Something big is happening in the healthcare arena, and it revolves around patients’ desire to have options which address the whole person. This demand is being satisfied by alternative medicine doctors. Like others in this growing healthcare focus, a practitioner of alternative medicine is dedicated to being at the forefront of the holistic healthcare movement. 

What is complementary and alternative medicine?

Complementary and alternative medicine refers to medical treatments that are offered as an alternative to or alongside mainstream Western medical therapies. About one-third of adult Americans report using complementary or alternative medicine for themselves and their families.

Alternative medicine can be grouped into five main categories:

  1. Alternative medical systems
  2. Biologically based therapies
  3. Mind-body techniques
  4. Manipulative and body-based therapies
  5. Energy therapies

Alternative medical systems include protocols used traditionally in a variety of cultures. This category includes:

  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture
  • Traditional Chinese medicine
  • Ayurvedic medicine
  • Tibetan medicine
  • Native American healing practices

Biologically based therapies are alternative treatments that use substances found in nature or employ natural healing protocols, including:

  • Nutrition and diet
  • Dietary supplements
  • Vitamins, megavitamins, and minerals
  • Herbal products

Mind-body techniques include: 

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Mindful movement, such as yoga, tai chi, and qi going
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery and affirmations
  • Music therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Humor therapy
  • Dance therapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Prayer therapy

Manipulative and body-based therapies include:

  • Chiropractic
  • Osteopathy
  • Massage therapies
  • Trager approach
  • Reflexology
  • Therapeutic touch
  • Feldenkrais Method
  • Rolfing

Energy therapies include:

  • Reiki
  • Prana
  • Therapeutic touch
  • Other energy healing specialties

A fundamental philosophy of alternative medicine is holistic health care—a treatment protocol that addresses the whole person, merging health of mind, body, and spirit. Alternative medicine professionals believe in and take advantage of the body’s innate power to heal. Care is personalized to the individual and varies based on what issues are present. Patient-practitioner relationships are characterized as a partnership in which the patient can and even is encouraged to question and explore treatment options as part of the alternative care approach.

How is alternative medicine influencing healthcare?

Individuals turn to alternative medicine for a variety of reasons. Some agree with the philosophies they embrace, and others would like to bolster their treatment options. Or, others may be frustrated by conventional medicine’s failure to cure their illnesses. 

Alternative medicine opens up new lines of discussion within the healthcare industry. It’s skeptics often cite a lack of science-backed evidence supporting alternative treatment options. Scientific proof may lag behind when compared with the research backing conventional medicine’s drugs and surgeries. However, researchers receive millions of dollars from powerful pharmaceutical companies and the American Medical Association to fund their studies. This is not so with alternative medicine practices, as these focus on natural healing without drugs and invasive techniques. 

Still, research has been conducted on treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, and yoga, which have thousands of years of effective use backing their practices. Even many conventional medical doctors conclude that some treatments have enough evidence to support their healing potential, but may still caution patients, and rightfully so, not to blindly accept all alternative treatment options without doing their due diligence.

If you’d like to find out more about alternative, complementary treatments, and medical nutrition and whether or not they would be right for you, contact an alternative medicine doctor today to ask questions or schedule an appointment.