What Is Holistic Medicine?
April 2, 2015
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Holistic medicine presupposes a connection among every part of the body when treating one specific issue. As described by the American Holistic Health Association (AHHA), its practices address "the whole person — body, mind and spirit."
But what is holistic medicine within these practices? The building blocks of holistic care consist of a variety of healing modalities, many of which have an enhanced effect when used in different combinations. Traditional medicine and holistic medicine are often used in conjunction with each other, giving the therapist trained in these modalities a tool kit to meet the ultimate need of every patient: optimal health.
The AHHA defines optimal health as "the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through the body, mind and spirit." But keep in mind that holistic medicine encompasses a variety of subpractices to achieve optimal health, the most popular of which are described by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA). Without preferring any one in particular, the AHNA divides these modalities into five categories:
- Whole Medical Systems: These include homeopathic and osteopathic medicine. A homeopathic practitioner holds that symptoms are the body's attempts to eliminate a disease and has his or her patients consume certain substances that are related to a medical complaint or symptom. Those substances are slowly diluted to cure the ailment. Osteopathic physicians, meanwhile, are licensed doctors and combine body manipulation and self-healing with conventional medicine.
- Manipulative and Body-Based Practices: There are many of these, including chiropractic medicine, acupressure and acupuncture, shiatsu (among other forms of massage therapy), dance therapy, aroma therapy, traditional physical therapy and trigger point therapy.
- Mind-Body Medicine: This is another broad category and seeks optimal health by manipulating the body's relationship with the mind. Among these mind-body modalities are traditional psychotherapy and counseling, art and color therapy, meditation, hypnotherapy, music therapy and therapeutic yoga.
- Biologically Based Practices: These are represented by four modalities per the AHNA: hydrotherapy, herbal therapy, biofeedback and nutritional counseling. Hot and cold compresses are used on hydrotherapy patients, for instance. They can also immerse themselves in waters of different temperatures and sit in saunas and steam baths. Biofeedback has been used for decades, and its full benefits are still being studied.
- Energy Medicine: These modalities range from energy work to healing touch. The latter is an energy modality that involves a combination of therapies ranging from nutritional counseling to massage and acupressure. A few other energy modalities include prayer and magnetic therapy.
So what is holistic medicine? It is a form of healing that offers patients a broad choice of alternate therapies to treat, cure and comfort even the most irritating conditions, and it can be used singly or in conjunction with conventional treatments.
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