Why Research Is Vital for Integrative Medicine

Why Research Is Vital for Integrative Medicine

Over the past decade, we have seen Integrative Medicine become more and more common in mainstream medical centers. Integrative Medicine (IM) is now taught at most mainstream medical schools, and interestingly it is also becoming much more commonly utilized in the military. In 2009, the Army Pain Management Task Force (PMTF) report called for building best practices for the continuum of acute and chronic care based on a “holistic, multidisciplinary, integrative approach to care.

IM needs to be able to show how well it can perform, and in order to do so, it will need to show research data. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to do research on IM in the same way one does on drugs. When researching a drug, a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study is the study of choice. But placebo acupuncture is very difficult. So is placebo massage and placebo manipulation. With a drug, we can look at one variable, whereas with IM we need to look at the whole person, or multiple variables.

In 2004, The Alliance Integrative Medicine was chosen by the Bravewell Collaborative as one of the 6 leading clinical centers of IM. Our group then grew to 10, and recently we added the IM centers at Vanderbilt University, and the Universities of Boston, Pittsburgh and Colorado to the group which now forms the Bravewell Clinical Network, or Bravenet.

As part of the Bravenet practice based research network, and we are now working on our third national collaborative study. This study, called the PRIMIER Study is a patient reported outcomes registry. It is the biggest study of its kind ever undertaken in IM.

What is different about our research is that we are looking at linkages between the multiple variables that go into making a successful IM treatment. Rather than show the efficacy of a single drug, we are looking at the effectiveness of an IM treatment. We are proud that our patients at Alliance Integrative Medicine have volunteered so selflessly to be part of this study. We thank you for being willing to be part of a movement that ultimately needs to show how effective it can be in combating common medical problems. And, unlike conventional medicine, the IM treatment can simultaneously provide a profound sense of wellbeing. That is why these studies are so important!

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