Chiropractic and Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine combines the practices of modern science and ancient healing. The emphasis in integrative medicine is the patient, and cooperation between disciplines. Integrative medicine is holistic, and brings out the best of each therapy toward the goal of improving the body, mind and spirit of patients.
As part of the overall field of complementary and alternative medicine, chiropractic is a well-established and well-studied member of a group of natural therapies. Chiropractic treatment, throughout its history, has mixed well with other therapies, some better than others. Below are a few of the therapies that chiropractic patients often encounter, many of them creating a synergistic effect.
Chiropractic and Acupuncture
Chiropractic and acupuncture work exceedingly well together. In fact, some chiropractors go back to school to learn acupuncture, and many others have acupuncturists working out of their offices. Chiropractic works with the skeletal and nervous system. Skeletal problems are often at the root of many physical complaints, yet an adjustment may not hold if uneven muscle tension or soft tissue inflammation are constantly tugging the bones out of alignment. Acupuncture works with soft tissue and overall balance of body function. By relieving pain while relaxing and balancing muscle and nervous function, acupuncture helps chiropractic adjustments to last longer. Together, these therapies can shorten the overall time required to resolve a musculoskeletal complaint.
Chiropractic and Massage
Many chiropractors have massage therapists working in their offices. For complaints involving a combination of skeletal misalignment and muscle injury or chronic tension, massage therapy is an important ingredient in successful chiropractic treatment. As with acupuncture, the combination of hard and soft tissue therapy leads to fast recovery, and fewer visits to resolve a complaint.
Chiropractic, Homeopathy and Naturopathy
Homeopaths and naturopaths often share patients with chiropractors. All three professions share a dedication to natural therapies and emphasize balance and wellness in treatment. Homeopaths may prescribe homeopathic remedies that will complement chiropractic treatment. This allows a chiropractic treatment of low back pain to combine with the appropriate remedy that will, for example, also treat the depression that often accompanies chronic pain. Naturopaths may prescribe herbal and nutritional supplements, along with herbal baths, sophisticated massage techniques and other natural therapies. These therapies, like homeopathic remedies, can extend chiropractic treatment, either helping to increase effectiveness, or to broaden treatment to include a wider range of symptoms.
Chiropractic and Your Doctor
Though chiropractic has come a long way since the 1960's, many physicians are still cautious about recommending its use. From seeking to ban the practice of chiropractic entirely, physicians are now referring more patients than ever to chiropractors. In a National Institutes of Health study in 2006, 87% of physicians reported that patients had requested a referral to a chiropractor. About 65% of physicians in the study had recommended that patients try chiropractic, largely for neck pain, back pain, unresponsive chronic pain, fibromyalgia and musculoskeletal conditions. Those percentages are an improvement on the past, but they also show that 22% of physicians, when asked for a chiropractic referral, declined to make one.
No matter what your doctor thinks about chiropractic, you should always inform your various healthcare providers about one another. Think of your doctor, your chiropractor and others as a team working toward your health, even if they aren't interested in working with each other.
Chiropractic and Physical Therapy
There are large areas of overlap between chiropractic and physical therapy. Some chiropractors work well with physical therapists in integrative health clinics, but there is also historically some bad blood between these two professions. Each treats similar complaints, though physical therapists are better integrated into mainstream medicine than chiropractors. A 1998 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared chiropractic and physical therapy for low back pain, finding that each had similar benefit to the patient.
In general, if you are seeing both a chiropractor and a physical therapist, you should tell these professionals about one another. Both chiropractic and physical therapy can result in sore muscles at times, an effect that would be worsened if the two therapies were performed too close together.
Integrative medicine is the wave of the future in healthcare. Clinics devoted to the concepts of integrative medicine are appearing in most major cities, and it is more common each year to see widely different healthcare professionals working side by side to the patient's benefit. Chiropractic will continue to play a leading role as the concept of integrative medicine develops.