As explained earlier, a key philosophy of Integrative Medicine is finding a match between the Horizontals and Verticals based on evidence and the practitioner’s experience. Once the practitioner completes an assessment of the patient’s horizontals (components of a person’s mind-body-spirit complex, such as the thoughts, emotions, symptoms, values, experiences and preferences), he / she designs a holistic treatment approach by choosing techniques from the available verticals (whole systems of medicine, such as conventional or western medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Homoeopathy, Naturopathy etc) customised to the patient’s needs.
Mind-Body Therapies (Mind-Body-Spirit)
Most of us are aware of the benefits of breathing, meditation, mindfulness and relaxation techniques in calming the mind and alleviating symptoms of anxiety, restlessness and emotional turmoil. However, what many of us might not know is that conventional biomedicine now acknowledges the power of the mind to affect the body and vice versa. Psychoneuroimmunology, a relatively new field of medicine has shown that the mind is deeply connected to three regulatory systems of the body, viz. the Autonomous Nervous System (Unconscious Mind), the Endocrine System and the Immune System.
Mind-body therapies may include techniques such as biofeedback / neurofeedback, meditation, relaxation, Yoga, Aromatherapy, Psychotherapy and, even, something as simple as prayer.
Energy Therapies (Mind-Body-spirit)
The simplest example of the use of energy in healthcare is an Electrocardiogram (ECG), where a device measures the heart’s electrical activity. Energy therapies in Integrative Medicine work on the premise of balancing or augmenting the energy level in a patient. Although the significance of energy is not very well understood in conventional medicine, energy and energy therapies have remained a fundamental premise of traditional medical systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine (Qi, Yin & Yang) and Ayurveda (Prana).
Examples of energy therapies are Yoga, Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Cupping.
Physical Therapies (Body)
Physical therapies rely on relaxation and manipulation of the body’s tissues and / or joints to alleviate pain, improve mobility and flexibility. Integrative Medicine may often use one or more physical therapies such as guided stretching, Yoga, Physiotherapy and therapeutic massage.
Lifestyle Therapies (Mind-Body-Spirit)
Lifestyle therapies aim to improve and moderate a person’s habits and preferences to not only manage symptoms, but foster health and wellbeing in general to remain disease-free to the extent possible. Such therapies typically address diet & nutrition, physical activity and substance use.
Examples include providing a balanced diet plan, an optimal physical activity plan (customised to the person’s condition and preferences) and arriving at a mutually acceptable level of substance use. Sometimes, the practitioner may also suggest natural dietary supplements and other nutraceuticals.
Conventional Therapies (Body)
Last, but not the least, conventional therapies remain a critical component of integrative treatment approaches. These may range from medication to surgery.
However, as mentioned earlier, the primary aim of the Integrative Medicine practitioner is to arrive at the least intensive and least invasive set of therapies to the extent possible, and move on to more intense therapies only if needed.