The last few decades have seen steep growth in the overall popularity of alternative medicine. Today, the "alternative medicine" umbrella covers many different approaches to care, including the principles of holistic care.
This growth in popularity has also led medical practitioners to start to identify areas where their interests overlap with alternative medicine. For example, osteopaths and functional medicine doctors have a lot in common -- and the principles of holistic care might be the reason why.
However, are the principles of holistic care the full story in what unites these two branches? What else can help us understand the union between osteopathy and functional medicine? Let's take a deeper dive to answer these lingering questions and more.
Holistic care, or holistic medicine, uses a specific set of principles different from those commonly used in traditional medicine. Before we can answer the rest of our questions, let's take a look at those principles.
Holistic medicine means taking the entire person, and not just the physical body, into account. Holistic medical providers consider someone's emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being to provide better-informed care.
If all of these factors aren't healthy and in balance, a person can't achieve ideal health. Holistic care providers believe spiritual and emotional imbalances, as well as physical ones, can cause health problems.
Holistic care can include conventional medicine, like medications. But it also takes into account diet, routine, sleep, and the many other factors that can affect health.
One of the main principles of holistic care is that love has healing abilities, and people need love and support in order to become healthy. Another principle is that everyone has innate abilities to heal themselves and that people are responsible for their own health.
In holistic care, the patient works with the doctor as a team focused on the patient's health. Holistic treatment seeks out the root causes of medical issues, treating not just the symptoms but the underlying issues.
Osteopaths, or doctors of osteopathy, use osteopathic manipulative medicine to help their patients become healthier. This includes manipulating the musculoskeletal system through massage, stretches, and other techniques. Surgeries, medications, and other methods can also play a role in osteopathy.
Osteopathy can help people with a number of health concerns, such as mobility issues, poor circulation, and pain.
As with holistic care, osteopathy can involve a blend of "traditional" and "alternative" treatments to get results.
Although osteopathy does use some traditional medicine, it relies heavily on alternative treatments. As with many alternative treatments, there is some evidence to support osteopathy, but that evidence is limited.
So far, studies suggest that osteopathy may work well for issues like back pain, migraines, and more. However, more studies will be needed to fully document the potential of osteopathy as a treatment.
Although functional medicine and osteopathy are not the same things, many osteopaths have found themselves drawn toward functional medicine recently.
Functional medicine involves working with the patient to create an individualized treatment approach with a foundation in science. It's meant to empower patients, while also seeking to treat the root causes of health issues, and involving the patient in every decision.
The holistic focus of functional medicine can bring a new layer to practices like osteopathy. Its focus on the individual helps treat underlying causes in the ways that best suit each patient, rather than addressing symptoms alone.
Functional medicine is still a relatively new field, but it has grown fast in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down.
Since functional medicine is still so new, there isn't much scientific research on its effects. While clinical and anecdotal evidence support its success, some people have critiqued functional medicine for its lack of research-based evidence.
That said, as a new field, it will take time for the research to catch up. As with osteopathy, more research is needed to support the effects of functional medicine, but the research so far is compelling.
Osteopathy doesn't require functional medicine to work. However, it's not hard to see why some osteopaths are drawn to include functional medicine in their practices.
Functional medicine offers osteopaths a bridge between osteopathy and other complementary, alternative medicines, like focusing on nutrition or stress reduction. Through functional medicine, osteopaths can turn their practices into holistic practices.
Functional medicine is also ideal for treating long-term, chronic issues, which osteopaths often work with. While conventional medicine is ideal for treating emergencies and other acute medical needs, functional medicine syncs well with the type of problems osteopaths usually address.
So, does holistic care provide the link between osteopathy and functional medicine? All of this information leads us to one answer: yes.
Osteopathy is not necessarily holistic. So, in order to make it holistic, osteopaths bring functional medicine into their practices. In this way, they use the principles of holistic care to unite their practice with functional medicine's "root cause" approach.
That said, osteopathy is already primed to work well with the principles of holistic care. It involves working together with the patient and blending traditional medicine with alternative care.
This makes osteopathy easy to unite with functional medicine under holistic care principles. Other, more traditional fields may not sync up quite so easily with functional medicine.
The principles of holistic care allow osteopaths to add the benefits of functional medicine to their practices. So far, many osteopaths report finding success with this approach.
This holds promise for people in other fields that may be alternative medicine-friendly, but that don't yet incorporate it. A doctor who believes in the principles of holistic care can use these principles to link their practice with elements of alternative or functional medicine for better results.
Interested in exploring functional medicine for yourself? Check out our guide to finding functional medicine doctors next!