Why Conventional Doctors are Embracing Holistic Health for Pain Management

meditating nurses

Western medicine and alternative medicine are known to be at an eternal state of conflict with one another, but this mind-body duality has been slowly shifting to a holistic approach.

In 1977, George L. Engel challenged biomedicine by advocating for a biopsychosocial model of pain management in Science, making the controversial claim that medicine was in crisis. To Engel, “…adherence to a model of disease [was] no longer adequate for the scientific tasks and social responsibilities of either medicine or psychiatry.

Engel proposed a new medical model that would include the phenomenological “human experience” of illness including social, psychological, and behavioral dimensions as well as biological factors.

But it’s taken some time for the medical profession to heed Engel’s call for a new holistic model of care for patients.

The split between the biomedical model and the integrative biopsychosocial model is due, in part, to the lack of sufficient studies to support medical claims and, in part, due to resistance of one another’s function in healthcare.

However, they are making a truce and joining forces as research backs medical claims on alternative medicine and the public demands a change.

Venn Diagram - Biopsychosocial model of treatment

The Public Demand for Integrative Medicine

Natural approaches have gained incredible traction with the American people as they seek safer, healthier ways to manage their pain and enhance their wellbeing. So much so that John Hopkins Arthritis Center noted the following:

“…arthritis and joint pain are within the top five reasons people seek out complementary and alternative medicine.”

To quantify this statement, The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a global survey on the use and attitudes of traditional and complementary medicine (T & CM), which evaluated policies and adoption between 2005-2018. In the America’s alone, they concluded:

As [of] 2018, although most of the T&CM indicators were not on par with global percentages, the progress made from 2005 indicates that the Member States in the region realize the importance and are making efforts to develop this sector. A majority – 28 out of 35 (80%) – of Member States in the region acknowledge the use of T&CM among their populations.

In a similar American study, The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) evaluated adult use of yoga, meditation, and chiropractors between 2012 to 2017.

In 2012, the NCHS found

  • Natural products were used by 17.7% of adults
  • Specialty diets were used by 3.0% of adults

As of now, more research needs to be conducted on naturopathy and herbal medicine use among Americans in order to determine the current trends.

However, it is clear that mind-body practices have dramatically increased in popularity. From 2012 to 2017,

  • Yoga increased from 9.5% to 14.3 %
  • Meditation increased from 4.1% to 14.2%
  • Chiropractic care increased from 9.1% to 10.3%

The National Health Statistics Report revealed that “there was a small but significant linear increase in the use of homeopathic treatment, acupuncture, and naturopathy” as well.

All of this demonstrates that a change in consciousness is shifting towards natural health.

Why is this shift towards holistic health happening?

We all know by now that NSAIDs, corticosteroid medications or injections, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and opioids serve as a double-edged sword.

Most pain medications do not aim to cure, but instead, mask the symptoms of pain. While these conventional treatments are viable options for extreme pain, incomplete relief, significant side effects, and even addiction are common.

The potential side effects and the growing evidence for the benefits of natural approaches are important reasons why medical doctors are turning to natural health.

Therefore, ample alternative practices including mindfulness, hypnosis, diet-based therapies, acupuncture, and expressive arts therapy, among others, have made their way to Western practice to help patients deal with their pain.

This is a big win for alternative practitioners like yourself and your patients alike.

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Holistic Mind-Body Approaches to Pain Management

Jon Kabat-Zinn famously brought his Buddhist meditation techniques into the medical profession with his seminal 1985 study, the clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

Fast forward to 2016 and neuroscience proves that this relief is not connected to endogenous opioids. The authors noted that:

“Mindfulness meditation, a practice premised on directing nonjudgmental attention to arising sensory events, reduces pain by engaging mechanisms supporting the cognitive control of pain.”

This is a promising study for those who wish to decrease their use of opioids or cut them out altogether.

Other mind-body approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, expressive arts therapy, hypnosis, acupuncture, etc. have been proven to be effective in the holistic treatment of pain.

While these therapies may not replace the need for pain medication, doctors are beginning to recognize that holistic practices can help the patient deal with the biopsychosocial factors that can contribute to their global symptoms. Therefore, it is not uncommon to include these practices as adjunct therapies to conventional pain management.

This is your chance to share the results with your patients and show the research that backs up your belief that alternative medicine simply works with hard data.

For starters, here are a few topics below that can help you get the conversation started.

Meditation in hospitals and clinics

The concept of meditation or mindfulness might conjure images of mala beads (prayer necklaces with 108 beads) dangling around the necks of hippies bent like pretzels on zafu cushions or sari-clad gurus, but the practice has made its way to medicine thanks to clinical research.

This 2,500-year-old practice has its roots in spirituality, particularly in the East, but clinicians have taken interest in its ability to calm the mind and body. These practices can alleviate the intensity of pain by modifying thoughts and behaviors related to pain.

A review published by the Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America Journal discusses the emotional and physiological benefits of meditation in Western medicine. It provides practicing rheumatologists with an overview of mindfulness techniques and how they can be used in treatment plans, which you can adopt yourself.

If you are a meditation practitioner of a specific discipline like the aforementioned Buddhist practitioner, Jon Kabat-Zinn, feel free to borrow from your chosen tradition (with your patient’s permission of course). Your patients may even be able to direct you toward the mindfulness technique from their tradition.

Here’s a meditation from John Kabat-Zinn’s meditation exercise at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center to get you started.

