institute of Health (NIH)’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) ( and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that 36 percent of adults in the U.S. reported use of some form of complementary or alternative medicines, and when megavitamin therapy and prayer, specifically for health reasons, are included in the definition of CAM, that number rises to 62 percent.

What medicines are covered in Integrative Medical Care?

Truth be told there are a number of different medical practices that are covered and each Integrative Medicine Center is unique in their offering. While NCCAM groups the practices into four domains, there is indeed some overlap. Additionally, NCCAM studies CAM whole medical systems, which cut across all domains.

Photo by Larsz.Accupuncture Treatment

Accupuncture Treatment

Whole Medical Systems Whole medical systems pertain to complete systems of theory and practice that have evolved apart from and earlier than conventional Western Medicine:

• Homeopathic medicine – Originally from Europe, homeopathy stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself by giving very small doses of highly diluted substances that in larger doses would produce illness.

• Naturopathic medicine – Also originally from Europe, naturopathy supports the body’s ability to heal itself through the diet and lifestyle.

• Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – Originally from China, this medicine aims to balance the disruption in the flow of qi (a mind-body energy) and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang (the male and female energies in the mind-body). Therapies used include herbs, meditation, massage, and acupuncture.

• Ayurveda – Originally from India, this medicine integrates the body, mind, and spirit to prevent and treat disease. Therapies used include herbs, massage, and yoga.

Mind-Body Medicine

Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect the body’s function. Examples of mind-body medicine include behavioral therapy (which has subsequently become mainstream), meditation, prayer, mental healing, and creative therapies such as art, music, or dance.

Biologically Based

Practices Biologically based practices use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Examples include dietary supplements and herbal products.

Manipulative and Body-Based

Practices Manipulative and body-based practices are based on the application of controlled force to the muscular tissue or to a joint, moving it beyond the normal range of motion in an effort to aid in restoring health. Examples include chiropractic medicine, osteopathic manipulation and massage.

Energy Medicine

Energy medicine is based upon the use of energy fields to aid the healing process.

* Biofield therapies affect energy fields that surround and penetrate the human body. Some forms of energy therapy, such as qi gong (which is considered to be an aspect of TCM), manipulate biofields by applying pressure and/or manipulating the body by placing the hands in, or through, these fields. Reiki is a therapy in which practitioners seek to transmit a universal energy to a person’s spirit, from a distance or by placing their hands on or near that person.

* Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies heal via machine-generated electromagnetic fields such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating current or direct-current fields.

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