Where do you stand on conventional v complementary/alternative medicine?
I know plenty of people who think along the lines of: the doctor’s always right; CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) doesn’t work at best and is a con at worst; and would rather take a pill than make lifestyle changes. Likewise, having been part of the CAM world for a long time, I know plenty of people who only visit the doctor to get a diagnosis, always use CAM therapies and avoid any kind of over-the-counter or prescribed medication even in the face of very serious medical conditions.
My own philosophy is to start with any recommended lifestyle changes – such as eat more green vegetables, do these remedial exercises, get more rest, eat less salt etc – and then move on to CAM therapies. In French these are called ‘medecine douce’. I’ve always loved that term – gentle medicine!
Different things work for different people, and some things work better for particular conditions than others, but if you can find something that works for your given ailment or condition you may well find that it’s much gentler on your system and less likely to have side-effects than conventional treatment, although it will probably take a bit longer to work so don’t give up too soon. I’ve personally had successful treatments with Medical Herbalism, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, Reiki, Massage Therapy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Physiotherapy, and of course, self-treatment with Aromatherapy.
The main downside with CAM therapies is, however, the cost, particularly if you have to try a few things before you find the right therapy for you and your particular condition. It saddens me that this puts it out of reach for many people – not, of course, the fault of the therapists who invest heavily on an ongoing basis in their own training, and have overheads and a living to make – but it is also true that some people who could afford to pay just choose not to spend money on their own health. Perhaps here in the UK that’s a side-effect of having a National Health Service and feeling that we’ve already paid enough through our taxes, and/or not being used to having to pay at the point of delivery. And of course, if you don’t believe that CAM therapies are effective at all you will think the main downside is that they don’t even work! I can only say that that hasn’t been my experience, either for myself or for many friends and former clients who have used them successfully.
However, once I’ve made any lifestyle changes and tried my CAM therapies, I am then quite prepared to go down the conventional route if needs be. I remember once having a chest infection that kept recurring and the doctor saying to me ‘I don’t suppose you’ll take antibiotics’ – she had obviously come across CAM therapists before! – but I was quite happy to take them at that point, having not succeeded in sorting it out by other means. I was subsequently able to avoid the prescription for a steroid inhaler using steam inhalations with essential oils to clear up the last of the cough.
I do try not to cover up pain too much – if your body doesn’t want you to move a certain part so that it has a chance to heal, it’s not a bad idea to listen to it! However if I’ve given myself a sore neck washing all the windows in the house (when will I learn?) but need to concentrate on something at work, I will pop that pill. Most of us don’t have the luxury of just going for a lie-down till it passes! Likewise I don’t mind taking cold remedies at night so that I can sleep and be more able to cope with the next day.
As I said earlier, CAM therapies generally take longer to work than pharmaceuticals, so conventional medicine might be a first choice for acute conditions, but they can be especially helpful for chronic, long-term conditions. That’s a generalisation, of course, (some treatments work really quickly) but another useful way of approaching it.
So my conclusion is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other – both have their strengths and weaknesses. My dream for us all would be Functional and Integrated/Integrative Medicine on the NHS (or on your insurance plan if you’re not in the UK)- the best of both worlds.
I’d love to know where you lie on the spectrum of conventional to CAM, and what your experiences of both have been. Leave me a comment below ….
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