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Dynamic Chiropractic >> Health & Wellness

Integrative Medicine: Is it the Future or is it Folly?

By James Lehman, DC, MBA, FACO

You have heard the term "Integrative Medicine," but what does it means to you? Do you consider the term to be the future of healthcare or is it folly? Are there any pragmatic reasons to practice integrative medicine or is it a foolish waste of time?

I have been a licensed chiropractor for forty years.

Currently, I treat patients suffering with chronic pain. Usually, these patients present with many co-morbidities that include obesity, addictions, hypertension, diabetes, and mental illness. Primary care providers refer patients for chiropractic medicine to relieve pain without the use of additional pharmaceuticals. My interventions include a detailed history, physical examination, differential diagnosis, spinal and joint manipulations, soft tissue treatments, exercise instructions, postural advice, dietary directions including proper hydration, and other salubrious recommendations that are within my scope of practice as a chiropractor in Connecticut.

My success as a chiropractic clinician is the result of proper patient assessment. "Diagnosis is the key to successful treatment." I do not use any modalities, not even ice or heat, nor do I prescribe drugs but I do practice chiropractic medicine and integrative medicine. I make that claim because I am an evidence-based, patient-centered clinician that serves the needs of my patients and their primary care providers by offering holistic care within a patient-centered medical home.

Some chiropractors boldly state that they do not practice medicine and denigrate the use of the terms chiropractic medicine or integrative medicine by chiropractors. These same doctors probably consider integrative medicine to be a folly. I consider this position ignorant and detrimental to the future of the profession because the combination of chiropractic medicine and integrative medicine is the future of the chiropractic profession. Of course, chiropractors practice chiropractic medicine and patient-centered clinicians recognize the importance of integrative medicine.

History of Integrative Medicine

Dr. David Eisenberg, a Harvard medical scientist initiated the discussion that created the term "Integrative Medicine." His national survey in 1993 revealed that consumers wanted more choices from the medical system. Patients did not want to abandon the American healthcare system but sought alternatives to allopathic medicine and surgery. The practitioners most often sought were chiropractors and massage therapists. This trend alarmed allopathic physicians and insurance executives, which prompted investigation. They discovered that patients wanted the integration of all medical services into the healthcare system including chiropractic medicine.

The Bravewell Foundation claims that integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person's health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient's unique conditions, needs and circumstances, integrative medicine uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimal health.

The integrative approach puts the patient at the center, addressing not just symptoms, but the real causes of illness. It is (health) care that is preventive, predictive and personalized.

I have read that others consider integrative medicine to be the "new medicine" because it emphasizes the relationship between the doctor and patient, the innate healing ability of the body and the importance of addressing all aspects of an individual's life to attain optimal health and healing.

A Bravewell report, "The Efficacy and Cost-Effectiveness of Integrative Medicine" mentions a pilot study involving the treatment of low back pain with integrative medicine.


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