What is Integrative Medicine?

January 9, 2018
Healthy Living

Integrative Medicine combines conventional medicine with complementary therapies to treat the whole person-- mind, body and soul -- rather than solely the disease itself. Integrative therapies are intended to help reduce pain, stress, and anxiety that is often caused by acute and chronic illness. While there is still controversy regarding the efficacy of some integrative therapies, it is important for patients to understand what integrative medicine is and how it may serve to supplement their treatment. 

Below is a list of integrative therapies that are commonly used. It is always important to discuss your plan with your physicians as some medical conditions or medications may make patients suitable for certain integrative practices.

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Massage Therapy 

Massage has been found to reduce acute pain, anxiety, and can temporarily reduce blood pressure and heart rate. IT has also been found that continued massage therapy combined with specialized exercise can help reduce chronic back pain. Check with your physician and massage therapist before getting a massage; certain medical conditions including but not limited to deep vein thrombosis, bleeding disorders, and blood thinners may be a barrier to certain massage therapies. 


Acupuncture is a commonly used form of Eastern medicine that is intended to reduce pain and nausea by targeting pressure points with small sterile needles. While studies on the efficacy of acupuncture in  reducing pain vary, many patients find this therapy helpful and it is generally associated with minimal side effects. once the needles are placed on various areas of the body, practitioners may manipulate the needles with heat, vibration, or movement. Acupuncturists may also employ acupressure, which does not utilize the use of needles, but rather pressure to receive similar results.  Acupuncture is considered to be generally safe when performed by a licensed practitioner who uses sterile needles. Patients with blood clotting disorders or who are on anticoagulants should consult with their physician and acupuncturist before proceeding with any form of therapy. 


While yoga has become a popular form of low impact exercise in the US, it is also considered to be a practice to improve both the body and mind. Studies have found that yoga can improve mood and reduce anxiety. Even more, one study found that it improved quality of life for cancer patients. While yoga is low risk, it is important to not over exert yourself when first starting. 

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Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a form of Chinese martial arts that emphasizes movement, breathing, and meditation. Like yoga, tai chi is a great form of low impact exercise that helps to improve both the mind and the body. Studies have shown that tai chi actually helps the elderly with balance, ultimately reducing fall rates. It can also help reduce stress and be a good form of exercise in patients who are ill.


Meditation has been practiced for many years and in medicine is often an easy and inexpensive way to relax. Research has shown that is can help manage symptoms like anxiety and stress which often come into play when dealing with disease or illness. There are many types of meditation that you can do on your own or with a practitioner. While reach type of meditation is unique, many emphasize focused attention to clear your mind of distractions, relaxed breathing, and a quiet setting to help reduce anxiety and stress. 

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Herbal Remedies 

Studies on some herbal remedies have found that they can be effective at symptom control. Indeed, many pharmaceuticals we use today originated from plant extracts. Because herbal supplements may have active ingredients that could interact with your prescription medications, it is very important to tell your physician about all of the medications--including herbal supplements--to prevent dangerous side effects. 

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