Alternative medicine is growing in popularity everyday as more and more people seek other ways of looking at their health and wellness. With so many different modalities and ways of thinking, what treatment types fall under the umbrella term “alternative medicine”? Hopefully this article with clarify a few things, give you some ideas about what alternative medicine is, some resources for further research and explain some key differences behind current major medical system and alternative medicine.
Alternative medicine is generally classified in the United States and most of the Western world as any other medical system other than the allopathic medical system that currently dominates the healthcare of most people in these areas. Allopathic medicine is the system most of us are familiar with, biologically and microscopically based medicine where problems are often treated pharmaceutically and surgically. Most of the time, this system views the body as a purely mechanical system, in which parts of the body can become worn out and degrade over time, and either need to be replaced or supplemented to continue proper functioning. There is also a distinct separation of body mind and spirit within the allopathic medical model.
Medical models for alternative medicines can vary widely, and many times also can encompass a mechanistic view of the body, but can also include holistic ideas where one’s body, mind, spirit and emotions can all have effects and repercussions on one’s health and well-being. A misnomer is that most alternative medicine systems are not scientifically based. Several alternative medicine models are scientifically based but operate at a move macroscopic level, looking for observations, and experimentation at a whole body level. Some alternative medicine systems are wholly spiritually based and do not utilize scientific ideas about anatomy and physiology in the western sense. Other systems use anatomical models that have parallels to western systems but can vary in key ways.
Some of the most common forms of alternative medicine include, Chiropractic care, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Rolfing, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Massage, Western Herbal Medicine, Meditation, Reiki, Movement Therapies and some dietary therapies. Some of these medical systems are more widely known and accepted than others. Chiropractic care for example is widely known and accepted in the United States, while Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine is gaining popularity in the U.S., it is widely used and accepted throughout Europe and Asia. Other therapies are less widely known or not as popular, but are still practiced throughout the world. Alternative medicine also includes traditional medical systems utilized by indigenous people around the world including shamanism, faith healing and laying of hands.
Alternative medicine is sometimes also called complementary medicine and is used to complement allopathic care. Much research has shown positive effects and increased results when allopathic care is combined with alternative treatments such as acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Another common thought amongst the populous is that alternative medicine only works through the placebo effect, i.e. that if you think something is going to make you better, your body believes it and you get better, not from any effect that the medicine has had. There is solid research for both allopathic and alternative medicine demonstrating measureable effects of therapies that account for placebo effect through the use of double blind and placebo controls. There is a growing movement throughout the medical community, on both the allopathic and alternative side that thinks that we should be utilizing the placebo effect to increase and improve treatment outcomes, instead of shunning the ability of the body to heal itself, we should embrace it and figure out ways to enhance this ability of the human body and mind.
A great resource for learning more about alternative medicine is the Medline Plus Complementary and Alternative Medicine page. This site offer good overviews of various therapies and in-depth information about research and how they work.
If you are in Aurora CO, Denver, CO or any of the surrounding cities and are interested in alternative medicine or have questions about this or any other issue, please feel free to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!