By Dr. Andrea Arvan, Kansas City Internal Medicine
The term Integrative Medicine is used so widely and loosely that most patients and physicians are confused by what the term actually means. Integrative Medicine tries to incorporate alternative ways of treating patients with conventional medicine. It does not throw out conventional medicine.
WHAT IS INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE?
The very definition of Integrative Medicine is to INTEGRATE all medical modalities. It includes all factors that influence health. It is true that Integrative Medicine practitioners usually favor more natural approaches, but it is not due to lack of belief in conventional medicine, but rather that the acquisition of knowledge for natural remedies opens up other possibilities from which to choose.
WHAT ARE COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE?
Often heard with the field of Integrative Medicine are the fields of Complementary Medicine and Alternative Medicine. Complementary Medicine incorporates treatments less defined by the scientific community and is to be used alongside conventional medicine. For example, a patient may want to use guided imagery before surgery to reduce postoperative pain. Alternative Medicine is used in place of Conventional Medicine. For example, a patient may choose supplements and a raw vegetable diet therapy to treat a cancer instead of undergoing chemotherapy. As an Integrative Medicine practitioner, it is important to understand both concepts to help advise patients what course they may want to take or not to take.
I FELT COMPELLED TO OFFER SOME SORT OF RELIEF TO PATIENTS
There were no classes in Integrative Medicine when I went to medical school. I had never heard of Complementary Medicine. Even the field of Chiropractory was never discussed. When I was a resident, the attending physician for my continuity clinic was a hardcore Evidence-Based Medicine believer.
It seemed that every week I had a patient complain of chronic back pain. All I could offer was Tylenol and reassurance or maybe physical therapy if their insurance covered it. Narcotics were bad because the patient could get dizzy and fall. Anti-inflammatories were bad because they could cause ulcers and kidney or liver failure. I felt compelled to offer some sort of relief for them but felt imprisoned by the lack of options.
LEARNING ABOUT ACUPUNCTURE
After I moved on to private practice, I was offered the opportunity to attend an acupuncture seminar. Thinking that acupuncture was mostly some sort of pain blocking technique, I thought it would be worth checking it out. I attended the seminar and heard a lot about liver heat and spleen deficiencies, etc. and decided to forget it. I was fresh out of residency and not interested in starting a whole new language of medicine all over again. But I was given a box of needles and told to try it.
ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT HEALED PERSISTENT COUGH
After my return, a physician called me and asked me to see his nurse due to a persistent cough. She had been on multiple antibiotics, multiple meds, steroids, inhalers and had seen specialists without help. He wanted her to see me because he thought I would be a good listener. Sure enough, she explained a history of a year and a half of coughing so hard that people would ask her if she was okay.
Out of sheer desperation, I told her I had just returned from an acupuncture seminar and learned of an important lung point. I asked if I could place a needle there and see if it helped? I was as surprised at my asking her this as she was to hear the request, but she agreed. I placed the needle at CV17 for just 10 minutes. She left my office coughing all the way out. The next day, the physician called me and asked what anti-cough medication I had given her because her cough had disappeared.
ACUPUNCTURE EFFECTIVE FOR RELIEF OF MIGRAINE HEADACHES, BACK PAIN AND OTHER
I was stunned to say the least. I decided to learn acupuncture and unknowingly began my long journey into Integrative Medicine, eventually getting an Associate Fellowship degree through world-renowned Dr. Andrew Weil’s program at the University of Arizona.
I have since treated many who have found that acupuncture is very effective for migraine headache management, chronic nausea, respiratory problems, back pain, smoking cessation, depression and other conditions.
PRIMARY FOCUS OF INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE IS PREVENTION OF DISEASE
Along this journey into Integrative Medicine, I found that the primary focus of Integrative Medicine is to prevent disease. And, trust me, prevention of disease is far superior to treating disease.
To learn more about Integrative Medicine at Kansas City Internal Medicine, please call us at 913-451-8500.