Alternative Medicines Therapy? - Information
Alternative Medicine - Info
medicine has developed in response to demand by people who
want to manage their health without the use of drugs and
invasive techniques. Reasons may relate to the political
structure of western medicine, to the side effects of
pharmaceutical drugs used, or there may be other compelling
reasons. But the bottom line is that it just makes sense to
nurture your body. Wellness and sickness cannot coexist in
the same body.
is more than the absence of disease; it includes a mental
and emotional component as well.
Acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy all
provide for the treatment of disease and the creation of
health. Acupuncture is the most complete system of the
group. It encompasses herbs as oral and topical medicines.
These are very effective, have few side effects and are
generally less expensive than drugs.
approaches to creating health are thousands of years old. In
Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods are known to have
affinity for certain organs, and dietary regimes can be
planned targeting those organ systems that are deficient or
diseased so their health is easily maintained.
Bodywork and exercise are two main ways of relieving
physical stress in the body. Acupuncture includes both of
these through Qi (pronounced chee) Gong, Tai Qi and Shiatsu/Tui
Na. Qi Gong is a method of focusing and moving the body's
energy through breathing. The energy can be moved out of
blocked and stagnant areas or can be concentrated in
deficient areas so that the free flow of healing energy is
reestablished and maintained. Tai Qi, is an exercise routine
with roots in martial arts. In its slow form it focuses and
moves energy, but accomplishes this is through movement.
Shiatsu and Tui Na are two of the Asian massage forms.
Needling also focuses on moving Qi and blood, and often with
remarkable results that affect both the physical and
emotional states. People often report feeling deeply relaxed
or euphoric after a needling session.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine ~ Information
You probably have a basic
understanding of how modern medicine works: People have
a yearly checkup, take an antibiotic when they're sick,
get a cast for a broken arm, and they're good as new.
But in recent years other approaches to healing have
risen in popularity. Many of these "alternative"
techniques come from all over the globe and have been
around for thousands of years. So what is alternative
medicine and what does it do?
|What Is It?
The term "alternative medicine" is
used to describe healing treatments that are not part of
conventional medical training like acupuncture, massage
therapy, or herbal medicine. People used to consider
practices like these outside the mainstream, which is
why they got the name "alternative."
Eastern countries have a longstanding tradition of
teaching alternative medicine. But until recently, most
Western hospitals didn't provide any alternative
treatments and Western medical schools didn't teach
Patients in Western countries are becoming more
receptive to trying alternative techniques, and have
been asking for them. As a result, many Western medical
schools are starting to teach these medicine techniques
and theories. Some hospitals and doctors are
supplementing their regular medical care with
Many patients and health care providers use alternative
treatments together with conventional therapies. This is
known as complementary medicine.
Both alternative and complementary medicine use the same
kinds of remedies to treat a health condition. The
difference is that alternative medicine is often used
instead of conventional medical techniques.
Complementary medicine is used in addition to
conventional medicine, not as a replacement. The field
of complementary and alternative medicine is known as
CAM for short.
|How Is CAM Different From
Conventional medicine (also called
"allopathic medicine") is based on scientific knowledge
of the body and uses treatments that have been proven
effective through scientific research. Doctors are
trained to have a thorough knowledge of the body's
systems, diseases, and their treatments.
Complementary and alternative medicine is based on the
belief that a medical care provider has to treat the
whole person - body, mind, and spirit. The techniques
used in CAM are mostly less invasive than conventional
medical practices, meaning that they don't rely on
surgery or conventional medications.
Some CAM therapies are supported by scientific evidence.
But for most there are still questions that need to be
addressed through scientific studies. This doesn't mean
these therapies don't work, it just means that experts
haven't studied them enough to know for sure that they
do, and if so, how.
|Why Do People Use CAM?