Massage therapy in hospitals and clinics

As many health professionals we speak to already know, arthritis often responds well to appropriate physical care due to its ability to treat the body and the mind.

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology showed that:

Daily massage for children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis calmed their anxiety and stress, reduced the frequency and severity of pain, and lessened pain-limited activities.

A quick search on a popular job search engine, Indeed.com, displays 100’s of vacancies for specially trained medical massage therapists at hospitals and clinics across the United States. Positions include joining physical medicine and rehab teams, birthing centers, cancer treatment for therapeutic and lymphatic treatment, end of life care, and more.

You name it, massage therapists are treating it. And they appear to be earning twice the national average of other massage therapists.

Whether or not you are a massage therapist, this is your opportunity to think outside of the confines of your profession.

Acupuncture in hospitals and clinics

Acupuncture is a prime example of East-West integration. While it is a mind-body modality from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it has made its way to hospitals in the west thanks to ample studies that prove its efficacy for pain and other conditions. For instance, San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital conducted a pilot study program that utilized acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment for inpatient treatment for pain.

While TCM explains acupuncture’s efficacy through activating and balancing the qi (energy) through its meridians (energy channels), neuroscience notes that the nervous system, neurotransmitters and endogenous substances respond to needling stimulation. In essence, they are essentially saying that acupuncture work with the body’s electrical and chemical circuits in their own language.

Now that Western Medicine is adopting this Eastern practice, you can find acupuncture in:

  • pediatric hospitals
  • outpatient clinics
  • birthing centers
  • and more

If you are an acupuncturist, this is a great way for you to branch out your practice and meet those weary of holistic medicine in the middle.

Expressive arts therapy in clinics and hospitals

While expressive arts therapy was initially founded as a psychiatric treatment, modalities like art, dance, drama, and music have been implemented into medical settings in order to improve patients’ overall wellbeing.

It is undeniable that pain is a biopsychosocial problem that should be treated holistically — and the arts do just that, an idea that is reinforced in the Croatian Medical Journal . The authors believe

“the experience of pain presents a complex interaction of neurological, emotional, cognitive, social, and cultural factors.”

For example, a study in The Arts for Psychotherapy, art therapy can reduce pain and anxiety during acute hospital treatment. Moreover, it can give patients the feeling of control that they may feel they are missing when they are in pain or residing in hospitals.

For these reasons, countless hospitals in the United States and abroad employ art therapists to work with children and adults. The Rambam Health Care Campus in Israel has an impressive art studio for its patients fit for a professional artist. And you’d be hard-pressed not to find an art therapist in a children’s hospital in the United States.

Art therapists notoriously partner with interdisciplinary teams. Pain specialist doctors, naturopaths, acupuncturists, nurses, and more would benefit from collaboration.

CBT in hospitals and clinics

CBT has become an increasingly popular form of short-term therapy, where the objective is to learn behavioral modification and communication skills that one can apply to daily life.

Interestingly enough, the psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, successfully intertwined CBT with mindfulness to develop dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Linehan’s development of distress tolerance could be particularly useful for pain sufferers.

While both of these therapies are generally used for psychiatric conditions, they are now being adopted for mind-body issues.

For pain sufferers, CBT and DBT can help:

  • change their perception of pain
  • increase their ability to empathize with others after immense suffering
  • develop communication skills about their diagnoses
  • visualize comfort via safe-place exercises
  • and more.

You can try basic CBT techniques like visualizations on the acupuncture or massage table. Try consulting a CBT specialist in your area about pain-related techniques you can try. Or work together. 

CBD CLINIC™ Topicals Bridge the Biomedical Model with Holistic Health

Like mind-body practices, counterirritants like menthol and camphor, distract the brain from pain signals with heating and cooling sensations. For this reason, both conventional and alternative health practitioners use them as a way to offer safe, natural pain relief for the pain.

With CBD CLINIC™’s use of naturally-derived active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), patients can get the best of both worlds—a holistic approach to treatment that utilizes the research from Western medicine.

Our products also give power to your patients. The knowledge that they have an effective, natural product on hand to calm pain and reduce flareups may improve their quality of life and allow them to make healthy lifestyle choices that help them deal with their pain.

CBD CLINIC Level 4 ointment has been helpful in my practice and for myself during a 24-hour mountain bike race. Its effect on joint and musculoskeletal pain is fantastic!

Jill Valerius / M.D.

As a certified medical cannabis pharmacist, I saw a huge void in the market place for a High-quality topical product that was high CBD and THC free for my patients. My patients love the cooling effect of the counterirritants that provide immediate relief while the CBD gets absorbed. We use this on the whole family, children included for long days playing sports. Just love the products.

Brian Bobby / Pharmacist

The CBD CLINIC’s cream works great! It helps to relieve the muscle aches and pains of many patients. It is great to have an option for pain relief that isn’t a prescription pain medication.

Karla Joyce / M.D.


Pain can be disempowering, disabling and exhausting, and uncomfortable, that is why conventional doctors and hospitals are now joining forces with holistic practitioners. This provides a well-rounded approach to treatment that includes biological, physical, and social aspects of pain. CBD CLINIC topicals can serve as a bridge between conventional and alternative medicine.

Don’t be shy, consider partnering with a health professional outside of your expertise to offer a well-rounded treatment. The opportunities are waiting for you.

To learn more about boosting your business with CBD,
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Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It has not been approved by the FDA to diagnose, treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate any diseases or conditions. We use CBD in our products for cosmetic purposes only.

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