What Is the Difference Between Integrative And Complementary Medicine?

Integrative and complementary medicine

More people than ever are now turning to integrative and complementary medicine as part of their overall health plan. Some believe the conventional treatments they receive don’t cater to their specific needs, while others are determined to examine every viable option to reduce pain and other unpleasant symptoms.

“I would feel so relaxed when she removed the needles,” said Rebecca, a breast cancer survivor who turned to acupuncture after undergoing a mastectomy and losing her appetite as a result. “I had no feeling at all that they were coming out. And afterward, I’d be hungry. REALLY hungry…acupuncture is a kinder, gentler way of healing and it has helped to reduce my pain and get me back to a normal weight.”

What Is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is a combination therapy that fuses modern medicine with other reputable approaches from around the world. It focuses on the whole person and addresses all aspects of health and illness including biological, psychological, spiritual and social. It also places importance on the relationship between physician and patient by encouraging a collaborative approach to your care.

What Is Complementary Medicine?

Complementary medicine is defined by the National Institutes of Health as the “broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies that mainstream Western (conventional) medicine does not commonly use, accept, study, understand, or make available.”

What Types Of Therapies Does This Include?

Acupuncture: Tiny, stainless steel needles are inserted into the skin in various pressure points throughout the body. This staple of Chinese medicine is designed to stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities.

Biofield therapies: These treatments are designed to manipulate the body’s own healing energy and can include reiki, qigong and healing touch.

Massage therapy: This popular treatment can help take a patient’s mind off pain by encouraging the body to release natural painkillers promoting a state of deep relaxation.

Yoga: Many people assume yoga is strenuous, but there are types which can be practiced at any level of health and fitness. Not only can it help strengthen weak muscles and stretch tight ones, but it also provides helpful relaxation techniques.

What Are The Benefits?

Research from the National center for Complementary and Integrative Health shows that acupuncture can help manage symptoms including pain, nausea, insomnia and hot flashes. For women who have just completed breast cancer treatment, yoga is proven to reduce some of the chronic fatigue that can be experienced. And for those with advanced cancer, massage therapy can provide short-term pain relief while boosting overall mood.

Are There Any Risks?

Even competent, licensed professionals sometimes lack sufficient knowledge to inform patients about their options for complementary medicine. A January 2005 report from the Institute of Medicine of National Academies found that less than 40 percent of alternative therapies are disclosed to physicians. Because of this, well-intentioned doctors sometimes recommend complementary medicine treatments that negatively interact with more conventional ones.

Will My Insurance Cover This?

Every insurance plan has drastically different policies, especially when it comes to complementary medicine. One insurance company might cover acupuncture, another may only cover a specific number of sessions and another might not provide any compensation. Before beginning treatment, contact your insurance provider to learn more about your coverage and if it covers the therapies you want. You should also confirm with the practitioner that they accept your insurance plan.

Talking With Your Doctor

Consult with your doctor first if you’re thinking about incorporating integrative or complementary medicines into your treatment. Not only should they be informed of anything you’re doing as part of your healthcare strategy, but they may even be able to recommend a qualified practitioner. Once you have their information, contact them and find out what services they offer.