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    For Chronic Pain Relief Find An Integrative Medicine Doctor



    Modern medicine isn’t always the best option for treating complex and chronic conditions like inflammatory arthritis, sleep disorders, or pain. Adam Rindfleisch MD, vice dean of education at the Whole Health Institute in Bentonville is adamant that the traditional model can lead to a reliance on the “find it, fix it” mentality.

    He says, “This model is useful if you have an infection or broken bone. But it doesn’t work as well if you want to treat all chronic diseases.”

    People with chronic pain may find integrative medicine a great option. It aims to treat the person, not just the problem. Dr. Rindfleisch says that integrative medicine is more focused on addressing the root causes than conventional Western medicine. It means that practitioners of integrative medicine consider the symptoms within context of other facts and characteristics. Rindfleisch states, “When I look at someone, I try to see all aspects of that person, and not just what is wrong right now.”

    Integrative and complementary medicine can be used in conjunction with biomedical medicine to help balance their strengths and support healing.

    What is Integrative Medicine?

    Integrative medicine is rooted in popular holistic, alternative, and complementary healing methods of the 1960s and 70s. Bravewell Collaborative was founded in 2000 by a group of forward-thinking philanthropists to “humanize” healthcare. Their vision of integrative medicine was not to be limited to the patient’s condition or the resulting symptoms. Integrative medicine would see patients not as passive recipients of doctor’s orders, but rather as individuals who could take control of their health.

    Around the same time, the Consortium for Academic Centers for Integrative Medicine, which later became the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, was created. It included the top universities programs at Harvard, Stanford, and Duke. While the organization believes in a holistic approach to healthcare, it also recognizes the importance of evidence-based results and has embraced experience.

    The Bravewell Collaborative was disbanded in 2015 but its support of the Academic Consortium allowed ACIMH’s growth and success. It now has more than 75 academic and medical health centers, nursing schools, and more than 75 other facilities. One of the most well-known is The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, located at The University of Arizona, Tucson.

    A Attempt to integrate many types of medical care, including traditional.

    Integrative medicine is a holistic approach that treats patients. It also incorporates conventional and complementary healthcare approaches. A survey of 1,100 Americans in 2021 found that more than half reported using some form of alternative or complementary medicine to treat their health problems. 66% of respondents also wanted these treatments to be covered under their health insurance.

    Integrative Terminology is a combination of Attitudes

    A nonmainstream practice that is used alongside conventional medicine is called “complementary.” However, if it is used in lieu of conventional medicine, it is considered “alternative,” according the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. However, the language and attitudes are constantly changing. The mainstream may have adopted what was once considered alternative or complementary over time. Probiotics, for instance, were once thought to be complementary, but they have now been adopted by the mainstream.

    The field focuses on the whole person and supports well-being. Integrative medicine advocates have opted to avoid the term alternative and prefer more inclusive terms like traditional, complementary and integrative medicine, or traditional and holistic medicine, both which are used by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Supplements, herbs, deep breathing techniques, yoga, massage, and other complementary therapies can be used in conjunction with mainstream care. Prescription drugs and surgery, on the other hand, are examples of mainstream medicine.

    Rindfleisch believes that the key lies in the word integrative. “You want to combine whatever is most beneficial for the person.”

    An integrative approach can be beneficial for people suffering from chronic pain.

    Integrative medicine aims to treat more than just the symptoms, conditions and behaviors. Rindfleisch describes it as “kind of like the game Whac-A-Mole.” “You can knock down one thing and another thing will pop up.”

    An integrative physician can help stop the cycle of treating one type of condition and then swap it for another. They will usually explore the causes, including lifestyle, emotional challenges and self-limiting beliefs, and help patients find solutions. Irina Todorov MD, an integrative healthcare provider at the Cleveland Clinic Health System, is based in Lyndhurst. She begins her evaluations by asking questions that mainstream doctors wouldn’t normally ask.

    What to Expect from an Integrative Health Doctor

    Dr. Todorov will begin the conversation after the patient has explained their health problem or reason for visiting. What is your daily life like? She asks, “What are your stressors?”

    Sometimes, additional issues emerge during conversation. For example, stress at work, co-occurring conditions, or complex medical histories.

    Rindfleisch says that most traditional doctors only have 15 minutes for appointments. This often leaves little time to discuss anything beyond the medical problem. He says that this doesn’t leave enough time to get to know the patient as an individual, or to discuss issues such as meaning and purpose, or self-care practices.

    Rindfleisch says that integrative health requires more detailed assessment from the beginning. While problems are brought up, there is also time to focus on the good. He says, “It is helpful to know the signature strengths a person,”

    Also, time is spent on goals and values. These can vary from one person to the next. Rindfleisch says, “I like to talk to people about what is most important to them.” Let’s take a look at your health and ask yourself, “What is the most important thing in your life?” What are you most proud of?

    He says that this conversation can be very informative and help to guide the treatment of any symptoms or conditions. Rindfleisch says, “It is not unusual for an integrative healthcare intake form to ask about nutrition, your sleep schedules, your social lives, your spiritual life as well as your environment and surroundings.”

