While many Americans often look to Western medicine as their primary method of health care, an increasing number of people suffering from common ailments such as migraines, back pain, high blood pressure, and anxiety turn to what’s called complementary medicine. Even if you’ve never heard this term before, you probably know someone who’s seen a chiropractor or tried acupuncture, which are both forms of complementary care. Read on to learn more about these treatments and what they can (and can’t) do for you.
What is Complementary Care?
Complementary care is a type of medicine that is used in addition to mainstream medicine. Unlike Western medicine practices, complementary health practices tend to rely on natural remedies such as herbs and focus on mind and body practices rather than medicinal drugs for treatments. While these practices are still not quite mainstream in America, some complementary treatments have been around for thousands of years. If you come from a traditional Mexican or Latin household and you’ve used herbs, teas, and other natural products from the neighborhood botanica, you’re already practicing complementary care!
Different Types of Complementary Care
A study from 2012 found that chiropractors, natural products, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques are the most popular complementary health services that Americans use.
More than 22 million Americans visit a chiropractor each year. Chiropractors provide hands-on body adjustments to help align the spine and other parts of the body. Many people associate chiropractors with “back cracking,” but chiropractic treatment can include massage, heat, ice, and gentle exercises.
Some traditional doctors have raised concerns about the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment, but there are studies that indicate the treatment can be effective for back pain, neck pain, and reducing the frequency of headaches. And many chiropractic offices are reviewed on Yelp and have pages and pages of positive feedback from patients who claimed they received life-changing benefits.
For thousands of years, people all over the world have consumed natural products such as cranberry, ginseng, and garlic in pill, powder, or tea for medicinal reasons. Today, millions of people around the world use these products for high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and cholesterol. Drinking black, green, or oolong teas regularly have also shown health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and increasing energy.
You’ve probably seen people on TV with needles sticking out of their body and wondered what benefits it can bring. That’s acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine practice in which a specialist inserts very thin needles into a person’s skin to balance the body’s “qi” or life energy.
Research has shown that people who regularly see acupuncturists have reported fewer instances of low back pain, knee pain, migraines, and tension headaches. In case you’re wondering if it hurts, some patients do report feeling a slight sting, pinch, or tingling feeling when the needles are first inserted, but in most cases, the pain fades quickly.
Another popular complementary health practice is the use of relaxation techniques like Tai chi, Qigong, and hypnotherapy.
Tai chi is a Chinese martial arts practice that many people practice to help with their meditation, reduce blood pressure, and lower their stress.
Qigong is known as a mind-body-spirit practice that is similar to tai chi. Studies have shown that the practice has great promise in treating osteoporosis, but more research is needed.
Hypnotherapy is a procedure in which a hypnotherapist guides a patient through a trance-like state to provide treatment for anxiety, phobias, substance abuse, and sleep issues.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t Consider This Approach
There are a variety of reasons why people seek out complementary care. Some patients are simply looking for a wider range of options of treatments, while other patients aren’t completely satisfied with the effectiveness of Western medicine treatments alone. For others, the use of complementary, natural treatments aligns well with their own values and beliefs.
Before turning to complementary care, you should consider the urgency of your health concern and any risks that are involved with the specific treatment you want to try. For example, if you are considering complementary care to treat a matter such as cancer, you should know that delaying cancer treatment or surgery may allow the cancer spread more rapidly.
With any treatment, there are risks involved. Before receiving complementary care or trying out a treatment, you should always research as much information as you can to make the best possible decision for yourself and your health.
Complement Your Traditional AltaMed Treatment
We offer our patients both traditional and complementary forms of treatment. Discover the list of specialty treatments we offer including acupuncture, chiropractic services, and more.