Alternative Medicine: The Short Version

Alternative medicine is any healing practice, treatment, or therapy that is not accepted by conventional medicine. Another way to define alternative medicine is that it is a treatment that has not been clinically to be effective.

And alternative medicine is controversial. Richard Dawkins put is best: “There is no alternative medicine. There is medicine that works, and medicine that doesn’t work.” Many people swear that alternative medicine is a scam designed to take your money, while their opponents claim that the conventional medical system is the scam. And the argument will continue for however long the two sides disagree so strongly.

What does alternative medicine include?
Like conventional medicine, alternative medicine is actually a huge set of disciplines and techniques. Here’s a quick list of just a few of those techniques:

acupuncture: using very thin needles on pressure points or energy centers to treat various illnesses
ayurveda: a varied collection of whole-body treatments originating in India
biofeedback: a modern technique of observing natural body function and learning control through thought patterns
chiropractic medicine: adjusting the bones, tendons and ligaments to treat a wide variety of conditions
herbalism: the use of herbs (and sometimes other plant, fungus, and animal pieces ) to treat disease instead of artificial drugs
homeopathy: treating conditions with tiny amounts of substances which in larger doses cause the problem in the first place
hypnosis: an altered state of awareness made up of both concentration and relaxation which is guided by someone else
meditation: the practice of focused reflection to achieve mental calm
naturopathy: a multi-disciplinary field using natural alternatives to treat illness, often with similarities to Western medicine
nutritional therapies: modifying the diet to relieve various conditions
traditional Chinese medicine (TCM): a multi-disciplinary field that works on balancing the chi (energy flow of the body)
yoga: a meditative and body practice focused on finding balance between the physical, mental and spiritual elements
As you can see above, alternative medicine is as broad as mainstream medicine in the variety of treatments available. Within each of these therapies, there are likewise sub-sets of therapies, differences in opinion and philosophy, just like any other subject so varied. I would love to go into it further, but I’m trying to keep this article short and sweet.
Alternative? Complementary? Integrative? What’s the difference?
If you’ve been looking into alternative medicine, you’ve likely find the terms “complementary medicine” or “integrative medicine.” Even if you haven’t yet discovered these terms, you soon will if you continue to dig deeper. Like here for example.

Complementary and integrative medicine are fundamentally the same thing. They are placed together under the acronym CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), though integrative medicine implies more professionalism. CAM is well named as it is using alternative – or unproven – treatment with proven treatments for a particular disorder. So it means using alternative therapies to complement more mainstream treatments. This is becoming more common world-wide, and more healthcare professionals are supplementing their treatments with various complementary medical treatments.

Is alternative medicine right for me?
That decision is up to you, your family, and your healthcare provider. Keep in mind that much of alternative medicine is of unknown effectiveness – in some cases even dis-proven. It’s recognized as most effective for relatively minor, chronic conditions. For more serious or sudden illness, other treatment might be better. Use your common sense, and then choose the best treatment for whatever condition you want to cure, whatever that treatment might be.

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Is Alternative Medicine a Good Approach to Your Health Problems?

Alternative medicine, like the word implies is a form of medicine that is different from the popularly known one. It is an alternative to what is practised by the scientific form of medicine. It is more like an art rather than a science. Yet in many populations around the world, it is known to have existed for over 5000 years.

It is the form of medicine that our great-great-grand-parents relied on before scientific medicine came to be. Scientific medicine seems to have kicked the older form of medicine out of the way. But for the past decade, it seems people have been relying more and more on alternative medicine to deal with their ailment. Some articles are actually talking about a rise in that form of medicine.

There are many forms of alternative medicine: Acupressure, Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, Chiropractic, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, Massage Therapy, Music Therapy, Naturopathic, Reflexology, Reiki, Tai Chi, Yoga.

Each of them may work based on a different philosophy. Most of those philosophies do not yet have any scientific evidence. It seems to work very well with some patients. In other cases it doesn’t seem to have any effect. One popular case is the one of the famous Steve Jobs. After being diagnosed with cancer, he decided to rely on alternative medicine to heal even though his doctors suggested he rather go through a surgical operation.

After 9 months of relying of alternative therapy the cancer got worse and spread through other organs. He ended up taking the surgery but the doctors had to removed certain organs that got infected because the cancer spread to them. Some critics are actually using this fact to support the idea that, if Steve Jobs had taken the surgery earlier on, he could have lived a bit longer.

Yet the number of patients that rely on alternative medicine seems to increase each year, why is that? The fact is there are some diseases that have not yet found any remedy for, in scientific medicine and seem to have found a solution for, in alternative medicine.

Lower back pains is known to be solved with chiropractic doctors. A lot of women with childbirth problems claim they were able to get pregnant with the help of a doctor in acupuncture. Early studies in aromatherapy and essential oils seems to suggest that it accelerates the healing process of the body. It is known that those who practice yoga or tai chi tend to get sick much less often compared to those who do not practice those things.

Is alternative medicine better than scientific medicine?

Alternative medicine is much based on finding the root cause of the problem the patient is going through than just trying to remove it. Scientific medicine is much more based on finding the symptoms causing the illness then prescribing the required drugs or surgery to solve the problem.

Both approach are neither good nor bad. As a rule of thumb, the unconventional medicine can be used to maintain general health but when it comes to serious cases it is always advisable to contact a conventional doctor. A new form of medicine been born called integrative medicine tends to combine the two, making the best out of the two school of thought.

Research is still ongoing as to how the different forms of alternative medical approach work. The future will give us a better idea of what is really going on with alternative medicine.

Are you interested in alternative medicine? Do you want to pursue a carrier in that field? I have created a website that helps students make the right decision when it comes to choosing the right schools. Head t

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