    Integrative Medicine Doctors Can Prescribe Non-Drug Therapies As Well as Medications

    Integrative doctors receive additional training which allows them to talk about alternative treatment options. Rindfleisch cites nutrition as an example. Research has shown that doctors receive only two weeks of nutrition training. He says that if you don’t know anything about it, it can be difficult to share it with patients.

    Integrative healthcare doctors can, however, spend hundreds of hours studying and training in these subjects. The American Board of Physician Specialties offers an integrative medicine medicine board certification exam.

    Todorov had to complete 1,000 hours of additional training in integrative medicine before she was able to pass the board exam. Our additional training included nutrition. She also said that we completed modules on manual therapies such as chiropractic therapy, aquatherapy, and physical therapy. Todorov now has the ability to evaluate which therapies are most effective for each individual’s specific condition.

    Personalized Treatments are Powerful

    Understanding the motivations, goals, and barriers to well-being of a person increases the likelihood that they will follow through on the treatment plan. Rindfleisch states that the individual must be willing to participate in the treatment plan. He says, “If someone doesn’t want to be involved in the plan because it isn’t really resonating,” then everyone has wasted their time.

    Todorov agrees with Todorov that patient engagement is essential. She says, “When someone asks what the best exercise would be, I tell them that whatever they are willing to do is the best.”

    Chronic pain can be treated by an integrative medicine doctor

    Rindfleisch says that integrative medicine is not able to manage chronic pain. It depends on many factors, such as the type of pain being experienced. Rindfleisch asks, “Is the pain due to headache, fibromyalgia or back pain? Or something like rheumatoidarthritis (RA).” He says that each will require different approaches.

    He says that integrative health takes into account all aspects of a person and two people might have different symptoms or even the same diagnosis. He adds that it can take some trial-and-error to find the best treatment plan.

    Rindfleisch says that integrative treatments are being used in some pain conditions. The American College of Physicians recommends acupuncture and massage for acute or subacute low-back pain. According to the NCCIH, some pain conditions can also be treated with mind-body therapies like meditation and yoga.

    Rindfleisch suggests that there are many integrative options for chronic pain sufferers. These include nutrition counseling, exploring any underlying trauma, and identifying the best ways to exercise and make sure they have support. People with chronic pain may also explore any underlying trauma (emotional.sexual.spiritual) that they may have suffered, or distress they are experiencing due to their current health situation or difficulties with the mainstream medical system.

    RELATED: Jenny Lawson: Fighting for Health Insurance Coverage

    How to find an integrative medicine doctor to help chronic pain

    NCCIH states that your current healthcare provider is the best place to begin your search for integrative health providers. Information about integrative practices in your local area can be found at local hospitals and state regulatory agencies.

    Rindfleisch says that word of mouth is a great way to find a health care provider, even an integrative medicine practitioner.

    Although some states recognize integrative healthcare as a speciality, licensing and requirements can vary depending on where you live. The NIH recommends that integrative healthcare providers be chosen with the same care as conventional doctors. Research is key. Ask lots of questions. Integrative doctors should be able to take your insurance. These doctors must still be licensed in the first field they practice, such as family or internal medicine. This is a red flag if the provider isn’t licensed in the state to practice any of the healthcare disciplines.

    Visits with integrative healthcare physicians who are board-certified will be covered if you have insurance. Some complementary therapies they recommend, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or biofeedback may not be covered. Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota states that in most cases the therapy or treatment must be “safe, effective, medically necessary” for it to be covered. If your preferred doctor is not in the network, you will need to submit a superill if you have a PPO plan. (A superbill provides information about the services an insurer might require.

    Use these tools to connect with an integrative medicine specialist near you

    The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and the Andrew Weil Centre for Integrative Medicine have searchable databases of integrative medical doctors from all over the country.

    Rindfleisch suggests looking into the universities that offer integrative medicine programs in your area. These can be found on ACIMH’s website. You can then use the search tools on the ACIMH website to locate a provider who is trained in integrative medicine.

    These institutions include some of the most prominent and well-known integrative healthcare programs in the United States.

    • Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine (formerly University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine).
    • Cleveland Clinic Wellness and Preventative Medicine
    • Duke Integrative Medicine Center
    • GW Center for Integrative Medicine
    • Johns Hopkins Medicine Integrative Medicine
    • Mayo Clinic Integrative Medical and Health
    • Osher Collaborative (Health centres are located at Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Northwestern Medicine, University of California in San Francisco; University of Cincinnati and University of Miami; University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Vanderbilt University).
    • Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine San Diego
    • Stanford Health Care Center for Integrative Medicine
    • UCI Health Susan Samueli Integrative Health Center
    • UCLA Center for East-West Medicine
    • UCHealth Integrative Medicine
    • UConn Health
    • University of Kansas Medical Center
    • The University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine
    • University of Michigan Medicine Integrative Family Medicine
    • University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Integrative Medicine
    • Weill Cornell Medicine Integrative Wellbeing and Health Program
    • Yale Medicine Smilow Integrative Medicine Programme


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