Mayo Clinic Minute: Integrative medicine and pain

Chronic pain and integrative medicine

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Early on, many of us who have been struck with life-altering disease learned the frustration of not finding answers. We went to trusted family doctors. We saw and were seen by specialists. As we all found out, you almost have to diagnose yourself in order to know what kind of doctor to see. It was the same for me. All that joint pain, a rapid heart beat and irritable bowel syndrome all arrived along with sun intolerance. It was all a bit overwhelming and I couldn't find all the answers I sought. I was fortunate enough to wind up with a doctor in Beverly Hills , three hours from my home, who was a world renowned specialist in rheumatology. He was from England and took a wider view than many of our American doctors who are educated in this country. He always helped me, even if he couldn't come up with a diagnosis for several years. I never left his office feeling like a fool or "empty handed." He had his own physical therapist in the office who worked closely with him to put the patients back in shape.

When you become as frustrated as many of us have been, you don't really care where the answers are spawned; you just want help. For me it was a period of little help for the first three years after seeing thirteen doctors. That's when I began to reach out for other answers from what were, twenty year ago, non-conventional sources. That's why I liked my English rheumatologist so much. That's also when I began to read the books of Dr. Andrew Weil. As an MD, with an Ivy League education, he knew there was "more" out there and began to travel all over the world. His bookNatural Health, Natural Medicine, had a profound and life-saving effect on this drowning woman. I found enormous relief for my IBS from his suggestions using herbs, diet, etc. In short, I began to turn to his ideas, signed up for his newsletters, which I now buy annually in a bound edition.

As an RN of many years, it was a leap for me to embrace so many different types of medicine from all over the world. I had to. My own education in strictly allopathic medicine had let me down. That is why I am so delighted today to see, after these twenty years, many forms of medicine are being incorporated into the hospital setting and many of the practitioners, homeopaths, chiropractors, herbalist, aroma therapists, deep massage therapists and acupuncturists are being accepted. The stigma on all of these ancient practices is finally being lifted. Who do we think we are, with our arrogant ways? Many of these ancient arts have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. My preference is to combine traditional medicine with many of the ancient arts into an integrative medicine approach. I encourage all of you to do the same. At least read about it; look into them and open your minds.

I just recently read an interesting article in RN magazine, March 2009, about a hospital in Waukesha , WI that is bringing together the Eastern modalities with Western medicine. Their nurses are taking computer courses on holistic principles along with complementary and alternative medicine, usually lumped together in a shorter version call CAM modalities. They are going to offer hand massage, essential oils, healing music and guided imagery at Waukesha Memorial's Regional Cancer Center . They believe, in Waukesha that the patient has for far too long become just a bed number or a disease. They hope and plan to have a more personal approach with the introduction of various forms of integrative medicine.

The number of holistic nurses in this country has doubled in the last four years with more RN's becoming involved every day. The membership in the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) is now 4,000. They have developed certification programs in reflexology, imagery, aromatherapy, healing touch and something called AMMA therapy which is a form of massage that combines deep tissue manipulation and the pressure and touch to specific points in the body. In fact, New York University now has a master's program in holistic nursing.

This type of treatment can be a problem for some elderly patients because it is not always covered by Medicare but perhaps, in time, that too will change. Some of those bureaucrats need to look at the numbers if not the patients, and figure out surgery, long term care and expensive medications are much harder on the patient and the Medicare system than giving alternative medicine a try. The public is educating themselves about the benefits of the holistic approach to their own health. We are not a disease. We have always figured out we need to address the whole body and not just one area of concern. I would encourage you to read, check out the Internet and become familiar with the many modalities available to you and to treat your problems. Learn to take an innovative approach to your pain and your disease. Open up your hearts and your minds and you might find possibilities lurking there with a real and significant chance for help.

Our local hospital, Columbia Memorial Hospital , has already incorporated pet therapy, natural childbirth, music therapy and massage therapy. They are currently introducing Tai Chi and Reiki. They also encourage a home-like atmosphere such as comfort foods brought from home as well as a meditation garden for the use of the patients and their families. These kinds of innovation are occurring all over our country. That's a good thing.

It's a wave of change and it's happening rapidly. We will all benefit from it in long-run. Just a word of caution; if you check out the internet, beware of those who are trying to sell you a "cure" or for that matter trying to take your money in any way. Read, learn, and get inspired. My daughter gave me a wonderful, large volume which she loves and has found very useful. It'sHealing with Whole Foods, by Paul Pitchford. I just got it for Mother's Day and haven't had time to delve into too deeply as yet, but plan to. Also, pick up a copy ofNatural Health, Natural Medicine, by Dr. Andrew Weil. How can you live without a copy in your home?

Open up your minds and you will truly find a new well-spring of hope where despair used to live.

Last Updated:5/21/2009
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