Naturopathic treatment is part of a distinct system of medical care that emphasizes prevention, treatment and optimal health or wellness. It combines both ancient healing traditions such as herbal medications and the latest scientific methods such as diagnostic lab tests. The focus of a naturopathic physician is to identify and remove underlying causes of illness rather than treating symptoms and to remove obstacles so the body can heal itself.
A naturopathic physician can treat all medical conditions, both acute and chronic, for people of all ages and both sexes. Although they are trained in and do use prescription medications, the focus of this kind of medicine is the use of natural healing agents, like herbs, massage and homeopathic preparations. Allergies, chronic pain, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances and obesity are among the conditions a naturopathic physician might treat. They perform minor surgeries, such as stitching a wound or removing a cyst, but not major surgeries.
Naturopathic medicine focuses on the whole person, unlike conventional medicine in which many physicians specialize in a particular area like the heart or gastrointestinal system. Prevention is also one of the major tenets of naturopathic medicine, and care is geared toward solving the underlying problem rather than managing the symptoms with medications or other therapies. Naturopathic physicians also spend considerable time educating their patients about health and how to achieve wellness.
One of the most noticeable aspects of a visit with a naturopathic physician is the length of the appointments. The first visit may last as long as two hours, and it includes an extensive health history, a physical examination and lab tests. The doctor will also discuss the patient's health goals, answer questions and explain the plan of care. Since much of the healing process relies on the patient to self-manage their care and make lifestyle changes, patient education is a major component of naturopathic treatment. Follow-up visits typically last 30 to 60 minutes and follow a similar pattern.
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