Merck Manual

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Differences Between Conventional and Integrative Medicine

Differences Between Conventional and Integrative Medicine

Factor

Conventional Medicine

Integrative Medicine

Definition of health

A condition of physical, mental, and social well-being and the absence of disease and other abnormalities

Optimal balance, resilience, and integrity of the body, mind, and spirit and their interrelationships

Definition of illness

Malfunction of an organ or a physical or biochemical process or undesirable symptoms

Imbalance of body, mind, and spirit

Based on a person's specific symptoms and individual physical, mental, and spiritual make-up

Concept of life force

Internal processes that are based on known physical laws and involve physical and biochemical processes

A free-flowing energy that connects mind and body and contributes to health (called qi in traditional Chinese medicine, pronounced "chi")

Understanding of consciousness

Results only from physical processes in the brain

May or may not be created in the brain and mind

Can help in healing

Method of treatment

Any treatment that is supported by scientific evidence, including drugs, surgery, medical devices, physical therapy, exercise, diet, and changes in lifestyle

Includes conventional medicine methods in addition to evidence-informed natural healing practices and the person's inherent capacity for healing

Reliance on scientific evidence

Strict reliance on established principles of scientific evidence

Uses scientific evidence, with treatments also based on traditional use and theory; includes less conclusive scientific support for lower risk practices (for example, breathing exercises)