Lifestyle medicine recognizes the large impact that daily choices have on our health. Me spending time with my son in a beautiful place? Check mark for improving health:)
When I first read this phrase it made me cringe, it felt like an alternative to science based medicine. This has changed over the past month. When I dove deeper and reflected on my own messaging I realized that lifestyle changes are exactly what I am pushing for. Lifestyle medicine means altering your lifestyle; e.g. diet, sleep, stress, and activity levels. These changes are guided and encouraged by a medical professional but a large effort falls on the patient. It is not integrative or functional medicine. These two terms describe the blending of pseudoscience with evidence based medicine. Please refer to this article for a better look at functional OR integrative medicine. In my view lifestyle medicine shifts the treatments we prioritize. Doctors shift away from pharmaceuticals, nutritionists from supplements, physiotherapists from passive modalities and mechanical diagnosis. I am not implying that we do away with pharmaceuticals, supplements, and passive treatments. They work and in some cases are incredibly important. Ideally, they start to play a smaller role and are used more responsibly. It sounds like a small shift but it is a big one and one that takes effort from both clinicians and patients.
How do I integrate lifestyle medicine into my practice?
In physiotherapy passive treatments including needling, massage, and manual therapy will be still used, but with more thought and better scientific explanations of how they work. No releasing, putting in place, or aligning but tools to relax a potentially irritated nervous system (your “feeling” system). If I strive to be an evidence based practitioner these tools should be used sparingly. They are not magic, or the sole solution to any problem.
I educate and coach patients on health choices that will directly impact their current condition and their general health. I stay within my scope but I discuss how nutrition, stress, alcohol, smoking, and exercise can impact the healing process. My goal is to improve the current condition and to promote better health.
If I can influence patients to incorporate lifestyle health I believe our communities and healthcare systems will be better off in the years to come. It is an exciting time because the tools are available it is just a matter of starting.
In the years to come I plan to develop my coaching and support skills so I can offer an effective means for change in lifestyle health. Thanks for reading.