Principle # 9 – Alternative Therapy/Integral Medicine

While continuing my practice as an Emergency Medicine Physician, I came to realize, something just did not feel right.  As I previously shared, a significant number of illnesses that I see are due to poor Lifestyle Choices by patients.  In the Emergency Department, we are treating the end results of poor Lifestyle Choices by patients.  We are essentially taught to treat the illness.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Why aren’t we teaching patients prevention so that they can lessen their chances of acquiring the illness in the first place; and why aren’t we treating the entire patient?  I was trained as a Western Medicine Physician, defined as a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. It has also been identified as allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, and orthodox medicine.

The key words are “To Treat Symptoms and Diseases.”  Why not make an attempt at preventing the Symptoms and Diseases from occurring in the first place?  That always puzzled me, how about you?

A significant problem is people popping pills which have inherent side effects allowing someone to slice and dice without discovering if there are any real alternatives.  It sickens me when I see patients come in with multi-paged med lists.  Are you kidding me!  Here is a novel concept, let’s change our Lifestyle….make better choices so that we can flush most of those medicines down the toilet.  If you are taking that many medications, you must take into account those medications interacting with one another and lessening the supposed effect on the body.

Allow me to share a story.  I incurred a Back Injury in November 2003.  I discovered that I had three herniated discs and spinal stenosis in my lower back.  In addition, occasionally I had to be in a wheelchair and but eventually graduated to using only a cane.  I could not feel my right foot at all. One could have stuck a knife in my foot and I would have only felt pressure, not sharp knife-like pain. I had very little strength in my right lower leg.  I continued to work in the Emergency Department by using a cane and occasionally a wheelchair.  I had several Surgeons look at my MRI and inform me that I needed to have surgery immediately. One of my nursing associates suggested that I see a Surgeon who had previously operated on a number of  some Paramedics backs with excellent results. With great hesitation, my surgery was scheduled. Jokingly I quipped to my surgeon, “You are not going to cut open my back for some type of Boat Payment are you? I knew he was an excellent surgeon, granted by God with great skill,  however, I knew I had to find out whether there were alternative choices.
I contacted numerous Alternative Healing folks seeking information on disc herniation.  Fortunately, one of my Nursing Colleagues, from personal experience, referred me to a young man who a knew a treatment known as  MP Stretch, a therapy center.
My nursing friend was a runner and had injured her knee.  Although she was advised by several orthopedic surgeons that surgery was imperative, she decided to forgo that invasive step obtaining good enough results from therapy that she was able to avoid surgery altogether.
My relationship with Mr. Mike, owner of MP Stretch, began mid December 2003.  At that time, I was walking very poorly with a cane. By February 2004, I was completely cane-free, walking solely on my own.  This was a true revelation to me of the powers of alternative therapy!
Alternative Medicine is based on a Prevention-based Model.   This model approaches medical treatment by placing its focus primarily on proactive measures.  It treats the condition, not the symptoms; it’s more cost effective; the treatment targets the whole body focusing on prevention and personal attention.
Our culture has allowed the healthcare industry to become so powerful and disproportionately lucrative that it is now in the business of illness rather than health. Initially, the healthcare industry’s calling was to treat the sick and to make a difference in folks’ lives.  However, now the calling, their first and primary objective, is to make money.  Most medical schools don’t teach disease prevention, proper diet or exercise as a part of health. Objective measures are emphasized: white blood cell counts, blood pressure readings, etc., instead of how the patient feels.  Health is a lifestyle process.  It is based on wellness care instead of just illness treatment.

What is Integral Medicine?

Integral medicine recognizes that human beings possess emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions that are essential in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the cultivation of wellness. Integral medicine is about being concerned with the whole person rather than the disease, calling on the universal life force (prana or chi) manifested mentally, physically and spiritually. “Body, mind and spirit are operating in self.  Culture and nature, and thus health and healing sicknesses and creating wholeness, are all bound up in a multidimensional tapestry that cannot be cut into without loss”.

What Is Holistic Medicine?

Holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person — body, mind, spirit, and emotions — in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to the holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health — the primary goal of holistic medicine practice — by gaining proper balance in life.

Holistic medicine practitioners believe that the whole person is made up of interdependent parts and if one part is not working properly, all the other parts will be affected. In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect the overall wellbeing of the individual.

In most cases, effective alternative therapies have fewer or no side effects as opposed to the frequent and sometimes severe effects of many prescription medications and other conventional medical treatments…

I am appreciative of the way Alternative Therapy approaches the patient because it informs the patient that they have innate healing powers.  The patient is a person, not a disease.  Healing takes a team approach involving the patient and doctor and addresses all aspects of a person’s life using a variety of health care practices.  Treatment involves fixing the cause of the condition, not just alleviating the symptoms.  It includes patient education on lifestyle changes and self-care to promote wellness. This may include diet, exercisepsychotherapy, relationship and spiritual counseling and complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncturechiropractic care, homeopathy, massage and touch therapy. (Massage and touch therapies relieve stress and give you a sense of well-being. They can relax your body and may improve the circulation of your blood and other body fluids. )

Other Alternative Therapies  consist of affirmations and visualization (also called guided imagery).  Another option is Aromatherapy which is a branch of herbal medicine that uses the medicinal properties found in the oils of various plants. The oils are extracted from the flowers, leaves, branches or roots. The oils can be breathed in directly, added to bathwater, or warmed to produce an aroma.).  Ayurvedic medicine is a medical system that comes from India and is more than 5,000 years old. It is the oldest recorded medical system. In Sanskrit, “ayur” means life and “veda” means knowledge or science, so Ayurveda means the science of life.  Ayurvedic medicine uses natural healing methods like nutrition, herbs, exercise, massage, yoga and meditation to bring your body to a healthy state.  Herbal medicine is another alternative therapy.  The first medicines ever used were derived from plants. Medicinal herbs are used by many people in many cultures around the globe. Herbal medicine is also known as botanical medicine.  Meditation (mind/body medicine/ Mind/body medicine) is based on the idea that the health of the mind affects the health of the body.  Stress and anxiety can negatively affect your immune function and health. Mind/body medicine is based on the idea that the health of the mind affects the health of the body).  Naturopathy, Naturopathic practitioners, called naturopaths, see symptoms as your body’s attempt to restore balance. They use a holistic approach to healing that can include herbal medicine, nutrition, supplements, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, chiropractic, massage and counseling.