"Whole Child" Health: Integrative Medicine Helps Heal Kids Inside and Out - Promise
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“Whole Child” Health: Integrative Medicine Helps Heal Kids Inside and Out

In recent years, integrative medicine has become common in the care of patients of all ages. This approach combines traditional and alternative medicine. It focuses not only on physical well-being, but also on emotional and sometimes even spiritual aspects of a person’s health. Nemours Children’s Health System uses integrative medicine to treat the whole child: body, mind and spirit.

When kids and their families walk through Nemours’ doors, whether in an inpatient or outpatient setting, the facility focuses on the children’s overall wellness and healing. Depending on the complexity of the condition, treatment will likely incorporate medications and physical therapies. But to get at the heart of healing, Nemours also incorporates complementary solutions such as nutrition and physical activity strategies, mind-body methods like yoga and meditation, and therapies including massage and aromatherapy.

What is integrative medicine?

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts your child at the center. It addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a young person’s health. This strategy makes your child’s care personalized and considers their unique condition, needs and circumstances.

Integrative therapies are often used in a variety of situations to:

  • reduce pain
  • enhance recovery from intensive treatments such as cancer treatment and surgery
  • strengthen the immune system
  • build resiliency to stress and anxiety
  • promote emotional self-management

Integrative medicine also successfully empowers children and families to be a part of the healing process.

Types of integrative medicine services:

  • Mind and body meditation: Practitioners work with children on relaxation techniques using various calming methods. The goal is to help kids create positive thoughts, especially when they are anxious or fear what’s coming next. These methods include controlled breathing exercises (often called belly breathing), hypnosis and guided mental imagery. Children learn to rely on the power of their mind to recall images of a happy event or place, which can help them relax and heal.
  • Healing touch: This is a noninvasive energy therapy that involves a practitioner (usually a nurse) using their hands and touch therapy to promote health and healing. Utilized in hospitals throughout the country, this holistic approach to healing encourages and supports the body’s natural ability to heal and feel better. These sessions can help lessen pain, reduce stress, increase relaxation, promote overall healing, calm anxiety or depression, strengthen the immune system, enhance surgery recovery and create a sense of well-being.
  • Yoga: Yoga allows kids to get in touch with their bodies and develop both outer and inner strength. Kids participate in a series of slow and gentle movements, such as stretching and posing. By practicing yoga poses, children can learn how to exercise, develop confidence and concentrate better.
  • Massage therapy: Massage therapy is a form of structured-touch movements and pressures that gently manipulate the body’s connective tissue, muscles, tendons and ligaments. These gentle, but skilled movements, often bring a sense of restoration and vitality to the body while providing a sense of comfort and healing.  Our integrative treatments use different therapeutic techniques that not only foster relaxation, but also improve orthopedic and muscular deficiencies. Nemours massage therapists are nationally certified and licensed with additional education and experience in healthcare settings. Their advanced massage therapy skills enable them to collaborate with your child’s medical care team in providing safe and symptomatic relief.
  • Aromatherapy: With guidance from trained practitioners, this holistic healing treatment uses natural plant extracts to promote health and well-being. The aromatic scents of essential oils from flowers, leaves and plants encourage kids to relax. The therapy also helps reduce stress, anxiety, nausea and pain, and can increase a child’s appetite. Aromatherapy is often incorporated into healing touch and massage therapy sessions.
  • Medical Acupuncture: Medical acupuncture is a therapy used for patients with acute and chronic pain, and to alleviate symptoms of multiple medical, musculoskeletal and psycho-emotional conditions in conjunction with their medical management. This new program is expected to start up in 2019.

What is the whole child approach?

At the heart of integrative medicine is the forming of a partnership between the patient and doctor. Nemours takes it a step further. Because Nemours treats children, the partnership between the whole family and their health care provider is essential. Nemours facilities treat your child’s physical condition while also taking care of the emotional health and wellness of the entire family.

Nemours works with your child through every step of their healing journey, educating them along the way about their medical condition and treatments. Health care providers will also help parents manage their child’s home care and provide the whole family with coping strategies to ensure success at home, at school and beyond.

Treatment today, prevention for the future

Treating the whole child isn’t only about caring for them today; it’s about making sure they stay healthy in the long-term.

With childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, more and more children are at risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. Many kids come to Nemours for problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses. To treat these sorts of issues, professionals work with your child — as well as your whole family — on incorporating healthy nutrition and exercise into their daily lives. Nemours will also discuss additional options, such as adding meditation, breathing exercises and yoga into your child’s routine, which helps both their mind and body heal.

Integrative therapies help pediatric patients relax, reduce stress and increase movement and exercise while nourishing their bodies. In addition to addressing and handling your child’s immediate health problem, using an integrative approach ensures that professionals see the deeper causes of their disease or illness. That way, practitioners can focus on prevention and help your child develop healthy behaviors and skills they can use in self-care throughout their life.

This article originally published on DelawareOnline.

Frances R. Zappalla, DO

About Frances R. Zappalla, DO

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Dr. Frances Zappalla is a pediatric cardiologist for the Nemours Cardiac Center at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. She also sees patients at Nemours duPont Pediatrics satellite locations at St. Francis (in Wilmington), as well as Collegeville and Newtown Square in Pennsylvania.