When you’re living with a chronic illness, it can be difficult to be taken seriously. At first glance, you may just look a little tired, but nobody could guess that you’re dealing with chronic pain or fatigue.
A doctor who doesn’t take you seriously or who acts frustrated with your condition is not only irritating, but can worsen your symptoms and make you feel hopeless.
Doctors trained in conventional medicine are largely taught to focus on which part of the body needs help most and prescribe a drug or medical procedure to treat it.
This conventional approach is ideal for acute conditions. If you’ve been in a car accident or accidentally chopped off your thumb with a kitchen knife, you want this type of quick-thinking, drugs and surgery approach to save you.
In the case of chronic illness, however, this approach isn’t always best.
Here is a list of four types of doctors who may be a better fit for the treatment of your chronic illness.
The Best Doctors for Chronic Illness
1. Integrative Medicine Doctor
An integrative medicine doctor takes the entire patient, not just a part, into account during examination and treatment. He or she will carefully go over your medical history as well as your physical and mental health status to determine the root cause of disease.
This physician will also take into consideration how diet, lifestyle, stress levels, and community affect your health.
Related: Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor
This type of doctor is ideal for those with chronic illness because they develop a functional partnership with you. This is especially critical if you’ve had to fight long and hard to be taken seriously by a medical professional.
A doctor of integrative medicine can either be a medical doctor (MD) or an osteopathic physician (DO).
2. Osteopathic Physician
A doctor of osteopathic medicine is a complete doctor. This means he or she can legally prescribe drugs. Like integrative medicine physicians, DO’s take a whole-person approach to medicine, focusing on dietary and lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, stress release, and exercise to treat chronic disease.
A doctor of osteopathic medicine also receives extra training in the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, which can be especially beneficial in treating your chronic pain.
3. Doctor of Chiropractic
While many people associate chiropractors with the treatment of back and neck pain, chiropractic manipulation goes far beyond that. Take autoimmune disease, for example. Every single organ, tissue, and cell in your body is governed by the brain. Chronic stress, physical or emotional trauma, and spinal abnormalities can all cause a block in the ability of the brain to communicate properly with the body.
Related: 7 Surprising Causes of Back Pain
The gentle spinal manipulations given by a chiropractor can help release this block and help the body be in a better position to heal itself. According to the Journal of Pediatrics, chiropractic medicine has been used successfully in the treatment of cerebral palsy, neck and back pain, chronic digestive issues, and infertility.
Chiropractors are also trained in clinical nutrition. This means he or she can help advise you on how your current diet may be worsening your condition.
4. Naturopathic Physician
The naturopathic physician can be quite helpful for those living with a chronic illness due to their approach to medicine.
Naturopathic physicians receive training in clinical nutrition, lifestyle management, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling.
New patient intakes often last 45 to 90 minutes so that the physician can become intimately familiar with your medical history and a holistic treatment plan can be devised.
If you’re living with a chronic illness, you may have had some frustrating experiences with medical practitioners. Whether conventional, holistic, or somewhere in between, the right doctor for you is one who listens, takes you seriously, and acts as a partner in your care.
Don’t give up. Once you find the doctor you click with, the change in both your health and outlook will be almost immediate.
Dr. Maxwell is an osteopathic physician who is board certified in integrative medicine, family medicine and osteopathic medicine.
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