4 Ways Integrative Medicine Can Help You Manage Chronic Pain
4 Ways Integrative Medicine Can Help You Manage Chronic Pain – Most of you probably know that the quality of your health depends on many different factors. For example, it can include genetics, how you eat, how often you exercise, the amount of stress you feel and whether you’re lacking sleep or not. So why aren’t these things brought up in your doctors’ appointments more often?
The conventional healthcare system is something of a miracle when it comes to acute conditions and injuries, but it often falls short when addressing chronic disease or chronic pain.
Fortunately, if you suffer from a chronic illness, there are a lot of different branches of medicine that can help you. One of those options is integrative medicine. The core difference between conventional healthcare and integrative healthcare, is that integrative healthcare combines the science of conventional medicine and all forms of research-backed treatment including many things that were once called alternative or complementary treatments. As an integrative pain specialist, I’ve seen this approach work time and time again with my patients.
An appointment with an integrative doctor looks much different than an appointment with your regular MD. For example, when I see patients, I spend about an hour per new patient appointment and a lot of that time is dedicated to conversation. We talk about everything from how the person eats, drinks, sleeps and feels, to who they connect with, how they live and what their work environment is like. (You can download my free personal health assessment here containing the very same questions I ask my patients.) Often we find some common habits and patterns that can be adjusted to promote healing and reduce pain.
If you’re wondering how integrative medicine might address your health concerns, keep reading.
How Integrative Medicine Benefits Your Health
- Your care will be focused on health, not disease
While conventional medicine largely focuses on symptom relief, integrative medicine digs deeper to eradicate issues that are compromising your health as a whole. It does this through a personalized approach aimed at both predictive care and preventative care considering physical health, psychological health and social health.
When it comes to chronic pain specifically, factors like nutritional status, stress levels, social support, coping skills, ergonomics, and exercise are all considered in integrative medicine.
Outside of your appointment, strategies to support your body’s own healing capabilities help you become empowered to take control of your own health.
- You’ll lower your risk of side effects
Conventional medicine often answers to pain with pharmaceutical interventions. And while painkilling drugs do have their place, they’re most effective in short-term cases, due to subsequent side effects and risk factors including digestive issues related to the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), rebound pain from all types of analgesics, and decreasing effectiveness over time and addiction or unintentional overdose specifically from prescription opioids.
Integrative medicine provides a variety of care options such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, or massage therapy alongside conventional treatment to improve outcomes and mitigate risks.
- Your nutritional status will be addressed
Every time that you eat, you change your body chemistry, and because of this, it has the propensity to affect your pain, be it good or bad.
The Standard American Diet (S.A.D), generally full of sugars and refined carbohydrates leaves us overfed and undernourished. This style of eating is also pro-inflammatory increasing your level of pain and creating free radical damage.
Alternatively, an anti-inflammatory diet is a healthy whole-food style of eating that decreases levels of inflammation to provide natural pain relief. Certain foods have greater anti-inflammatory properties than others. Turmeric and ginger are a couple of my personal favorite analgesic and anti-inflammatory foods.
Turmeric has over two dozen anti-inflammatory properties. It’s easy to use in soups and curries, and best absorbed with black pepper and a source of fat (eaten as part of a meal).
Ginger inhibits the enzyme COX2 that increases inflammation in the body. I love cooking with ginger, or making a fresh tea with it (it’s also great for digestion).
- You’ll learn about the link between your pain and your mind
Unlike conventional medicine, which typically compartmentalizes the body according to symptoms and disease, integrative medicine is a more well-rounded holistic approach to care.
Talking about your home and work environments, as well as relationships you have in your life can help to uncover sources of stress that contribute to higher levels of inflammation.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation, a gratitude practice, or yoga, for example, can support emotional regulation, behaviour and cognition to reduce the effects of chronic stress and pain.
Overall, integrative medicine strikes a balance that conventional medicine alone cannot do. If you think that integrative medicine might be a good fit for your lifestyle and pain, I encourage you to find a practitioner in your area. You can also ask me your health-related questions directly in one of my free monthly Q&A webinar events (click here for upcoming dates!).
About Dr. Heather Tick MD :