Is alternative medicine (combined with traditional medicine) right?

Most people see a family doctor or a specialist for their medical care. Some people seek out other healing methods. In between, there is a type of medical practice that combines the two. This is often called integrative medicine.

Think of a hybrid vehicle. It uses two power sources – gas and electricity – to make the vehicle work. Integrative medicine works the same way. Its two “sources” are:

  1. Traditional, or Western, medicine. This is practiced by medical and osteopathic doctors (MDs or DOs).
  2. Complementary or alternative medicine (CAM). This is an approach to healing and staying healthy that is different from traditional or Western medicine.

Integrative medicine is when doctors use CAM along with traditional medicine.

How are integrative and traditional medicines different?
Western or traditional medicine typically uses conventional therapies to help prevent and treat disease. These include lifestyle changes, counseling, medication, physical therapy or surgery.

Complementary medicine uses different methods to promote health.  Some complementary medicines include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Aromatherapy (using the scents of herbs and plant oils)

Some doctors will use a combination of traditional and complementary medicine. For example, your doctor may suggest massage or yoga along with standard treatments to help you manage pain or reduce stress that comes from certain chronic health conditions. These treatments are meant to support, but not replace, traditional medicine.

Alternative medicine is meant to be used instead of traditional medicine. It includes such methods as:

  • “Eastern” medicine
  • Folk cures
  • Faith healing
  • Herbal medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic treatment

Sometimes these therapies can be used along with traditional medical therapy for certain conditions.

Is integrative medicine safe?
Many alternative medicines have been used for thousands of years. But only a few have been studied in the same way as traditional medicine. For this reason, it is not possible to assure their safety. Also, the outcomes of some therapies are hard to measure using standard scientific methods. For example, it’s hard to assess the effectiveness of faith healing.

Before you try any CAM treatments, though, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Many substances an alternative medicine practitioner may prescribe could interact poorly with prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines. For example, a dietary supplement promoted as a memory booster might also raise your blood pressure.

Posted by: Frank Esposito, VP Expert Home Care.  New Jersey’s Expert Home Care provides professional, dependable home health care and companion care for NJ elderly, helping them with their daily living activities since 1984. Please call us toll free at 800-848-2336 when you have home care related questions or need assistance for a loved one. Get a Free Home Care Assessment (a $375 value!) when you mention this post.

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