|The majority of the U.S. population believes in the use of conventional medicine when they are sick. Patients seek out trained professionals with medical degrees of various types for a diagnosis. Typically, the doctor will assess the situation and prescribe some sort of prescription medication to remedy the problem. This is the most widely accepted practice in this country.
However, mainstream medicine is beginning to accept and incorporate the practice of alternative medicine. Therapies that were once viewed only as nonsense and impractical are now used daily by conventional doctors. As medicine evolves, more and more alternative therapies are becoming acceptable. And the two types are more closely aligned together.
Conventional medicine in the U.S. is highly regulated and practiced only by those who are licensed to do so, such as medical doctors, psychologists, physical therapists, and registered nurses. Their main focus is on treating symptoms and diagnosing their causes. This is conventional medicine’s greatest strength. The use of prescription drugs, surgery, and physical manipulation for treatment is based on the philosophy that the body is composed of individual parts. By isolating and studying those parts, the body can be understood as a whole.
Alternative medicine, on the other hand, always views the body as a whole. It doesn’t simply present a diagnosis based on the symptoms presented. It believes the cause is not physical, although the symptoms are.
Think of your body as an ecosystem, or a garden within a garden. It is the doctor’s responsibility as the gardener to cultivate good health in partnership with the patient. Alternative medicine looks at the big picture, and goes beyond simply treating the symptoms. If there is disharmony in a person’s body, there is a reason for it. In many cases, balance can be restored through the use of alternative therapies. If alternative therapies can’t cure the problem on their own, then they may be used in conjunction with conventional practices.
Alternative medicine is often referred to as Eastern medicine because of its strong roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Conventional medicine is called Western medicine due to our position on the globe. Eastern medicine dates back nearly 5,000 years. It began with an observation of man and his relationship with nature, himself, and others.
All of these relationships are dependent on the balance of Qi (pronounced “chi”). Qi is a vital energy that Western medicine believes is present in all things. If the flow of Qi is disrupted or blocked, people become unbalanced or sick. Qi is the basis for treating the whole person rather than just his or her physical being.
Alternative medicine includes acupuncture, light therapy, magnet therapy, dietary supplements, and massage. Meditation and pilates are also used. The professionals directing their patients to use these types of therapies are varied, just as the bodies that govern them.
In some states, massage therapists are required to be licensed, while in other states they aren’t. The same is true for dieticians, physical trainers, and acupuncturists. This is where most conventional practitioners draw a line in the sand. They use the non-existence of guidelines and regulations to justify their distrust in alternative methods.
Patients usually seek out alternative therapies when conventional medicine is unable to heal them, and/or when they feel as though they aren’t being given enough attention. A doctor can treat cancer, but he or she typically can’t treat accompanying problems such as a decline in mental or spiritual health.
Some alternative treatment centers are all-inclusive with the ability to treat both the mind and body. At these centers, the doctors and therapists work in concert to treat all of the patient’s needs.
Alternative medicine is very popular among patients who have symptoms or diseases that conventional medicine cannot explain. This includes Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia nearly eight years ago by a conventional doctor. I am fortunate to have a doctor who is knowledgeable about the disease and doesn’t believe in the theory that I am crazy and it is all in my head. Many conventional medical professionals believe that this disease doesn’t exist. Thus, patients are forced to look elsewhere for help and pain relief.
In addition to cancer and fibromyalgia, patients who have chronic back and joint pain, headaches, sleep disorders, and anxiety are likely to seek out alternative therapies. Patients who have accepted the diagnosis that their doctors have given them but not the course of treatment also seek out alternative medicine. If a patient decides that he does not want to take prescription drugs to combat chronic pain, for example, and this is the only option presented to him, alternative medicine may provide other treatment choices.
When conventional and alternative medicine is used jointly to treat a patient, it is commonly referred to as complementary medicine. This type of care is said to give patients the best of both worlds. Alternative therapies are used in conjunction with your doctor’s primary health care plan. The treatments complement each other, hence the name.
It is very important to keep the lines of communication open among the patient, alternative therapists, and conventional medical professionals. Everyone involved in the health care plan has to be on the same page and be aware of everything that is going on. Without excellent communication, complementary medicine will usually fail.
Many alternative practices are holistic in nature, meaning that they encompass examining not only your physical body, but your emotional and spiritual states as well. Conventional medicine often overlooks this.
In many cases, a person who is being treated with complementary medicine will discover that her physical health is connected to more than just her bones and organs. Her well-being is also dependent on her emotional and spiritual state of mind. Once alternative therapists bring these issues to the forefront, conventional doctors can usually see how the two are interconnected.
Most complementary alternative medicine is based on natural methods of restoring health. Stimuli such as herbal remedies, touch/massage therapy, and breathing therapy are all based on natural sources. They can be used with conventional medicine, and neither will cause negative interactions with the other.
Chronic pain, regardless of its nature, benefits greatly from complementary alternative medicine. Many patients are tired of taking several prescription drugs at the same time to combat pain, which can cause depression. Alternative therapies offer relief without using drugs. Dietary changes, along with exercises such as yoga, can relieve mild depression. Acupuncture does the same for pain. Acupuncture has even progressed past needles, and now uses micro currents to promote the body’s ability to heal.
Many of us believe that if a doctor can’t fix what is wrong with us, then no one can. What you may want to think about is that medicine is not an exact science. Not every treatment is going to work for every patient every time.
An open mind is necessary to start any complementary alternative medicine regimen. Proceeding with caution is always recommended when trying alternative therapies. But if you don’t try them, you won’t know if they work. A treatment that seems crazy and unorthodox today may be the wave of the conventional future.
A couple of examples of alternative therapies that have become mainstream conventional uses are fish oil and digitalis. Cardiologists regularly recommend to their patients to take fish oil to reduce triglycerides and to improve heart health. Seventy years ago, this was unheard of. Now, fish oil is sold over-the-counter as well as in prescription form.
Digitalis is widely known for its use for heart problems. Today, it is taken in pill form, but what many do not know is that it has been used for centuries. Long ago, it was plucked from nature in the form of a leaf, but its uses were the same. Today, this leaf is considered to be mainstream medicine.
There is a new type of clinic appearing within the medical community today that is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of patients by incorporating both alternative and conventional medicines under one roof. By doing so, doctors and therapists are able to give patients a personalized plan for restoration and recovery. It offers patients the convenience of not having to travel to several offices for different treatments and therapies. This new type of integrative care also affords doctors and therapists the ability to coordinate a patient’s care without sending impersonal emails or making countless referrals. Everything a patient needs is under one roof. This in itself can offer patients peace of mind and can ease stress.
People should not dismiss a new medical therapy or treatment just because they have never heard of it or have never tried it, in my opinion. If you are aware of a new alternative therapy and you think it may help you, bring the idea up to your doctor. He or she may be willing to research it to see if it would be beneficial for you.
If you aren’t receptive to the idea, locate a complementary alternative medicine clinic that embraces the medical model of bringing Eastern and Western medicine together. It is your health, and although you aren’t an expert like a doctor is, you can usually gauge how you feel by what your body is telling you. After all, you might just be the first to receive what will become a tried-and-true therapy.
Sources for this story included: www.treatment.psychologytoday.com, www.nccam.nih.gov, and www.enrichmentjournal.com.