Integrative medicine has become an increasingly popular way to enhance treatment for health concerns. At Mayo Clinic, two forms of integrative medicine - acupuncture and massage - have already helped numerous patients. In a review of several case studies in Explore, Mayo Clinic researchers examined the potential role of integrative medicine as a therapeutic and diagnostic benefit when combined with a patient’s treatment plan.
A massage therapist's ability to have hands-on contact with a patient and potential for seeing patients for multiple sessions not only can relieve symptoms, but also aid diagnostic detection. Such was the case in a study where Mayo Clinic researchers observed a patient who underwent a partial small bowel resection and was being followed up with massage for persistent pain. The massage therapist detected tenderness upon palpating an area and alerted the patient’s care team. Subsequently, the team found an intestinal leak and infection in the abdominal cavity.
“We have done over two dozen studies on massage and acupuncture showing the benefits that both treatments have on patients. Skilled practitioners of integrative medicine are able to be a member of the care team and contribute their expertise, while also delivering care directly to patients,” says Brent Bauer, M.D., director of research for Mayo Clinic's Integrative Medicine Program, who is the lead author.
Acupuncture is another treatment that has been widely noted for its role in helping with chronic pain management. “Our experience with patients at Mayo Clinic confirms that we see a tremendous number of patients for which acupuncture is a central part in their pain management strategy,” says Dr. Bauer.
Along with pain relief, acupuncture also can play an important role in assessing underlying health issues. Another case study focusing on acupuncture treatment at Mayo Clinic revealed that a mass was identified on a patient who initially was referred for acute upper-back pain. The acupuncturist noted a small mass in the muscle and brought it to the attention of the primary doctor. Subsequently, an ultrasound of the area was ordered, which showed that the mass was positive for sarcoma.
As these case studies show, bringing acupuncture and massage into the clinical setting can have benefits that extend beyond therapeutic wellness. Acupuncturists and massage therapists can bring another level of healing and a second set of eyes to a patient’s overall treatment plan. As Dr. Bauer notes, “That is the definition of integrative medicine in a nutshell – combining the best of both worlds to optimize health and healing for our patients.”