Defining Holistic Orthopedics
Integrative, Functional, Natural, Organic, Free-Range, Sustainable, Green...
Buzzwords abound in the world of health and wellness. However, regardless of marketing trends, one term - Holism - continues to describe the kind of medical care that patients seek to receive and healthcare professionals seek to provide.
The reason is easy to understand. As our knowledge of the body expands, the medical community is able to see how different systems connect as an interdependent whole.
This is important as when things go wrong, doctors can find that a heart problem may be rooted outside of the heart or a skin disease may be rooted not on the surface but deep inside of the gut.
The concept of holism in medicine allows us look at the body as an eco-system rather than a machine. In the 20th century the human machine could have been described like a car with tubes for this and pistons for that. The body was modular: if an old part breaks, replace it with something new. Bacterial overgrowth? Wipe out the entire species like a farmer cropdusting a field.
Today medical professionals are increasingly approaching the body like an eco-system where flora and fauna coexist in a circle-of-life state of balance. Like a forest where each creature depends on the vegetation or other animals for survival, so does our body function in a system of interdependence.
With this perspective, there is new desire to treat the whole body - even for issues like chronic back pain or acute shoulder pain.
Luckily, treating the body as a holistic organism has been norm for Asian doctors for the past 2,ooo years. With acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage, doctors in China continue this tradition today.
In my personal experience studying at a teaching hospital in China, I saw firsthand how doctors prescribed individualized herbal formulas for stroke patients who were also receiving acupuncture, massage and occupational therapy.
There, the herbal medicine was integral for increasing the patient's rate of recovery as it was able to enhance circulation while increasing the elasticity of muscles and tendons. Acupuncture served as a means to reawaken peripheral nerves. Massage mobilized joints when the stroke patient's movement was severely limited.
This way of approaching and treating orthopedic problems is important today more than ever as patients look beyond pills or surgeries for long lasting pain relief.