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Complementary & Integrative Therapies: A Brief Introduction

Complementary & Integrative Therapies: A Brief Introduction

When a group of us at Blakeford started talking about discussion topics for an upcoming series of events, the first topic we all agreed on was complementary and integrative therapies. Each of us know the value of these therapies. We also know that older adults are benefiting from them.

But what are they?

First, of note, Complementary and integrative therapies are used by nearly a third of midlife and older adults. Integrating them as part of a healthy lifestyle has the potential to contribute to healthy aging among midlife and older adults. (2012 National Health Interview Survey).

Complementary and Integrative Therapies include, to name a very few:

  • Tai Chi
  • Massage
  • Diet-based Therapies
  • Movement therapies such as Pilates
  • Homeopathic treatments
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Natural products such as herbs

For our event on this topic, we’ve gathered four experts. Two of them recently shared their thoughts on complementary and integrative therapies.

Courtesy of Steve Green / Vanderbilt University

Kathleen Wolff, APRN – Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Vanderbilt

When it comes to non-traditional approaches, there are several different terms that are used interchangeably but have very different meanings.  People use the terms “alternative medicine”, “complimentary medicine”, “natural medicine”, “integrative medicine”, “wholistic medicine” and perhaps other terms.  The distinction is based on the intention of the clinician/practitioner and understanding of the patient.  There are therapies that are intended to be used in place of conventional medical care and there are therapies that are intended to be used simultaneously with conventional care.  At the Osher Center, we describe our practice at Integrative Medicine because what we offer is not intended to replace or be an alternative to conventional medical care.  We prescribe only treatments for which there is some scientific basis and most are intended to be used along with conventional care.

Not all but many integrative approaches, certainly all that we use at Osher, are very low risk treatments. They are gentle. They are very unlikely to cause harm. This is a good thing for everyone and particularly for older adults who may be more susceptible to adverse side effects from conventional treatments. Older folks are more likely than younger folks to have chronic pain, problems with balance, and other issues that integrative treatments can address.

Samantha Ruppelt, NSCA-CPT, RYT – Exercise Physiologist

There is definitely a different mindset in Eastern v Western treatment in that Eastern medicine focuses on prevention: looking for the signs of on-coming illnesses and diseases and providing treatment accordingly. Western medicine is primarily based on treating a disease once the onset has begun: you get a diagnosis and you get medicine. 

It’s not a secret that Eastern individuals live longer, healthier, and more independent. When you learn how to put things in your body- nutritionally, mentally, emotionally- and move in ways that make you feel good, you will find that you don’t have to deal with the diseases that are common among older adults. You will find that you will live a happier, healthier, and more purposeful and independent life. 

 We often get caught up in the easy way in the West. Back pain- fix it now, high blood pressure- fix it now… I always tell my clients that their health issues didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight either. What if we take the simple steps today? What if we listened to our bodies, did things that we knew made it feel good and respond efficiently? What if we took the steps for a healthier lifestyle now instead of waiting for disease to force us into one? 

Click here to view the Facebook Live archive of this event.

Additional Resources:
Learning to Be Mindful
Learning New Ways to Maintain Quality of Life