Tag Archives: alternative medicine

5 Steps to Choosing Your Integrative Medicine Practitioner

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, AnimaBandit

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, AnimaBandit

When faced with a multitude of options, it’s easy to leave decision-making up to the close-your-eyes and point method. The Whack-a-Mole method might be an OK way to decide which party to attend or which pair of pants to wear, but when it comes to choosing an integrative medicine practitioner, you’ll want to make an informed decision.

Integrative health care, also known as alternative or complementary medicine, used to be seen as a rejection of mainstream medicine because consumers often chose to rely solely on the alternative – like homeopathy or Reiki. Since then, many consumers have taken a more integrative approach by augmenting, rather than replacing, their primary health care with alternative practices.

Over time, mainstream physicians have also become more accepting of the integrative approach, even without conclusive clinical evidence, because consumers are demanding it and claiming better health outcomes. Integrative Medicine is now taught, practiced and researched in nearly half the medical schools in the country, including many leading universities such as Duke and Stanford. And, recent evidence showing the success of Integrative Medicine in clinical studies has brought it into the conversation on health care reform as well.

Because of its growing acceptance and popularity, there are many more integrative health care practitioners to choose from which can be overwhelming when it comes to deciding who to work with.

What’s the best way to go about finding an integrative health practitioner? Everyone has their own unique approach to decision-making. People also come to their need for alternative medicine from many different angles. You may have witnessed a friend with a similar health issue recover dramatically, and want to pursue that option yourself.  Or your health care provider may be recommending an alternative approach in addition to their care.  Or you may have heard about it on TV or through other media sources. Whichever way you come to it and no matter how you tend to make decisions, here are some basic guidelines to help in your process.

5 Steps to Choosing Your Integrative Medicine Practitioner 

1. Have a goal.

We’ve talked about the imporance of goal setting before. Don’t do it just because everyone else is doing it, and don’t follow someone else’s protocol.  Know for yourself what your issue is, why you want to pursue an alternative therapy and what your expectations and boundaries are.

2. Do a little research.

Look into this practice and determine 1) What it is and 2) What types of issues it’s best suited for.

3. Get a referral if you can.

It may come through a friend who has worked with someone who was helpful. You could even ask your primary health care provider for a referral.  A hospital or medical school near you may have a listing of local practitioners either online or by request.  Also, there are many professional organizations for specific practitioner groups which are great resources.   A good place to start is the Alternative Medicine Foundation or The Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine (FAIM).

4. Shop around.  

Once you have a few practitioners in mind, look into their education and experience. Check out their credentials on their website. Call them up for more information about cost, and if they’re amenable, ask some questions about their experience treating patients with problems similar to yours, and their philosophy of care.

5. Make an appointment.

At your first meeting, you could ask about benefits, risks, scientific studies to back up this therapy’s use, and how long treatment will take.  Consider how comfortable you are with the person, how confident you feel in their abilities, and how well you feel they answered your questions.

Relax and engage in the process once you’ve found someone you like, respect and trust.  It’s your body, mind and spirit and you are a partner with your health care practitioners in your own well-being. Feel good knowing you’re doing something positive for yourself.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Consumer Health & Integrative Medicine

Faced with a dizzying array of health issues and options, consumers are increasingly choosing to combine the best of western medicine with other practices such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs.  This broader approach, known as integrative, complementary or alternative medicine has the potential to offer consumers more benefits and better health than conventional medicine alone.

This is one of the reasons why a perceptible shift has occurred in the way people address their health and wellness needs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) 38 percent of adults and about 12 percent of children under 18 used some form of alternative medicine in 2007.The same study showed that out-of-pocket spending on complementary and alternative medicines was estimated at $34 billion in a single year.

So what exactly are they spending their money on? Integrative medicine is a broad term that includes many different methods and modalities.  What unifies them is an approach that puts the patient at the center of care, and takes into account the full range of influences on a person’s health —  physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental factors.

Integrative medicine might include acupuncture, tai chi, deep breathing and other relaxation techniques to reduce pain and stress; nutritional and herbal supplements to manage disease, boost immune function and optimize health; and group support, yoga and meditation to change unhealthy habits.

