Throughout my naturopathic education, the therapeutic order, or the stages in which we are meant to address the body, was repeated over and over. Now in practice, I see the importance of the application of this model. This order, as a guideline to treatment, goes hand-in-hand with the principles of our medicine and the modalities we have to choose from, to ensure safety as well as the integration of the whole person, starting with the least invasive options first. The naturopathic therapeutic order is as follows:
Establish the foundation for optimal health
To begin we must first remove any obstacles that are blocking the healing process by assessing the determinants of health (these are income, social status, social support networks, education, literacy, physical environment, personal health practices, coping skills, childhood development, genetics, health services, gender, culture etc.).
Stimulate the healing power of nature
The body’s inherent ability to balance, understood metabolically as homeostasis, is thought of in naturopathic medicine as driven by the vis (vital force) or “qi” in traditional Chinese medicine. Genetics, environment, prolonged stress, chronic disease/dysfunction can all result in a weakening of this innate healing ability. Before healing can begin, the body’s internal energy force must be stimulated. Therapies such as meditation, visualization, mind-body medicine, breath-work, yoga, Qi Gong, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and acupuncture may be used.
Strengthen weakened systems
Long-standing imbalances in the body, diseased states, chronic conditions both internally and externally including high-stress environments, and a lack of solid health foundations can manifest as a prolonged weakening of the vital force and organ system dysfunction and damage. This stage focuses on supporting and restoring these systems to aid in the regeneration of any poorly functioning, damaged tissue through modifications in diet and lifestyle, as well as the use of acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplementation in cases of deficiency.
Address physical alignment
The physical body must not be overlooked in any condition, as function and structure do not exist in isolation. Regardless of whether it is a musculoskeletal condition or not, all organ systems and mental states have the ability to result in physical changes (consider a stressful situation and the natural response to hold your breath or tense your muscles). Restoring proper structural integrity through exercise, rehabilitation, lifestyle/posture modifications, soft tissue mobilization, spinal manipulations/adjustments, acupuncture, or injection therapies, will allow the smooth flow of energy through the body.
Natural substances to control symptoms
While treating the root cause of disease, symptom management may be necessary to palliate. Resolution of underlying disease can be slow and symptomatic treatment with any of the naturopathic therapeutic modalities with the addition of intravenous therapies can be used with the goal of more immediate relief.
Synthetic symptom relief
Use of pharmaceutical substances to control symptoms. In BC, naturopathic doctors have to prescribe rights and can utilize some drugs to help manage symptoms that may be unresponsive to more natural forms of treatment.
High force interventions
This stage typically falls outside of the scope of naturopathic doctors in BC as it includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation for example. At this point, naturopathic medicine can still be incredibly useful as an adjunctive therapy, but based on the naturopathic therapeutic order these treatments would be recommended if the condition has progressed to a degree where less invasive intervention is considered ineffective or unsafe.