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Overview

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the popular name for health care practices that traditionally have not been part of conventional medicine. In many cases, as evidence of efficacy and safety grows, these therapies are being combined with conventional medicine.

Thus, the term alternative has been dropped and replaced with newer terms, such as complementary and integrative medicine, integrative medicine and health, or just integrative medicine.

Why Integrative Medicine ?

Integrative medicine can help people with cancer, persistent pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and many other conditions better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by reducing fatigue, pain and anxiety.

Examples of common practices include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Animal-Assisted Therapy
  • Aromatherapy
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Massage Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Meditation

Benefits

Integrative medicine is healing-oriented rather than disease-focused.

It promotes the combination of mind, body and spirit to regain the body's natural equilibrium to achieve health.

The five most common advantages of integrative medicine cited by patients and practitioners include:

  1. Being Healing-Oriented

    Integrative medicine's focus, like the ancient systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, is about wellness, vitality and healing, rather than focusing just on the disease. It begins with the assumption that there is a physiologic balance that is disrupted and leads to the manifestations of illness and disease. Regaining the body's natural state of equilibrium can restore this balance and promote health.

  2. Focus on the mind, body and spirit

    Too often patients go to doctors with multiple symptoms affecting multiple organ systems and see different practitioners for each of their problems. Integrative medicine puts the focus on how various symptoms may be connected and searches for root causes, rather than just treating individual symptoms. The focus becomes restoring balance and considering factors that may affect the patient's ability to adhere to recommendations such as cultural dietary restrictions or the inability to adhere to an exercise program because of work obligations.

  3. Emphasizing the therapeutic relationship

    There is a new focus on the practitioner-patient partnership forcing us to look at certain questions: How has the clinician's role changed? Are there better ways to treat health problems that can only be managed, not cured? The integrative partnership guides and advises patients regarding treatment options. Together, practitioner and patient decide on the best plan of action. In the management of chronic diseases, attention is placed on meeting the patient where they are at the moment. By addressing obstacles to lifestyle changes and treatment adherence, there is a higher likelihood of success with the recommended therapy.

  4. Personalized Medicine

    Recommendations may vary in integrative treatment plans according to each individual's unique situation. In tailoring treatment plans to individual needs, practitioners scrutinize the literature often using the scientific method to evaluate alternative therapies the same way as traditional therapies. Integrative assessments are highly personalized. Patients are asked about everything from environmental exposures to personal relationships. All factors are considered when determining whether or not an individual stays healthy.

  5. Using all appropriate therapies

    By combining traditional allopathic treatment options along with mind-body therapies, such as yoga and meditation, a treatment plan is developed that utilizes the least invasive and most cost-effective therapies first. Attaining a sense of "well-being" is especially important in cases where cure is not always possible. Most integrative providers prescribe treatments amenable to scientific investigation. However, patients are not dissuaded from using certain treatments as long as the proposed remedies are proven to be safe.