People often turn to CAM when they
have a long-lasting problem that conventional medicine
hasn't completely cured. For example, someone who has
seen a doctor for years about persistent headaches might
try using CAM in addition to current treatments to deal
with any symptoms or side effects from conventional
People may also use complementary and alternative
medicine when they're not sick. Because many people
believe that CAM techniques such as yoga can improve
overall well being, healthy people often use alternative
medicine to try to prevent illness or to ensure a
Just as there are many fields in
conventional medicine, CAM covers many different
Biologically based practices involve supplementing a
person's normal diet with additional nutrients, herbs,
extracts, and certain foods. If you've ever taken a
vitamin or herbal supplement, you've followed a
biologically based practice.
Manipulative and body-based therapies focus on the
body's various systems and structures. If you've ever
seen a chiropractor or had a massage, you've been
treated with manipulative therapy.
Mind-body interventions use the connection between a
person's mind, body, and spirit to enhance total well
being. Mind-body techniques include meditation, yoga,
Energy therapies are meant to restore disturbances in
the body's natural energy. Energy therapies include such
practices as Qi gong and Reiki.
In addition to these four different practices, CAM
includes several whole medical systems. These
alternative medical systems are entire systems of theory
and practice, and many date back earlier than the
conventional medicine we use in the West today. Examples
of alternative medical systems include Traditional
Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathic medicine, and
Alternative medical systems incorporate many of the
different practices listed above into their treatments.
For example, the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice
of acupuncture may be combined with herbal medicine (a
biologically based practice), and Qi gong (an energy
therapy). And Ayurveda includes the mind-body therapies
of meditation and yoga, along with the biologically
based practice of taking specific herbs for health
Some CAM practices are supported by scientific research,
while others have not yet been studied. Sometimes
experts have scientific evidence that a CAM practice
(like acupuncture) works, but they don't have a clear
understanding of why.
Although CAM does have some proven
benefits, like anything, it has its limitations.
Experts haven't researched many CAM techniques enough to
tell how effective they are as treatments. Some people
may not feel it's worth investing a lot of time or money
in treatments that haven't been proven effective.
Insurance policies rarely cover CAM treatments, so
people have to pay for them out of their own pockets
with no reimbursement.
For some health problems, alternative healing approaches
on their own may not be enough to help a person get
well. Even something as seemingly minor as an infection
may need treatment with traditional medications, like
antibiotics. That's why it's always best to see your
doctor if you have a health problem and talk openly
about any CAM techniques you might want to try.
Another reason you should be up-front with your doctor
about CAM techniques is because, in some cases, CAM
practices can actually interfere with traditional
medical treatments. For example, certain herbal
supplements can interfere with some prescription drugs,
such as diabetes treatments or birth-control pills.
As with modern medicine, CAM treatments that are
effective for one problem will not help with all
problems. For example, acupuncture has been proven to
help reduce migraines for people under 18 years old, but
is controversial as to whether is helps in other
situations. Certain treatments are only used for certain
problems, so if you want to try an alternative practice
for a health reason, make sure it will help the specific
problem you're looking to correct.
|Before You Try It
Traditional medical doctors are
not only trained, they're licensed. But that's not
always the case with CAM practitioners. Some states have
licensing requirements for certain specialists, like
acupuncturists and massage therapists, and many are
expanding their requirements for licensing as CAM
practices grow in popularity.
Finding a good CAM practitioner is still not as easy as
looking someone up in a phone book. NCCAM recommends
asking another health care provider for a referral,
talking to people who have been treated by the expert
you are considering, and meeting with the practitioner
to ask about his or her experience and training — the
same kinds of things you'd do if you were interviewing a
You may have already used a complementary or alternative
practice, like yoga or massage, and not even thought
about it! Trying practices like meditation and breathing
can't do any harm, but other CAM techniques may have
consequences for people with certain health conditions.
Even the more mainstream practices like yoga can hurt
someone with a health condition — like a back problem —
if they are not done properly. So check with your doctor
before trying any CAM techniques. Your doctor will try
to guide you on which practices you can safely try while
continuing with your current method of treatment.