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Complementary Medicine

Alternative and holistic therapies provide treatments that are not usually found within conventional medicine, yet can be used alongside conventional treatments. They include Traditional Chinese Medicine, naturopathy, shamanic medicine, traditional European folk and herbal medicine.

Non-conventional medicine is not a well defined area instead it an ever-widening array of therapies. Recently the description complementary has come to mean that many of the treatments are not an exact replacement for conventional medicine - they are complementary to it. They work in partnership with conventional medicine.

A number of alternative therapists claim that they are offering a complete alternative to conventional medicine but in most cases they accept the term complementary medicine to describe their types and methods of treatment. Traditional medicine in this context is a description of the areas of traditional folk or native medicine from a variety of cultures This form of medicine in most cases has a history of several hundred years but this of itself must not be taken as proof of its' effectiveness.

Practitioners and patients should view all forms of medical treatment with a slightly sceptical eye. Conventional Western medicine as we know it has developed over the last 150 to 200 years as techniques of perfecting drugs and of performing more precise surgery have grown out of herbalism and even more ancient surgical practices.

The holistic approach to the basic philosophy of complementary medicine is, or at least it should be, precisely what is central to good conventional medicine i.e. to use the most gentle approach, to avoid dangerous and traumatic procedures, and to treat the patient in a holistic manner. The patient should be viewed as a total or a whole individual, composed of body, mind, emotions and spirit. They may be creating their own illness for some reason that is not immediately obvious.

Nevertheless they can also take a participative part in their own well-being, the healing process, and convalescence after their illness. Rotating banner

General Principles of Complementary Medicine

Although holistic or alternativemedicine is an array of widely different treatments, most complementary practitioners understand, accept and operate under the following principles. 1) Us humans are a subtle and complex blend of body, mind and spirit. 2) Problems in any one of these areas can lead to health problems. 3) Each individual is a fully integrated whole human system - we are not some random collection of moving parts. 4) Good health is a product of mental, spiritual and physical balance. 5) Balance is basic to the concept of health; illness is the result of imbalance. 6) It must be recognised that environmental and social factors have meaningful influence on a person's physical and emotional make-up and as a consequence it may impact adversely on their health. 7) Therapeutic treatment of the causes of a problem is far more important than treating the obvious symptoms. 8) Only treating the symptoms may actually conceal the underlying problem possibly causing more serious difficulties at a later stage. 9) We are all individuals and we should not be treated in exactly the same manner as another person. It is for this reason that complementary therapist usually want to know more about you than a conventional medical practitioner. 10) Our bodies have natural abilities for self-healing and to return to stability. Healing and recovery are quicker and more effective if we take responsibility for our own health and if we take an active part in the healing process.

Effectiveness of Complementary Medicine

Quite often people turn to a complementary therapist as a very last resort after having been through the conventional route and have found it unsatisfactory. In many cases it would be better to incorporate complementary medicine as an integrated part of any overall treatment program. Those who do adopt this holistic approach often achieve better outcomes and a higher level of satisfaction. This can come from both from a real improvement in their condition, and from the experience of better all round quality care than that experienced from conventional medical treatment alone.

A great many patients have found that alternative treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture, osteopathy, reiki, herbalism, homeopathy, massage, aromatherapy, reflexology are very useful effective in the treatment of pain.

Recently there has been a significant increase in the numbers of doctors and other medical practitioners using or recommending complementary medicine and therapies for the treatment of pain. However, many other practitioners of conventional medicine continue to be wary of, and sceptical about, complementary medicine.

This is generally because often it cannot be demonstrably shown why any particular treatment has worked and the lack of controlled, scientific experimental proof is alien to conventional medicine. A further reason is that often if one treatment does not work, patients may try some other form of complementary medicine and this also contradicts conventional medicine's scheme of specific treatments for specific complaints.

The relatively recent increase in popularity of holistic medicine has resulted in a range of new treatments entering the lexicon of pain therapies. These range from quite well-known therapies such as acupuncture, osteopathy and homeopathy, to less well-known and recently introduced and unvalidated therapies.

It should be noted that some of these newer therapies are unlikely to stand the test of time. It is also true that many practitioners do not have formal training or qualifications but nevertheless may still offer effective treatment. Patients should keep this in mind when looking for a practitioner. Many of the older complementary medicines now do have advanced training courses and professional bodies regulating their practice. Indeed some complementary medicine treatments are even covered by some of the main medical insurance companies.

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