Choosing Complementary Medicine
American Medical Association (AMA) recently reported that in 1997, four
in ten Americans used alternative therapies. A key 1998 study in the
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that patients
were turning toward complementary therapies because traditional medicine
was falling short of their needs. Currently, an estimated 60 million
American adults are reported to use herbal products. Alternatives to
traditional Western medicine are all around us, and talking about the
benefits of homeopathy and echinacea no longer raises eyebrows at the
watercooler. But how do you choose the right therapies, and find the
most people, the choice will involve one of two options. One approach
focuses on selecting a particular technique, conceptual framework or
belief system. Or instead, you can find a health practitioner you respect
and trust, with their particular approach being of secondary importance.
Whichever method works best for you, keep in mind that knowledge is
power. It's always wise to learn as much as possible about the therapies
that interest you. Read articles, books, and talk with friends who have
undergone similar treatments.
of mouth and patient referral is always an excellent way to find a new
practitioner. Keep in mind that in some parts of the country, certain
therapies may not be very common. Some complementary therapies are associated
with organizations and training programs. Try contacting these organizations
for another source of referral.
you find a practitioner, don't hesitate to interview him or her directly.
Trust your intuition. Is the office clean? What is his or her bedside
manner? Do you feel reassured, or intimidated? Keep in mind, credentials
for alternative practitioners vary from state to state. Make sure yours
has the appropriate licenses and degrees. Don't be afraid to ask about
side effects, when you should expect to see results, and how much money
the treatment is likely to cost.
health takes time and commitment. With an open mind, and good information,
you can access all the tools you need to stay well. Remember, it's always
wise to consider a second opinion, even with complementary therapies.
Most importantly, keep your primary care physician informed of any decision
that affects your health.
Ted Kaptchuk, OMD
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