I have always like Dr Andrew Weil’s definition of integrative medicine – he describes it as ‘…a healing oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind and spirit) including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasises the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative’
It sums up for me what good healthcare should be – for a long time, a lot of my colleagues considered me ‘woo-woo’ because I insisted on talking to my patients about what they were eating and how they were feeling – as if that could have a bearing on how their bodies felt or moved or recovered from injuries…I used food as medicine, spent a lot of time on breathing and visualisation, encouraged my patients to write down how they were feeling. And now, all of that is regarded as evidence based medicine – the Holy Grail of healthcare practitioners.
So we need to wear a lot of different hats in healthcare today – yes we need to be able to accurately assess and treat the presenting dysfunction, but as Diane Lee might say, we also have to figure out ‘what’s the driver?’ Is it someone’s high stress level causing their pelvic floor to spasm? Is it a workday spent hunched over a desk, worrying about deadlines, before driving home through rush hour that causes their back pain? Is it a daily consumption of carbs and caffeine that has caused their digestive system to shutdown, so they alternate between constipation and diarrhoea? Or constantly biting their tongue, holding in what they are really thinking, that causes their headaches and jaw pain? What’s the driver?
Let’s start with the basics, looking at how someone breathes, how they eat, how they think and how they move. Most of us know more about how our phones work than we do about our own bodies. Lets take that power back. Start now. Sit back and take a deep breath. A big long slow breath in so your tummy actually moves out against your waistband. Now stand up and go get a glass of water. Drink it slowly, paying attention to the sensations – is it cold? How does it taste? How do you feel after drinking it. Make like a cat and stretch. Repeat as needed. Baby steps, moving in the right direction. Try leading by example – start with self care before you show others the way. Try something new for dinner. Try on a different hat today.