Some people with arthritis feel that doctor-patient communication can sometimes seems narrow and impersonal. Integrative medicine aims to be different.
“Patients are at the center of integrated medicine; our goal is to partner with them to address the physical, emotional, social, environmental and spiritual factors that affect health,” says internist Adam Perlman, MD, executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “This approach is very inclusive. We practice and believe in Western medicine, but we also have an openness to complementary modalities that help address the whole person.”
These nontraditional therapies can include almost anything that evidence has shown to be helpful and not harmful, says Ann Marie Chiasson, MD, assistant director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, in Tucson. That might include lifestyle and dietary changes, massage, acupuncture, energy healing or Ayurveda (an ancient, holistic system of healing from India).
“I consider the modalities that have the strongest evidence and do the least harm as well as what the patient is aligned with,” says Dr. Chiasson, who is board-certified in family practice and hospice and palliative medicine. “For patients with arthritis, I might start with an anti-inflammatory diet,” she says. “Later, we might try acupuncture and massage; there is good data supporting their use for pain.”
Integrative medicine doesn’t focus solely on treating or preventing disease; it’s concerned with optimizing health and vitality. “Some doctors feel that if they control a patient’s blood pressure, their job is done,” Dr. Perlman says. “But controlling blood pressure doesn’t mean that a person can get down on the floor and play with a grandchild. The focus on total quality of life isn’t something integrative medicine owns, but it’s certainly a core value.”
So is the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship. “Having a partner you can really talk to is a huge part of healing,” Dr. Chiasson says. “You start there and then try everything you can.”
Author: Linda Rath
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