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Integrative Medicine

The Integrative Medicine Wheel is a practical tool for introducing the concept of integrative medicine to health care practitioners and the lay public. It graphically illustrates the spectrum of modalities comprised by the field of integrative medicine. It’s purpose is to inspire dialog about treatment options for a given health condition, and complementary relationships among them.   

This principle of complementarity is at the heart of integrative medicine. An abundance of research shows that integrating multiple forms of medicine together in an organized way can be more effective than relying on any one approach by itself. For example:

  1. Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and surgery have reduced side effects, faster recovery, and improved survival rates when they combine these treatments with massage, mind/body medicine, herbal medicine, and nutritional medicine. 

  2. Heart disease patients can halt and even reverse their disease process when they integrate mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle and behavior change with their regular treatment.

  3. People with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia can reduce their symptoms and improve their odds of recovery with the combined use of mind/body medicine, nutritional medicine, lifestyle and behavior change, and pharmaceutical drugs.

  4. There is experimental evidence that antibiotic drugs to which bacteria have become resistant may have renewed effectiveness when combined with certain herbs.

The mounting research in this field tells us that virtually all health conditions can benefit from an integrative approach. However, there is also evidence that certain combinations of therapies should be avoided. For example, some herbs can block the effects of certain drugs while other herbs can enhance or exaggerate them. The wise use of integrative medicine requires a balanced understanding of complementarities and conflicts.  

The eight forms of medicine on The Integrative Medicine Wheel are described as follows:

  1. Mind/body Medicine uses the pathways of communication between mind and body to promote physical health. Methods include imagery, relaxation training, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis, hypnotherapy, autogenic training, psychotherapy, and group therapy.

  2. Energy Medicine works with the energy system of the body, or treats with energies introduced from outside. Methods include acupuncture, homeopathy, energy-based touch therapies (Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Reiki), qi gong (chi kung), breath therapies (pranayama, transformational breath work), spiritual healing, flower essences, magnetic therapies, and electrical stimulation.

  3. Manipulative Therapies use the physical manipulation of soft tissue or the musculoskeletal system to promote healing. Methods include chiropractic, osteopathy, massage therapy, bodywork, physical therapy and hydrotherapy.

  4. Surgery includes all invasive surgical procedures.

  5. Pharmaceutical Drugs includes all forms of synthetic drugs, prescription and over-the-counter.

  6. Herbal Medicine includes Western herbs, Chinese Herbs, Ayurvedic herbs, and aromatherapy.

  7. Nutritional Medicine includes specific dietary therapies and nutritional supplementation.

  8. Lifestyle & Behavior includes general eating habits, work habits, stress reduction, self-healing practices, exercise, rest, sleep, intimate relationships, social support and spiritual involvement. 

An integrative approach involves a thoughtful inquiry into the benefits of each of these forms of treatment for a given health condition. Priorities are set after careful consideration of their relative contributions, their complementarities, and any potential conflicts between modalities.   

Integrative medicine is not a matter of trying to do everything all at once — not indiscriminately “throwing in everything and the kitchen sink”. An individual’s plan is tailored which follows the priorities while also taking into account the person’s unique circumstances and resources, so that he or she is most likely to follow through.

FOR MORE INFORMATION… Dr. Collinge is available to speak to professional groups and the lay public on the emerging paradigm of integrative health care. Contact him directly to discuss details.

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