3 ways integrative therapy can benefit patients

10:14 AM, Oct 19, 2018

A third of American adults use complementary healthcare approaches to recover from illness or pain, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

These complementary treatments include practices that would be considered nontraditional in Western health care, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, aromatherapy, reiki, music therapy and dog therapy. When these integrative treatments are combined with more traditional treatments using the expertise of health care providers, they allow providers to look at a person’s needs overall, combining awareness of the needs of mind and body, as well as the impacts of social, spiritual and community aspects, into holistic care, the NCCIH says.

This approach is usually called integrative health care and “brings conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. (It) aims for well-coordinated care between different providers and institutions.”

Here are just three ways integrative therapy can help people achieve better health.

Reducing stress

Many people are eager to find ways to reduce stress, to just get some relief from that heavy load pressing down. It’s bad enough psychologically to experience stress, but it’s even worse that stress can cause serious issues throughout the body.

“Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease,” according to Harvard Health. “It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer and other health problems. New research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process.”

Integrative therapies can stop or slow down the physiological havoc stress can wreak on the body, with treatments such as massage therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy or reiki.

Reiki “is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing,” the International Center for Reiki Training says. The idea is that one’s “life force energy” can be low or not moving through the body as it should, and restoring the proper flow will provide beneficial effects such as “relaxation and feelings of peace, security and well-being.” According to Banner Health, “It involves no touch, but takes place in the space about 6 inches above your body.”

 Music therapy is often consulted for patients to assist in reducing stress and anxiety and decreasing pain and the perception of pain. The music therapy program at Banner Health employs music therapists who assess the patient and develop a plan based on those assessments. The therapy can include, song writing, lyric discussion, music improvisation and even performance.




Treating pain

Unfortunately, far too many Americans know what it is to suffer from pain daily: About 25 million adults, or 11.2 percent, have daily pain, according to the NCCIH. Pain is also connected to worse overall health, disability and a greater use of health care.

Integrative therapies offers various treatments that can alleviate pain. Acupuncture, for instance, is becoming more popular, especially now in the midst of the country’s opioid crisis, as people look for alternative ways to treat pain, according to Healthline. Western research has shown its effectiveness.

Dog therapy has been shown in studies to improve patients’ blood pressure and heart rate and can actually release endorphins that can block pain, according to Banner Health. And there are no negative side effects from spending time with man’s best friend.

Starting simply

Integrative therapies allow health care providers to use methods of treatment that are effective, natural and less invasive. In fact, renowned doctor of integrative medicine Andrew Weil recommends these as starting points. Massage is a relaxing hands-on treatment; music is simply tuning one’s ears to melodies; aromatherapy invokes the sense of smell. Acupuncture only uses very small, usually painless needles.

Other traditional Western medical treatments can be used as needed as determined by the patient and his or her medical team, of course, after integrative therapies or in conjunction with them to increase their effectiveness and to achieve optimal health.

Banner Health has embraced integrative therapy, taking into account the whole person — mind, body and spirit — using various alternative methods as part of its treatment options for patients. Visit its experts to come up with the best treatment plan to achieve health for you.

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