The ABCs of Integrative Medicine

Medical provider

There are various terms used for different types of medicine and it is hard to keep them all straight in our heads.  Whether we’re talking about integrative medicine, conventional medicine, alternative medicine or complementary medicine – it can get all too confusing.  There are lots of different choices when we search for our health care treatment, and it is not easy to stay on the top of all terminology being used to describe different styles of medicinal approach.

Below we are going to describe the basics of most common used medicinal approaches in the Western culture.

Integrative medicine combines both conventional and complementary medicine and uses best available research and evidence. It looks at the patient as a whole and connects mind, body and spirit as one in order to achieve complete healing of both mind and body.

Complementary medicine uses acupuncture, yoga, aromatherapy, tai chi etc. and is considered non-conventional approach to healing. However, it is often used in addition to conventional medicine. One example would be using meditation or yoga classes in addition to depression and anxiety treatment. So, essentially it is the medicine that complements conventional medicine. Don’t be reluctant to bring up complementary medicine approach to your medical doctor as lots of doctors are open to complementary medical care. Some may be sceptic as not all methods of treatment are proven, but you should certainly discuss your options with the medical doctor as he or she can help you make an informed decision about your complementary care and point out any risk associated with it. If you do choose to use complementary care, make sure you advise your medical doctor about all the herbal supplements you use so there wouldn’t be any contraindications with the prescribed drugs. Natural healing products also have side effects and just because it is called natural product or natural treatment does not necessarily mean it is safe.

Conventional medicine also known as Western medicine is type of the medicine that is practiced by medical doctors and is supported by Western countries health care system. It is the most approved of type of medicine.

Alternative medicine is used by the people in order to replace conventional medicine. Types of alternative medicine are naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic etc. An example of using alternative medicine is using an herbal product instead of medication prescribed by the medical doctor. Person that prefers to use alternative medicine often visits homeopath instead of medical doctor.

Mind-body techniques are the techniques that involve connection between our mind and body. We still don’t have a full understanding of how mind and body are connected but there are several ways or techniques where power of mind prevailed over the power of body and helped people ease the symptoms of their illness. In such situations, people have reported to use less prescribed drugs and rely more on these techniques, some of them centuries old:

  • Meditation is a spiritual practice that promotes self-awareness and focuses on deep breathing and relaxation. Meditation helps greatly in stress reduction and can be done anywhere.
  • Biofeedback is a therapy that has a focus on our involuntary bodily response such as pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, brain activity etc. In this therapy we learn how to control those involuntary bodily responses.
  • Yoga is philosophy that incorporates peace of mind and body through exercise that differs in intensity and level of difficulty. It includes breathing techniques and promotes awareness, while reduces impact of stress on people’s lives and improves flexibility.  Yoga has gained a momentum in Western culture and many people practice it regularly in order to release their mind and body from accumulated tension.
  • Hypnosis is conducted by a trained specialist who brings person into an altered state of mind or consciousness in order to either change or control unwanted behaviour. During hypnosis people can have altered emotions and state of physical well-being or even stop some behaviour completely. Lots of people have successfully used hypnosis in order to help them quit smoking.

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