Saturday, October 8, 2011

Alternative & Complementary Therapies Meet Conventional Healthcare

The medical world is experiencing a shift in the way it treats health and disease. While alternative therapies were quickly dismissed by physicians as worthless or dangerous just a decade ago, alternative medicines are now beginning to earn mainstream attention. Physicians are beginning to realize that there is a relationship between a person's emotional, spiritual and mental state of mind and their physical health.

Many conventional doctors are beginning to integrate a holistic approach to their practice by addressing environmental, psychological and spiritual aspects of the patient. Biomedical, or modern-day medicine relies heavily upon curing disease through the use of chemically compounded pharmaceuticals. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) uses a more natural approach that includes herbal supplements, vitamins, acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition, guided imagery, homeopathic treatment, prayer, chelation therapy, massage, biofeedback, music therapy, exercise and fitness, hypnosis and other mind-body techniques and energy modalities that work with the body's natural ability to heal itself. Years ago if a person was using CAM therapies, he or she might have been reluctant to tell their medical doctor about it for fear of being shamed or lectured about the dangers.

Health Promotion

Additionally, physicians had little knowledge then about the alternative therapies and supplements their patients were using. Fortunately things have changed and a number of doctors are referring patients to some of the more prominent and well-known forms of CAM therapies that they believe are useful or effective. In 1997, Harvard Medical School reported that more than one third of the U.S. population was currently using some type of CAM therapy. But, that was nine years ago. In 2001, The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that almost 70% of the population has at least tried some sort of CAM therapy along with conventional medicine. That trend is on the rise and will continue to affect future healthcare delivery, making an even greater demand for CAM therapies. This means that conventional doctors must be educated in the use of these modalities in order to know what their patient's are talking about. Why do people seek alternative and complementary medical care? It is believed that CAM would improve health when used in combination with conventional medical treatments.

Many people try CAM when conventional medical treatments have not helped or are too expensive. Some people are just plain curious, and others try CAM because a conventional medical professional suggested it. Some health insurance policies now cover chiropractic and massage as part of patient care, and CAM courses are appearing in the curriculum as part of academic medical education. Hospitals such as St. Thomas in Nashville, Tennessee are affiliating with alternative health and fitness facilities such as the YMCA of Middle Tennessee to integrate the two practices. The change is occurring but not without opposition.

The FDA wants to regulate all over-the-counter medications including the herbs and homeopathic remedies. The FDA would like to place supplements under government control as "prescription only" products. The FDA is not concerned about people overdosing on Flintstones. It has more to do with the pharmaceutical industry being one of the country's biggest taxpayers and therefore one of the most influential lobbyists. It is up to those of us who use alternative modalities to protect our rights as citizens. It is the right of each individual to maintain a healthy body, and it is time for each of us to take responsibility and action -- for our own health and the sake of our children's -- by increasing our awareness, reading books and articles, researching and getting involved. The FDA needs to know where the people stand. Write to your Congressperson today.

Alternative & Complementary Therapies Meet Conventional Healthcare

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