Complimentary or ‘alternative’ medicine is nothing new. The Chinese have been using acupuncture and herbal remedies to treat ailments for centuries and medical cannabis dispensaries are the first port of call for people suffering from Parkinson’s and other debilitating diseases.
However, although this type of treatment is common, does it really work? Should we be sticking to conventional medicines instead if we want relief from our ailments?
Different Types of Complementary Treatments
There are many different types of complimentary medicines and alternative treatments. Some have been rigorously tested and are widely considered to be safe, whereas others are less well known. The most common alternate treatments you are likely to come across include:
- Acupuncture is an Ancient Chinese practice whereby fine needles are inserted into specific points on the body. Acupuncture is commonly used to treat chronic pain.
- Osteopathy involves stretching and massaging joints and muscles.
- Chiropractors use their hands to manipulate bones, joints and muscles, usually in and around the spine. Chiropractors usually treat back problems and associated health issues.
- Herbal medicines are made from active ingredients found in flowers, roots and leaves. If used incorrectly, herbal medicines can be harmful.
- Cannabis is often prescribed to help veterans suffering from PTSD. Low to moderate doses can help to lower symptoms of anxiety and depression, and provide therapeutic effects.
- Meditation helps patients achieve a higher level of self-awareness and mindfulness. It is useful for treating stress, anxiety and depression.
- Hypnosis can be used to treat all kinds of health issues, including anxiety, phobias and psychological trauma. It can also be used to help people quit smoking.
- Homeopathy uses diluted substances to treat underlying health conditions. Homeopaths usually treat your lifestyle rather than just the ailment.
Do Complimentary Treatments Work?
To a degree, the jury is still out on this one. There are plenty of people who say complimentary medicines have made a huge difference to their life. A study carried out on three groups of patients in the UK found that using complimentary treatments had a positive effect on their health and well-being.
Patients suffering from musculoskeletal conditions reported an improvement in their symptoms and many were more self-aware of their own conditions after trying complimentary treatments. Treatments such as acupuncture were especially successful when used to treat painful sciatica and lumbago, with patients reporting a cessation of their symptoms.
Are Complementary Treatments Right for You?
There is no doubt that for many people, alternative therapies can and do work. Scientific studies do not always back up people’s experiences, but if a complementary therapy works for you, it is worth continuing with it. However, before you start trying alternative medicines, it is sensible to speak to your doctor first.
Many complementary and alternative therapies are not recognized by traditional medicine. Some doctors are open-minded and will let you try an alternative treatment, but others are more skeptical. They argue that any benefit derived from using a complementary therapy is only as a result of the ‘placebo effect’.
Always consult your doctor before trying a complimentary therapy or alternative medicine. Some treatments can be harmful if they are not carried out by a trained professional, so check the credentials of anyone who offers to treat you.