So, what is naturopathic medicine? A naturopathic doctor is not necessarily one who uses herbs, acupuncture, and nutritional supplements. A naturopathic doctor is one who follows these principles:
- Do no harm: Use the least harmful diagnostic and treatment methods.
- The healing power of nature: The body can heal itself under the right circumstances.
- Identify and treat the cause: Find and remove the obstacles to health.
- Treat the whole person: Take into account the structural, metabolic, mental/emotional, and other factors of health.
- Doctor as teacher: Educate patients, and encourage self-responsibility for health.
- Prevention: Assess risk factors, and improve health as a whole with the goal of building resilience and preventing future disease.
In a nutshell, a naturopath is a doctor who seeks to find the cause of a person’s disease and remove the obstacles so that the body can heal itself. They do this by treating the whole person (not necessarily just the symptoms) and educating patients about self-care.
When it comes to education and training, naturopathic medical education is rigorous. It is a four-year, post-secondary education that is very similar to conventional medical school. Education is focused on medical diagnosis, pharmacology, clinical skills, and healing modalities. Also, in the state of Arizona, naturopaths are fully licensed as primary care providers and are able to write prescriptions, perform minor surgery, and order labs and imaging. In addition, they have access to a large toolbox of alternative medicines.
Naturopathic medicine uses the following therapies:
- Traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture
- Spinal adjusting/craniosacral work
- Clinical nutrition
- Stress reduction techniques/neuro-emotional techniques
- Botanical medicine
- Regenerative injection therapies (e.g., prolotherapy)
- IV therapies
- Oxidative therapies (e.g., ozone)
- Scar therapy/minor surgery
Having access to all of these tools puts naturopathic doctors in the unique position of offering the best of conventional medical diagnosis and treatment along with the best of natural diagnosis and treatment. Access to all of these tools can make it hard to choose the treatment that is the most appropriate for the patient for exactly where they are with their health. This is why applied kinesiology is a powerful adjunct to the practice of naturopathic medicine.
Applied kinesiology is the study of muscle function applied to the body. It integrates neurology, the acupuncture meridian system, psychology, physical medicine, clinical nutrition, and homeopathy into one system of diagnosis and treatment. By evaluating muscle function before and after applying a stimulus to the body, we can find exactly what the body needs, in real time, while the patient is in the office.
For example, somebody coming in with a headache may have:
- A structural cause: spinal misalignment, muscle tension, cranial faults
- A metabolic cause: blood vessel constriction, inflammation, toxins, hormonal imbalance
- A mental/emotional cause: stress headaches
Depending on the person that comes in, it might be the most valuable to adjust their spine or fix their cranial bones. Another patient will get clinical nutrition and acupuncture. A third will get stress reduction techniques and homeopathy. Instead of fitting the patient to our treatments, we can use applied kinesiology to fit one of the many treatments from our toolbox to the patient’s case. Selecting the appropriate treatment for the patient in this way not only brings the quickest resolution of their symptoms with minimal side effects, but it also saves them time and money.