A guide to choosing alternative medicine

What you need to know about complementary and alternative medicine

In the UK, around 6 million of us now use some form of alternative medicine and complementary therapy. Across the world, millions more have adopted complementary healthcare into their lifestyle. And let’s not forget that many alternative practices used today have been used for thousands of years. If you’re considering using some of these effective and beneficial methods, this article will go some way to explain how to go about finding resources and practitioners who can help you make the right choice.

Recent reports have highlighted the reasons people are choosing complementary healthcare. Common reasons include the desire to achieve long-term pain relief, stress reduction, treatment of depression and anxiety or to overcome musculoskeletal problems. However, alternative medicine isn’t just for treatment, people use it to maintain good health and wellness or simply to give their mind and body a real treat. Whatever your reasons, alternative medicine and complementary therapy is generally safe as long as you follow some simple guidelines. Let’s explore some of these.

Important things to consider before alternative and complementary treatment

So you’re feeling unwell or something isn’t quite right and you’ve made the decision to seek out a complementary therapy practitioner. Great! Before you do though, visit your local GP and discuss your symptoms. Your doctor can rule out any serious problems or conditions and talk you through your treatment options. Don’t be afraid to let your GP know you wish to try alternative and complementary methods. Many GPs now refer patients for complementary healthcare.

Once you’ve visited your GP and know your medical condition, make your therapist aware of it. Similarly, a well-trained therapist will also make you aware of any problem which they believe requires deeper investigation. This may be through referral or a return visit to your GP. A complementary therapy practitioner should carry out a medical history before treatment, just as your GP would. They will ask about medications you take and any other treatments you are currently undergoing (alternative or conventional). If they don’t ask about any specific conditions you may have (such as pregnancy), make them aware. Private consultations and treatments with complementary therapists come at a cost so make sure you’re aware of what that will entail. Prices vary depending on the therapy and location you live. Fortunately, as alternative medicine and complementary therapy becomes more popular, there is more choice and sometimes prices are less with group sessions or local community centre initiatives.

Research, safety and finding a complementary therapy practitioner

We live in an age where information is readily available on the internet so use this as your tool to find out more about your chosen therapy and where to find a practitioner. Alternative medicine and complementary therapy directories are a great resource and will give you all the basic information you’ll need. A good site will also provide a point of contact (phone and email) so you can talk to somebody direct and gather more information on your chosen therapy and therapist location. Of course, another way to find a practitioner is on recommendation from a friend or colleague. GPs may also be able to recommend someone to you. Try to speak to more than one therapist and make sure you feel comfortable before booking an appointment.

Complementary therapists are well trained and will be able to provide you with details of their training, qualifications and ongoing development. Therapies such as Osteopathy and Chiropractic are regulated by law while others are self-regulated. Self-regulation is typically carried out by one or more associations to which practitioners register. This means your therapist will abide by a code of conduct and although not covered by the law will provide most of the benefits that a statutory system provides. Again, a decent therapy directory website will prove a great resource in finding out more about the associations therapists belong to and the systems in place that ensure your safety.

So, you’ve made your choice of therapy and found a therapist. Here are a few questions to ask your alternative medicine and complementary therapy practitioner:

• Are you regulated?
• What’s your training background and what qualifications have you achieved?
• What experience do you have, particularly with treating my condition?
• Do you have insurance?
• What will treatment cost me and how long should it take?
• How should I prepare for my treatment?
• What will it feel like during and afterwards?

Hopefully these questions and this simple guide will help you choose the right alternative medicine and complementary therapy for you.

Article submitted by
Daniel Alexander, GoToSee Journalist

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