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Seeing The Big Picture: How The Four Pillars Of Integrative Medicine Can Work For You

When it comes to the medical field, many people I come across initially believe that as healthcare providers, we simply diagnose and treat various injuries and ailments with traditional Western-based modalities. While these are certainly aspects of our practice, many doctors, including myself, prefer to use an integrative approach that involves holistic treatment of the patient beyond the disease or injury in order to attain overall physical, mental, social, and spiritual wellness.

With this person-centered approach in mind, here are the four pillars of integrative medicine that I use with patients to help them attain optimal health:

1. Nutrition

We may only think about healthy eating when it comes to weight loss, but the reality is that the foods you choose to eat can have a major impact on your overall physical and mental health. While I refer to expert dietitians and integrative functional medicine (IFM) doctors to create bespoke nutrition plans for patients who require more individual guidance, some global nutrition tips include cutting down on caffeine, sugars, and simple carbohydrates while focusing on increasing your intake of organic proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition, eating small meals throughout the day and drinking plenty of water can improve metabolism and overall system functioning.

2. Healthy Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to optimal body functionand overall wellness, and it helps you heal faster from injuries and illness. The key is to not only get enough hours of sleep each night (between 6 and 8 hours), but also to get quality sleep. To make this happen, I recommend setting up a consistent sleep routine where you go to bed at a regular time each night. In addition, consider winding down before bedtime by turning off the lights, listening to relaxing music or sounds, and turning your phone to airplane mode!

3. Movement

It’s no secret that our bodies were designed to get up and go! As a physical therapist, working on improving movement is right in my wheelhouse, and I love seeing patients well before recurring pain or chronic illness have severely impacted their lifestyle. Having a regular movement or exercise routine will not only help your joints, muscles, and bones stay healthy but will also help with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Further, with proper form, movement can be an excellent preventative measure for a variety of injuries and chronic conditions I see in my practice. To get moving, consider setting up a time of day to get at least 30 minutes of exercise. I recommend also finding a friend or family member to exercise with in order to maintain accountability and improve social wellness.

4. Relaxation

With so much going on in our modern lives, we tend to put our minds and bodies through tremendous stress. As such, it is crucial to make time to relax each day and let yourself reset. I particularly like mindful meditations, yoga, and focused breathing techniques to ground myself, cope with stress, and refocus my energy going forward.

Lagniappe: One of my Favorite Ways to Enhance Wellness is to Dance and Listen to Music!

Music has a powerful influence on our lives. It helps us relax, escape, and can improve overall happiness by triggering the release of serotonin and dopamine into the brain. Music can also help us move and feel good all at the same time. In addition, while we may currently be in the midst of a pandemic, listening to and dancing to music can still serve as a therapeutic social experience that helps us relate and connect with our friends and community (i.e. virtual dance parties on Zoom). As a New Orleanian living in a city rich with musical traditions, I personally can attest to how music can bring us together and increase overall happiness and health.

Bottom Line

As a physical therapist, I clinically diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and health conditions in my daily practice. However, I also take my role as a preventative healthcare provider seriously, working with my patients’ individual needs to setup holistic lifestyle plans. By using this integrative approach and some of the tips above from the key pillars of health, you too can attain overall wellness across all aspects of your life.

To learn more about our various integrative treatments or to schedule a physical therapy evaluation, contact us today!


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