You've probably heard the words "alternative medicine" or "natural medicine" many times. But what does it mean to you? Does it bring to mind images of Native American medicine men dancing and chanting over a sick person or an old woman crushing strange herbs with her mortar pestle? Relax. There's nothing weird about alternative medicine (well, maybe just a little bit) and this guide will help unravel the mystery and help you get started using it.
What is alternative medicine?
Alternative medicine is a very broad term that focuses on healing the body and mind through techniques such as:
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Supplements and herbs
- Chiropractic medicine
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Reiki (a type of energy healing)
Alternative medicine simply means using another method of healing an illness without the use of drugs or surgery. It's also known as natural medicine and complementary medicine, meaning it's used along with conventional medicine.
Why should I use alternative medicine?
You may turn to natural healing methods because you have a condition that has not been well-treated by prescription drugs or surgery. Perhaps you've experienced side effects from various medications or just want to cut some of them from your daily routine. You may have been told you need surgery or other invasive procedures and want a second opinion. There are many reasons you may choose to look into alternative medicine.
What does alternative medicine treat?
In a nutshell: just about everything.
As you've seen in the list above, there are many different types of alternative medicine to choose from for your particular condition.
Let's say, for example, you're struggling with high cholesterol. You're taking a prescription medication for it but it's causing unwanted side effects. You visit a nutritionist and get a diet and lifestyle plan that may help to lower your cholesterol naturally.
Say you want to lose some weight and your doctor has suggested weight-loss surgery. You decide instead to get into an exercise routine and diet plan that helps you shed pounds naturally.
You have arthritis and joint pain. The prescription you take for it comes with a warning of stomach ulcers as a side effect. You visit a naturopath who prescribes supplements such as fish oil, chondroitin, boswellia, and cayenne pepper.
You have terrible anxiety and you visit a chiropractor who explains to you that your anxiety can be relieved through gentle spinal adjustments and you may be able to get off your medication.
You've been in a car accident that's left you with a herniated disk in your neck and have been told you need surgery. You opt for physical therapy and massage therapy instead.
Your stress levels are high and you get frequent headaches and muscle aches. Instead of reaching for a bottle of ibuprofen, you take a yoga class or learn to meditate.
Your allergies keep you indoors most of the spring and summer and your allergy medication keeps you in a fog. You visit an acupuncturist who uses fine, hollow-point needles on certain points in your body to relieve the congestion, watery eyes and sneezing.
You suffer from insomnia that's affecting your work and personal life. You visit a Reiki healer who uses energy healing to help relax your body and mind and help your body heal itself.
Is alternative medicine better than conventional medicine?
That depends on what type of health problem you want to treat. If you have a skiing accident that results in a broken leg, you'll need to go to the hospital to have the bone set and a cast put on. However, you can then use supplements, acupuncture and/or Reiki to speed up the healing process. If you have a mental health condition such as depression, you may seek a psychiatrist who prescribes medication to treat it but also see a chiropractor and use herbs and dietary changes that can help you wean off the medication.
It may also help to look at it this way: Conventional medicine treats acute conditions more successfully than chronic conditions. An acute condition is something that comes on rapidly, such a broken leg. A chronic condition drags on indefinitely, like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
How can I learn more about alternative medicine?
Using this article as a guide, you can begin to do your own research on what alternative methods may work best for your particular health problem. Visit a local health food store and pick up one of their free magazines. Read some books or watch videos on yoga or meditation. Arrange an appointment with a naturopath to learn how diet and supplements can improve your health. Or book an appointment with a massage therapist.
As you can see, the possibilities are aplenty. If you live with a chronic health problem, using alternative medicine may give you new hope in treating it successfully. Don't let others tell you, "That stuff doesn't work." Decide for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised!
We did say alternative medicine isn't that weird; only just a little bit. Wear this T-shirt on your first appointment with an alternative health practitioner!
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