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Western, Eastern, Holistic and Integrative Medicine: What's the Difference?

Western, Eastern, Holistic and Integrative Medicine: What's the Difference?

There are many different means to the same end when it comes to veterinary medicine. At The Drake Center, we primarily use traditional Western medicine to treat our patients. However, we welcome the practices of other schools of thought, such as Eastern or Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), holistic and integrative medicine.
 
Western medicine is the most popular type of medical treatment in North America and Western Europe. This practice is often scientifically based and uses diet, medication and surgery to treat illness.
 
TCVM covers a diverse body of medical theory that originated in China and has developed over two millennia. It is based on the concept of balance (Yin-Yang) using acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, food therapy and Qigong. In Chinese medicine, diagnosis is made through recognition of “patterns” which are characteristic for areas of imbalance within the body. The goal of therapy is to restore the underlying balance.
 
Holistic medicine is a system of care that considers the animal as a whole being and encompasses a wide variety of alternative and complementary therapies designed to promote healing and overall wellness. Holistic practitioners look at the pet’s overall physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being before recommending treatment.
 
Unfortunately, each practice tends to focus on its own therapies at the expense of the others, rather than in addition to them. That’s where integrative medicine comes in.
 
Integrative medicine embraces the incorporation of alternative therapies into mainstream Western medical practice. This type of medicine combines many Chinese and holistic therapies, such as acupuncture, herbs and food therapy, with the positive attributes of Western medical techniques, like emergency medicine and critical care, advanced dental and surgical methods and highly sophisticated diagnostic tools.
 
At The Drake Center, we believe integrative medicine is the best option for wellness-oriented care. Though each therapy is different, Western, Eastern and holistic medicine are not mutually exclusive. Drawing from several veterinary disciplines, our integrative services combine conventional treatments with additional therapies that have a proven scientific basis and evidence of effectiveness.
 
Integrative treatments at our practice include acupuncture, electroacupuncture, laser therapy, herbal medicine and food therapy.

 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the art and science of placing thin metallic needles in specific areas to encourage the body’s own healing and function. This practice is one of the key components of the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCVM). In TCVM, all structures and functions within the body are described as having Yin or Yang characteristics. This balance between the Yin and Yang functions maintains balance within the body. It is believed that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a balanced state; therefore, disease occurs due to an imbalance of Yin and Yang.
 
Acupuncture is indicated for pain and inflammation, but can be very beneficial for any musculoskeletal or neurologic condition. Metabolic diseases can also be augmented with acupuncture. Common diseases treated with acupuncture include arthritis, back pain, tendon or ligament injury, lick granulomas, feline asthma, diarrhea and kidney disease.
 
Acupuncture may also be beneficial in the treatment of cancer patients or in addition to conventional cancer therapies, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Acupuncture can be helpful in reducing pain from cancer, alleviating side effects from conventional therapies, including nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and enhancing immune system function.
 
Modern research has documented that acupuncture points occur in areas of the body where there is a high density of free nerve endings, mast cells, small arterioles and lymphatic vessels. From a Western perspective, stimulation of these points can have several physiologic effects on the body, including the local release of histamine to allow for increased blood flow. The needles can also stimulate nerve function, relieve muscle spasm and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid) to reduce inflammation.
 
Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical treatment for animals when it is administered by a properly-trained veterinarian. 
 
The length and frequency of treatment depends on the condition of the patient. We often start with one or two treatments per week for three to four weeks. A positive response is usually seen after the first to third treatments. Once a maximum response is achieved, the treatments are tapered until the greatest amount of symptom-free time elapses between them.

 

Electroacupuncture

Electroacupuncture is the use of electrical current to stimulate acupuncture points. Needles are inserted into these points and connected by wires to an electrical stimulation device. The mild electric current is then passed between pairs of needles.
One advantage of electroacupuncture is the ability to stimulate multiple pairs of needles simultaneously, precisely control the amount of stimulation and be able to reproduce the exact conditions of the treatment. Also, the intensity of the stimulation can be greater than manually manipulated needles.

 

Laser therapy

Laser therapy uses deep-penetrating light to relieve pain through the release of endorphins and stimulates injured cells to heal at a faster rate without the use of pharmaceuticals or surgery. 
 
Photobiostimulation, a chain of chemical reactions triggered by exposure to light, helps to decrease inflammation, reduce the pain of arthritis and stimulate cell growth and tissue healing in wounds.
 
At The Drake Center, we use laser therapy primarily for arthritic patients and post-op for pain and faster healing. This treatment can relieve painful, stiff joints, arthritic spines and the effects of hip dysplasia. Laser therapy can also be used to treat hotspots, burns and incision sites as well as everyday disorders like lick granulomas and chronic ear infections.

 

Herbal medicine

Herbal medicine, also known as phytomedicine, is the use of botanical remedies to treat illness. Herbal healing is considered by many to be the oldest form of medicine and has been used by all races, religions and cultures throughout the world.
 
Herbal medicine can be used as an alternative or in addition to conventional medicine. Herbs are able to effectively treat many of the same conditions as traditional medicine and may even be helpful in the treatment of medical conditions that are not cured with conventional therapy. Herbs can reduce inflammation, relieve pain, inhibit tumor growth and prevent infection.
 
While most western drugs have one or two specific actions, an individual herb can have multiple uses within the body. These may include antioxidant, adaptogenic, antimicrobial, immunostimulant and immunosuppression functions. When used properly, herbal remedies generally have far fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs.
 
Herbal medicine is also quite beneficial in the treatment of cancer. Herbs may be used in addition to ongoing conventional therapies to offset the side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, enhance the patient’s immune system and aid in tumor reduction. 
 
Herbal therapy can also help reestablish the body’s balance after a pet is treated with traditional therapy and has been pronounced “cancer-free.”
 

Food therapy

In Western medicine, food is assessed according to the amount of nutrients it contains, based on laboratory analysis before it enters the body. 
 
In Eastern medicine, food is described as possessing certain qualities, such as whether it is warming (a Yang characteristic) or cooling (a Yin characteristic). The nutritional value of the food is described as the energetic properties the food exerts on the body according to its temperatures and flavors. Some foods even have a specific therapeutic effect and are said to enter certain meridian pathways to exert that effect on particular organs.
 
Food may increase the energy of (tonify) a bodily function or help to reduce the influence of a particular pathologic condition. For instance, sweet potato, from a Western perspective, gives pets rich antioxidants and fiber that acts as a probiotic. From a TCVM perspective, sweet potato is a neutral food that drains dampness from the body. This knowledge can help us choose a diet tailored to an individual patient’s personal energetic needs.
 
Food therapy may also be used as a part of a multi-modality TCVM approach for the treatment of some diseases, like cancer. This means a tailored diet is used in conjunction with acupuncture and/or herbal therapy. 
 
Your initial integrative medicine consultation will be one hour in length. During this appointment, Dr. Boehme will thoroughly review your pet’s history and listen to your concerns. Together, we will then decide on an appropriate therapeutic strategy designed to maximize your pet’s health, happiness and well-being.
 
After the consultation, we encourage you to review the information and contact us right away if you have any additional questions or concerns. We will cover a tremendous amount of information in this first appointment. It is important that you are comfortable with and thoroughly understand the treatment plan we have developed for your pet. We look forward to healing such an important member of your family.
 
To book an integrative appointment for your pet with Dr. Kathy Boehme, call us at (760) 753-9393. Or you can book online here
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