There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about integrative healthcare, taking a “whole-person” approach, and clinics promoting alternative healthcare alongside traditional medicine. So, what’s the deal with that?
Taking a holistic or integrative approach to healthcare has become more popular in recent years as the evidence continues to stack up supporting the idea that our mind and body are connected in ways we can no longer ignore (like in the popular book The Body Keeps the Score). Additionally, we’ve gained more research and understanding into the benefits of many popular alternative health therapies such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc.
Here are some benefits to taking a holistic approach to your health:
Shifting Focus From Symptoms to Root Cause
Up until recently, a lot of how we look at our health has been focused on symptoms. If symptoms pointed to a general idea of a certain diagnosis that was explored with medical tests like lab work to confirm that diagnosis, otherwise the goal has always been to treat the symptoms instead of listening to what they’re telling us.
A holistic approach takes into consideration that symptoms often arise to tell us something about what is going on with our bodies. Yes, sometimes these symptoms connect to a particular diagnosis that can be treated traditionally with medicine, surgeries or other treatments but rarely do we explore the root cause for those symptoms or dive deeper into why we developed that particular issue.
Holistic or integrative health works with your doctor and their approach and diagnosis and adds to it. It doesn’t discount your doctor or specialist, it just adds another layer of care and provides more options for how you can manage your health concerns. For example, if you have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia your doctor may provide you with various medications for your pain and symptoms, which can greatly improve your quality of life but come with side effects. With the additional care of a chiropractor, massage therapist or naturopathic doctor you may be able to improve those symptoms and better manage your pain with manual therapies and lifestyle changes so that you can potentially decrease your use of those medications (with doctor support).
Acknowledging the Connection Between Mind and Body
The connection between mind and body is a popular topic as of late. With popular books like The Body Keeps the Score and When the Body Says No, more and more healthcare practitioners and patients are becoming aware of the need to look at how our feelings and mental health are playing a role in our physical health.
With holistic health, both mental health and physical health are considered when diagnosing and treating ailments. In many cases, your doctor will now ask about your stress levels and mental health when you come in with a concern, and will often recommend psychotherapy or other mental health resources in conjunction with traditional interventions.
The most important benefit of a holistic approach to your health is that it’s truly personalized care. Recently, many doctors’ offices have begun to offer more alternative health therapies, partner with local complementary health practitioners and in some cases even form fully integrative health clinics like Integra Health Centre.
This fully integrative (holistic) model allows the whole-person approach to healthcare to be fully actualized. Creating a healthcare team that consists of more than just your family doctor allows you to address your whole health and lifestyle by making use of practitioners that are specialists in their particular field and ultimately customizing your approach to healthcare to suit your needs.
For example, if you’ve been having issues with your hip and visit your doctor and they suggest hip replacement surgery “in the near future.” That doesn’t have to be the be-all-end-all for that particular concern. Complementary therapies like chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy before and after surgery can not only postpone the need for surgery, in some cases, by months or years by helping with movement and pain management but it can also aid in healing and recovery post-op. Additionally, if you struggle with the idea of potentially losing some of your mobility, having the support of a therapist can help you learn better ways to cope with those feelings so they don’t have a negative impact on your health and healing.
All in all, a holistic approach to health can teach you that you are an active participant in your health outcomes. Traditional medicine is an important part of healthcare but with the addition of complementary and integrative therapy, you can take a whole-person approach to your health that can help you better understand how your mental health, lifestyle, job, etc all play into how you feel physically.
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