Although Integrative Medicine may be considered a brand-new approach, the fundamentals come from longstanding practices. Disciplines include Chinese medicine, meditation and yoga as well as  ancient herbal healing remedies that have been used for millennia.  It is also informed by modern knowledge from other disciplines like psychology, nutrition, physical fitness, and environmental health. All of this collective wisdom across disciplines and through the ages come together to increase our health today.

This offers many advantages for a consumer.

  • First, integrative medicine takes a holistic approach, which is lacking in our current medical system. Typically, a patient has a different specialist addressing each of their health issues separately, which obscures the big picture.  This increases the possibility of important clues falling through the cracks that might have led to a cure.
  • Second, our health is not a matter of body alone.  Mind, body and spirit are interconnected and each play a role.  All aspects of a person’s life affect their health.  Ideally, Integrative Medicine does not treat symptoms alone but tries to get at the root of the problem.
  • A third benefit of the holistic approach is that practitioners tend to spend more time getting to know and understand the patient, which helps them treat the patient more effectively. For instance, at Duke Integrative Medicine, Integrative Health Coaches are an essential part of their healthcare team.  These coaches form a supportive, structured partnership with the participant which facilitates successful health outcomes.

Because Integrative Medicine includes lots of different therapeutic options, it also means more patients can find a solution to their particular health issue. Fewer patients are disappointed, more patients are helped.  For instance, people respond differently to treatment.  Whereas one diabetes patient may have a successful outcome with insulin shots alone, another might need more support if their baseline health is not as good. They could benefit from working with a nutritionist and by taking herbal supplements that strengthen their circulation or ability to stabilize sugar levels.

Another example might be a patient with fibromyalgia or cancer who is dealing with a lot of physical pain that negatively affects their emotions which in turn might hinder the healing process.  This patient could be helped with guided meditation or relaxation techniques to reduce pain and stress.

The most important aspect of integrative medicine is the idea that each of us has within us an innate capacity for healing that can be supported and enhanced in order that we can each experience an organic and optimal vitality. We at WellnessFX support all methods which put you in control of your health.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Creative Health Gifts for the Holidays: Acupuncture

During this season of generosity, we are all looking for creative gifts for the important people in our lives. DVD collections, the newest gadget and cozy sweaters are always welcome.  Here at WellnessFX we always look to provide the gift of good health. This year try expanding your loved ones’ healthcare horizons and introducing them to an alternative medical option that could augment their more modern regimens: acupuncture.

Even in this technology-driven, scientific age, there are many forms of traditional treatments like acupuncture, nutrition and massage that can provide relief for our more modern maladies. Through both anecdotal and experimental evidence, it has become increasingly clear that these ancient options can provide substantial health benefits.

Acupuncture has received accolades for contributing to relieve ailments as diverse as fibromyalgia, cancer, osteoporosis and chronic pain. The medical uses of acupuncture go back 5,000 years as a key element of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but it didn’t emerge in the mainstream American medical vocabulary until the 1970s. Since then, researchers have tried to measure and quantify the results of acupuncture and determine its value as part of an integrated medical approach.

TCM asserts that the energy in our bodies is balanced through the forces of yin and yang that can be destabilized by disease. This, in turn, disrupts the flow of qi, or vital energy, that courses through meridians and surges throughout the body. Acupuncture administered along the intersections of these meridians frees these channels and restores your qi. According to some sources, there are up to 2,000 acupuncture points throughout the body that can be affected through the practice.

Over the last few decades, strides have been made in the healthcare community towards recognizing the important role that acupuncture can play for patients. In 1996, the National Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles as a medical device, and nowadays many insurance providers will help cover acupuncture as an accepted treatment.

For those that have not experienced acupuncture, the process can vary based on the individual, but consists of hair-thin needles strategically inserted over your body. Some people find the process invigorating, while others find themselves more relaxed. The relationship with your acupuncturist is important, and you must make sure that they are aware of any other treatments or medications that you are taking. While the practitioner may go into the session with a plan for how to tackle your particular medical complaints, acupuncture has been compared to an “art form” because of the delicacy in reading each individual reaction and adapting the treatment.

Multiple studies have confirmed that acupuncture holds real value in pain and nausea management with the benefit of causing limited side effects. As with any treatments, make sure that you consult your doctor before undergoing acupuncture. Also, be sure to find a licensed practitioner with the proper knowledge and training to administer this delicate treatment.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.