Trends in Alternative Medicine

by Nicole Jewell (11/15/11)


Most of us have heard of complementary and alternative medicine, but not all of us understand exactly what it means. Some find it to be helpful, while others are apprehensive just at the thought of going outside their comfort zone where their medical care is concerned. In one study, approximately 58% of the subjects, who happened to be older adults, had used some kind of alternative or complementary medicine. Please keep in mind that none of the therapies that will be mentioned are meant to replace any current care you are receiving, but merely as options to possibly enhance it.

Talk to Your Doctor First
To understand whether any of these treatments would be beneficial or interesting to you, it is best to get as much information as possible to understand them. The most important part of beginning any complementary or alternative medicine regimen would be to speak with your general practitioner about it first. They can advise you as to whether you will be able to participate based upon any current conditions or any medications you are taking. It is also essential to include any supplements you are taking when asked to fill out medical forms that question which medications you are taking.

Almost everyone has taken a multivitamin at one time or another. We have also been told about the benefits of adding a calcium supplement to our diets for healthy bones. There are so many more supplements with potential health benefits, especially for senior care. When a group of seniors were surveyed, many did indeed list an additional supplement, whether it was gingko biloba to aid with memory, melatonin to aid with sleep patterns, glucosamine for joint health, fish oil/omega 3s to lower the risk of heart disease or echinacea to help build immunity and fight off a cold. Fifty years ago, these items wouldn’t have been considered as additions to a health regimen. Today, they are far more commonplace. While these are natural substances, everyone’s body is different, so there are still possible side effects. Research any supplements as much as possible. When in doubt, ask your doctor for guidance.

Traditional Eastern Medicine
Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, qi gong, and Ayurvedic medicine have all received a boost in popularity within the United States over the past 10 to 15 years. Many of these therapies and methods rely upon the mind/body connection and are over 2,000 years old. Hippocrates even made note of the spiritual and moral aspects of healing, saying that healing depends upon natural remedies, environmental influences and attitude. Most of these therapies involve ingesting herbal remedies of some sort and, as with vitamin supplements, it is important to discuss them with your health care provider.

Many of these can be used to treat and/or complement myriad number of complaints. Among them (and this is not a comprehensive list):

  • Arthritis (Osteo and Rheumatoid)
  • Carpel Tunnel/Repetitive Stress Injuries
  • Myriad female issues, including menopause
  • Varicose veins
  • Migraines
  • Stress
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic pain

Body Manipulation
Chiropractic care, including spinal manipulation, can relieve pain and bring about an overall sense of well being. It is important to discuss your bone health with your chiropractor if you have osteoporosis, as injuries can result otherwise.

Massage therapy is often used in conjunction with other therapies, such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. Some of the benefits of massage therapy are reduction of depression or anxiety symptoms, relaxation and pain relief.

Yoga and tai chi are both low impact forms of exercises involving slow movements. They also reduce stress, while increasing balance and strength. By reducing stress, blood pressure is regulated and the risk of heart attack and stroke can be lowered as well. Balance and strength are especially important as we get older. Muscle tissue in our thighs is replaced by fat, thus reducing strength and balance and potentially leading to falls and injuries. Being able to find a low impact form of exercise, even if you just walk 10-15 minutes a day, is extremely important.

Finding a Reputable Practitioner
While you are researching and trying to find the best therapies to suit your needs, it is extremely important to take care in finding the right practitioner. Find out whether they are certified. With chiropractors and acupuncturists, this is not usually a problem, but with some other fields, it may be. Ask for references from friends and family members. If no one you know has sought after that sort of treatment, request references from the provider’s office. They should be happy to provide them to you.

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