Have you considered using alternative and complementary care for yourself, a family member, or animal companion? Alternative and complementary practitioners are part of a very diverse group of health care systems, practices, and products that are not considered part of conventional medicine.
What’s the Difference?
Practitioners who practice complementary medicine also use it along with conventional medicine. Alternative practitioners use their modalities instead of conventional medicine. There is also one more type – integrative medicine, which combines both conventional medicine and complementary and alternative practices.
Why Choose Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
People often turn to CAM to deal with a long-standing problem that traditional treatments have not been successful in controlling or eradicating. Maybe they are leery of the side effects of certain medications or surgical treatments for a condition.
Others will choose CAM practices, such as yoga and meditation, when they are healthy. They believe that use of these modalities can lead to better well-being, prevent illness, and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
A study done by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that 38 percent of adults and 12 percent of children in the U.S. are using some form of CAM. Back pain was the most common condition for adults, back/neck pain and head/chest cold for children. Natural products and deep breathing were the top two treatments used by adults, and natural products and chiropractic treatments were most often used for children.
What Do I Need?
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a part of NIH, places modalities into five areas:
- Natural products, which include botanicals (herbal medicines), vitamins, minerals, and other natural products such as dietary supplements.
- Mind and Body medicine such as meditation, yoga, Qigong, acupuncture and deep breathing.
- Manipulative and Body based practices such as massage therapy and spinal manipulation done by chiropractors.
- Movement therapies such as Pilates, Feldenkrais method, and Rolfing structural integration. Manipulation of energy fields also falls here, with Reiki and Healing Touch as examples of energy movement therapies.
- Whole medical systems, which includes Ayurvedic medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, along with naturopathy and homeopathy.
Before you Start, Talk to Your Conventional Health-Care Provider.
They are already familiar with your conditions, and can recommend specific modalities that will help and not harm. For example, if you have a back problem, you would want to ask your care provider if yoga would help your condition or possibly make it worse. He/she may be able to send you to a practitioner they are familiar with.
There may be other sources to find CAM providers, such as hospitals or regional medical centers. You can look on professional websites that can show you what type of training and credentialing a holistic practitioner may require. If your state requires the practitioner to be either registered or licensed, then the agencies can provide information on licensed individuals in your area. For Colorado, consult the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Of course, you can ask friends to recommend someone, but it is always wise to check out the practitioner to make sure they are fully trained and credentialed (if required).
Choose the Right Holistic Practitioner for You.
In Colorado, massage therapists and acupuncturists are required to be licensed, but other holistic practitioners are not yet required to be. As the CAM field grows, the need for regulatory practices for other modalities also will fall under that need for licensing.
Choosing to work with holistic practitioners is much like looking for a conventional medicine practitioner: You will need to interview them, find out their training, talk to them about the treatments they use, and what type of scientific validity that they have for their treatment modality.
You should also ask about what the practitioner charges per session, and see whether their treatment modality is covered by insurance. Some modalities such as acupuncture are now being covered by health care plans – so check yours to see what they do cover. It is also helpful to ask them how long they have been practicing and how many clients they see in a day.
I hope this blog has given you a few tips on where to get started to find a modality and a practitioner. Stay healthy!