What Is Integrative Medicine?

What Is Integrative Medicine?
Ayesha Aman Internist Plano, TX

Dr. Aman is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of Integrative Medicine at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Her passion for prevention began prior to attending medical school during her years conducting research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well... more

Integrative medicine is a new philosophy and a new direction in medicine which shifts the focus from a disease-based model of healthcare to a proactive, preventive, and holistic model. Integrative Medicine takes into account the whole person (mind, body, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It unites the best of state-of-the-art conventional medical treatments with complementary therapies that are carefully selected and shown to be effective and safe by high-quality scientific evidence. Such therapies include the use of botanicals, acupuncture, massage, mind-body practices (mindfulness, clinical hypnosis, guided meditation), Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and many others. The science supporting these therapies is undeniable and more and more doctors and patients are recognizing that this is the approach for them.

Because the approach is holistic, integrative medicine takes into account the many interrelated factors that affect health, wellness, and disease, including nutrition, sleep, relationships, community, and spirituality. By utilizing both conventional and complementary therapies, integrative practitioners are able to get to the root cause of the problem and are often able to minimize medication use and invasive procedures. For example, a patient who is experiencing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can first try therapeutic massage before turning to nerve conduction studies or even surgery. Trigger points in the scalene muscles (muscles in the front of the neck) can result from acute or chronic overuse. These trigger points can refer pain into the shoulder, down the arm, the wrist, and/or parts of the hand and fingers. Trigger points in the scalenes are often incorrectly assessed as carpal tunnel syndrome. This pain can often be eliminated by addressing the trigger points in your neck with a few sessions of Trigger Point Therapy by a skilled massage therapist.

Many people are familiar with using acupuncture for pain relief, but that is just a small part of what acupuncture can do. In an official report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed several symptoms, diseases, and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture.

These include:

The most important factor when entering into any relationship is to know if you share similar values, beliefs, and philosophies. This is also true when entering into a relationship with your healthcare provider.  

Integrative medicine practitioners include physicians of every specialty as well as doctors of osteopathic medicine, mental health professionals, mind-body specialists, and others. Their educational and accreditation requirements vary widely, as does the regulation of their fields. Therefore, it is important to research what type of training you are looking for your provider to have before choosing an integrative practitioner.

It is an exciting time in medicine! Being able to incorporate the best of all medical and healing approaches offers physicians a wealth of options for their patients that previously didn’t exist. Most importantly, it has brought the focus back to healing.

Integrative medicine emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between patient and physician, which is the foundation for an effective partnership in achieving optimum health and wellness.