Since the beginning of time, spirituality and physical health and healing have been thought to be connected. Throughout various and different cultures, there has been a shared common belief that spirituality and faith played an essential and significant role in the physical healing of the sick. In fact many early physicians or healers were spiritual leaders within their culture.
The divide of current Western medicine and spirituality started with the scientific revolution during the Renaissance period. Culture started to see the scientific method of testing hypotheses and measuring results and, if those results were reproducible, make scientific theories. Seeing this explosion of science to explain many worldly questions, people then wanted science to explain the etiology of disease and illness rather than base the cause and possible treatment on their faith alone. Over time, this has led to a great divide between medicine and spirituality.
However, there is now becoming more evidence that there is a significant connection between spirituality and physical health. Using the scientific model of testing hypotheses and measuring results, multiple studies are showing improved healing and well-being among patients with strong faith and spirituality. Studies among various disciplines of health care, including orthopedics, trauma, oncology (cancer), cardiovascular, chronic pain disorders, and mental health disorders, have all shown that strong faith and spirituality improves physical healing of patients.
Why is this? Strong faith and spirituality promotes hope, comfort, and peace within a patient. All of these counter the fear and anxiety that medical illnesses trigger, and help in the overall healing and well-being of the patient. Scientifically, studies have shown that the immune system function and spirituality are connected, with patients regularly attending religious services and having strong faith also having increased immune system function.
Why should a physician then incorporate spirituality into their medical practice? Not only are multiple scientific studies shown to improve healing and physical health, but multiple studies suggest that a majority of patients want doctors to consider their spiritual needs. Most of these studies show that roughly 75% of patients would like their physician to pray with them. Other research studies report that the majority of patients believe that spiritual care, improves their physical healing as well as their ability to cope with the medical problem.
The bottom line is that patient’s with a strong spiritual faith have improved medical outcomes, and that encouraging patients to care for their spirit, as well as their mind and body, is essential for their overall physical health.
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