Introduction to Integrative Medicine

 In Current Blog

October 20, 2015
By: Dr. Boukaram

Integrative medicine is a new and little known term. It’s the perfect combination of conventional medicine and complementary treatments that aims to ensure recovery from and ongoing health after illness. It is a method that is particularly effective for the treatment of cancer.

Origins of Integrative Medicine

American doctors Andrew Weil and David Einsenberg are the main pioneers of integrative medicine, which initially appeared in the United States in the 1990s. It is a concept that emerged following the observation of lifestyle changes in human beings, both in terms of nutrition and physical activity and also well-being and stress management. Proposing a new vision of health, this new approach to medicine involves therapies that pay particular attention to the relationship between doctor and patient.

At the Crossroads of Conventional Medicine and Complementary Medicine

In the world of health and healthcare, conventional medicine is that which is the most known and the most common of all the methods: a practice that consists of treating patients with the use of medications, therapies, or surgery. Complementary medicine (also known as non-conventional medicine) is a method that consists of diagnosing, preventing, treating and curing both physical and mental illnesses with the use of knowledge, practices and competencies originating from the theories and experience of a particular culture. It includes a variety of therapies and techniques such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and many others.

Integrative medicine is a blend of the different forms of therapies used in conventional and complementary medicine. This approach that operates on the body and the mind proposes different options at each essential step in the prevention or treatment of a disease. Improved care and patients’ health are the ultimate goal. Integrative medicine draws from multiple medical approaches in any given clinical situation; it combines different therapeutic practices approved by paramedical practitioners, medical teams, and most importantly the patient.

A Scientifically Based and Reliable Approach

Of course, integrative medicine uses the principles of complementary medicine. It only includes those approaches that have been scientifically tested and approved, however. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has clearly stipulated that integrative medicine combines the therapies of conventional medicine and complementary medicine that are supported by reliable clinical data. The effectiveness and safety of treatments are of utmost importance.

In fact, much like conventional techniques, integrative techniques are gaining more attention in university research centres and so complementary approaches to therapy are becoming the focal point of studies carried out by these institutions.

The Patient: The Main Pillar for Healing

In integrative medicine, the patient is central to the treatment process in order to ensure its effectiveness. Establishing an environment of trust and confidence between patient and doctor is of very high importance in this discipline. In fact, the aim is to focus the approach directly on the patient in order for better results. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are encouraged to better know and understand their patients’ state of health (and state of mind!) in order to ensure better ongoing care following treatment.

The process in integrative medicine involves acquiring as much information as possible about patients in order to direct them towards the most appropriate forms of treatment and care. The recovery and well-being of an individual depends on several different variables. All elements that are part of a person’s lifestyle must be taken into account (physical activity, nutrition, sleep, stress, work environment, etc.). All of these facets of one’s lifestyle can contribute to any given patient’s health problems, and according to integrative medicine, all factors that can have an influence on a person’s health must be considered and analyzed.

Integrative Medicine for Cancer

Cancer is a chronic illness that affects more and more individuals. Cancer treatments are burdensome and can stretch out over long periods of time. Facing cancer can therefore provoke serious psychological problems for patients, on top of the pain and other difficulties they already experience.

Several studies have demonstrated that integrative medicine positively influences the health of individuals affected by cancer. In particular, studies point to this new medical approach that brings important and effective relief for cancer symptoms.

For example, researchers at Oxford University have demonstrated that pain experienced by cancer patients is reduced by 46% following acupuncture treatments, medical massage, meditation and relaxation. Furthermore, these different interventions also played an important role in a 56% decrease in anxiety levels. According to Dr. Jeffery Dusek, the effectiveness of different integrative medicine interventions are sometimes just as remarkable as the use of medications. Used together, these interventions work even better.


This entry was originally posted in French only, on Dr. Boukaram’s blog. To read more:

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