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Integrative medicine goes mainstream

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Today more physicians are offering treatments to patients that complement traditional medicine. It's integrative medicine, and consumer demand is growing. Why?

Patients appreciate a holistic approach, according to family physician Polina Karmazin, MD.

"We treat the person, not just the disease. Integrative medicine looks at how a set of symptoms affect the whole person: mind, body and spirit."

Alternative medicine treatments include acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnosis, relaxation therapy and massage therapy. But, most practitioners specialize in only one or two therapies. The common thread is they are natural and non-invasive. Dr. Karmazin emphasizes the safety and effectiveness of alternative therapies: "A guiding principle is that we only use those which have high-quality evidence to support them."

How does it work?
Stress reduction and healing benefits of relaxation therapy are easily understood, but some alternative therapies, like acupuncture, are less obvious. While integrative medicine specialists use alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional therapies, over time the need for certain medications may be reduced. That was the case for Joann Orr, who found relief for a host of medical conditions with the help of alternative therapies. Before turning to integrative medicine, she struggled for years with an injury that included nerve damage. Desperate for better health and pain relief, she began acupuncture treatments with Dr. Karmazin.

"Within less than a year, I was completely off pain medication," she says. Orr also used homeopathic remedies. Not to be confused with herbal medicine, homeopathy uses minute amounts of natural substances to stimulate the body's own disease-fighting responses and make them more effective. Homeopathy views the individual as a whole; symptoms and signs from the body, mind, and spirit are all regarded when choosing a medicine or treatment. With the demand for natural, complementary treatments growing, patients can expect more options to come.