Alternative Choices

alternative and complementaryIf you go to a Chinese Herbalist for treatment, you are likely to be prescribed – Chinese Herbs. Likewise if you go to a Western ‘allopathic’ doctor, you are likely to be prescribed drugs or surgery, the main tools of the typical Western doctor.

There are many ‘alternative treatments’ available but each practitioner has a vested interest in treating you with their preferred method of intervention. There are very few practitioners in any domain with enough experience and knowledge to direct you, the patient, to a form of intervention that is ideally suited to you and your dis-ease.

Off the top of my head, here are some ‘alternative’ forms of diagnosis and treatment:

Affirmation and visualisation
Alexander technique
Amino acid supplements
Autogenic training
Ayurvedic medicine
Castor oil lymph cleansing
Chakra therapy
Chi Kung
Chinese nutrition and herbalism
Cold therapy
Colonic irrigation
Colour therapy
Cranial electrical stimulation
Cranial osteopathy
Crystal therapy
Diet and nutrition
Dietary supplements
Dorsal column stimulation
Dr Bach’s flower remedies
Dream therapy / questing
Education and learning
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Feldenkrais therapy
Feng Shui
Folk remedies
Hair analysis
Inversion therapy
Shamanic questing
Spiritual healing
Tai Chi
Tibetan medicine

Some ‘alternative medicine’ treatments are gaining credibility without the blessing of doctors. One example of conventional doctor’s treatment being superseded by a popular treatment is in osteoarthritis. Conventional medicine often prescribes a palliative drug to ease the pain which may actually worsen the condition.

Osteoarthritis has been viewed, according to many doctors, as something that we have to put up with as a ‘normal part of ageing’. Now, ingredients that have been used for years in Europe and Asia are combined in a natural remedy that physicians are increasingly prescribing. But such information takes a lot of time to filter through. Even though this particular remedy has been reviewed in the Lancet (McAlindon T. ‘Glucosamine for Osteoarthritis: dawn of a new era?’ Vol.357 No. 9252 p.247 2001) my own doctor was asked for it by a patient and replied “You’d be better off with a gin and tonic.”

Patients are still too infrequently told about complementary or alternative treatments or research. Doctors are supposed to offer patients alternatives as part of ‘informed consent’. Due to the workload of doctors they don’t have time to keep up with the research into every field except their speciality. Important research in other countries is often not translated or even made available to doctors.

Little research exists on simultaneous multiple treatments at levels tuned to the patient because it is impossible to test the validity and reliability of these using current scientific, medical research methodology. Double-blind placebo testing simply does not work in this context.

If your doctor is not familiar with or open to alternatives you are unlikely to even be told what they are. According to a report in the British Medical Journal, half of the UK population uses complementary medicine but doctors are rarely able to advise on such therapies because the research is contradictory or not rigorous enough.

Even when asked directly doctors are unable to offer advice on alternative or complementary options because they often lack any experience, knowledge or training in non-allopathic medicine. Medical history (which reveals a basis for some alternative treatments at least) is rarely taught in medical schools.

Many complementary therapies and alternative healing sources are available. It is rare that you will be prescribed any of these by a doctor, who is usually the first point of contact for a diagnosis, because their interest is focused on providing drugs or surgery as a response to illness.

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