Medicine can be complicated and overwhelming, especially for those outside of the medical field. With so many treatments and courses of action available for diseases and conditions, it can be hard to know what’s right for you. And if you add in the concept of alternative medicine, it can be easy to just throw up your hands and think you can’t keep up with it all.
But at Park Regency assisted living community in Thornton, one of our goals is to help residents take charge of their health. That starts with understanding more about what options are available to you.
Alternative medicine is defined as a range of treatments not regarded as orthodox by medical professionals. For various reasons, people sometimes look to different methods to treat illnesses, injuries and conditions that develop as part of life. Because these kinds of treatments represent a non-traditional approach to health care, they’re often thought of as “alternatives” — hence the name “alternative medicine.”
The term itself can mean different things to different people, but typically it's a treatment that isn’t the normal way of treating illnesses and diseases. That includes things used instead of traditional approaches or as a supplement to them. There are too many to mention them all and they can vary greatly depending on the situation. However, some common treatments considered to be alternative include:
• Homeopathic remedies
• Herbal remedies
• Changes in diet and exercise
• Massage therapy
• Chiropractic treatment
Despite the fact that alternative medicine treatments aren’t the standard method for dealing with illness, there are reasons someone might want to try them. For starters, some of them can actually be effective depending on the person and the issue being dealt with.
Additionally, some alternative medicine treatments are used as a supplement to traditional therapies. For example: acupuncture to treat sickness associated with chemotherapy or aromatherapy being utilized for memory care patients. These therapies may help assuage symptoms or give someone the peace of mind that comes with knowing they're doing all they can to help address a health concern.
One of the dangers of alternative medicine is that treatment efficacy can be based on conjecture and anecdotal evidence rather than scientific study. Additionally, many such treatments are not regulated and don’t require the rigorous training that medical doctors are required to undertake. Plus, there are metaphorical snake-oil salesmen harking to-good-to-be-true cures. That includes people who offer false "cures" at high cost to people. Even legitimate treatments can sometimes become co-opted by those same unsavory individuals and misused in the name of making a dollar.
The recent emergence of cannabidiol (CBD) is an excellent example of this. While there are plenty of emerging studies touting the benefits of CBD for everything from inflammation to schizophrenia, some con artists have taken to producing it in unspecified and unregulated dosages. These knock-off CBD treatments often contain both doses that are incredibly low and additional chemicals that offset or even negate any health benefits that might be gained from CBD.
Since there are benefits to some alternative medicines and some can be used in conjunction with other treatments, how do you know what you should do? Or for that matter, how do you know what you shouldn’t engage in when it comes to alternative therapies? There are a couple good rules of thumb to keep in mind for best practices.
Obviously, it’s ok to utilize alternative medicine if your doctor is the one suggesting it. In fact, you might already be doing so. Doctors often recommend utilizing supplements and vitamins to assist with all manner of illness and chronic condition treatments. Feel free to ask your provider if there are any alternative medicines that could be additions to your current routine without causing harm to you or interfering with your treatments.
If there is a simple alternative medicine practice that you’d like to add that doesn’t add or subtract from your current treatments, you might be ok to do so. These can be simple things like aromatherapy or even deep tissue massage. Something like seeing a chiropractor is considered alternative medicine in many cases but can be a simple way to alleviate symptoms or concerns.
One of the best ways to try an alternative approach is to do something like a lifestyle change. For example, you might decide to cut out a certain type of food or make a change to your diet to reduce fatty meats and increase vegetable intake. Even if it’s something as simple as making a commitment to drinking more water, you could make a positive impact on your health. Do talk to your health care provider before making any major lifestyle, diet or exercise choice, though, to ensure you're aligning your actions with what's best for your body.
Alternative medicines offer a range of potential benefits for a variety of illnesses and conditions and are certainly worth looking into. Nothing is a cure all, though, and some alternatives that you’ll find when researching are questionable — if not actually detrimental to your health. Use common sense and always talk to your doctor or other health care provider about whether any therapy is safe for you.