Alternate MedicineAlternative medicine includes all of the treatments or cures which are not routinely used by traditional practitioners (medical doctors and osteopaths). Some forms of alternative care, such as chiropractic, acupuncture and pranic healing, are well accepted safe. Other alternative treatments, such as homeopathy. A few, like chelation therapy, are dangerous. We work with our patients to find the best forms of complementary medicine for their particular problem.
Our practice offers Pranic Healing and Acupuncture. We are affiliated with hypnotherapists and chiropractors. We routinely refer to a variety of other complementary providers.
*Insurance plans limit care and the plan benefits are often confusing. Call your agent to check coverage. If possible, obtain a written letter promising payment for any care you plan to receive.
Alternative Medicine: Definitions
What is Alternative Medicine?
The term “alternative medicine” describes any form of practice that is outside the realm of conventional or allopathic medicine. It includes a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies which are not included in the care provided by medical doctors or osteopaths. Most of these treatments and health care practices are not widely taught in medical schools. Examples are naturopathy, chiropractic, Ayurveda, homeopathy and acupuncture.
What is Complementary Medicine?
If non-traditional treatments or therapies are used alone, or instead of conventional medicine, they are called "alternative" medicine. When the same treatments or therapies are done along with conventional treatments, they are referred to as "Complementary Medicine." This indicates that the two practices complement each other. For example, many Chinese hospitals use acupuncture to reduce the pain during the surgery, instead of Western anesthetics.
What is Holistic Medicine?
"Holistic medicine" refers to the care of both mind and the body. Alternative practitioners consider on the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of health to be as important as the physical changes. Therapies like hypnosis and visualization seek to relieve physical conditions through mental interventions. The importance of psychological self care to prevent illness is also stressed by holistic practitioners.
What is Natural Medicine?
Any therapy that relies on the body's own healing powers, and the use of naturally occurring substances, may be considered natural medicine. These include herbal remedies, diet and water therapies.
What is the Difference Between Conventional and Holistic Medicine?
Standard, conventional, or orthodox medicine, also called allopathy, defines health as the absence of disease. People who use conventional medicine usually do not seek treatment until they become ill.
There is little emphasis on preventive treatment. Alternative practitioners prefer to see patients more regularly to maintain their healthful balance.
Holistic medicine, in contrast, focuses on preventing illness and maintaining health. It views health as a balance of body systems (mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.) Maintaining the "state of wholeness" is the aim of treatment.
Natural medicine follows a holistic approach, treats illness as an imbalance of mind and body. It views disease as the failure of control and tries to restored balance.
If you have a backache the approach to care is entirely difficult to that employed by traditional doctors? They may consider first an exercise program, acupuncture or herbs. They may advise chiropractic.
How Popular is Alternative Medicine?
According to a study in the Jan. 28, 1993, New England Journal of Medicine, 1 in 3 patients used alternative therapy in 1990. More than 80 percent of those who use alternative therapies used conventional medicine at the same time. Most but did not tell their doctors about the alternative treatments.
Worldwide, only an estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of human health care is currently delivered by conventional practitioners. The remaining 70 percent to 90 percent care for problems with interventions which range from self-care according to folk principles.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, 80 percent of the world population, presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Herbal medicine is a major component in all indigenous peoples’ traditional medicine and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional oriental, and Native American Indian medicine.
As more and more people are being attracted to alternative medicine, the willingness to consider alternative therapies is also beginning to spread to the health insurance industry. A few large carriers have started to experiment with covering alternative treatments. A pilot program at Mutual of Omaha, for instance, covers the Dean Ornish cardiac rehabilitation program, and Blue Cross of Washington has a policy that covers naturopathy and homeopathy. American Western Life Insurance Company of Foster City, California covers naturopathic treatments, including Ayurveda, homeopathy, nutritional counseling, massage and physical therapy. The company maintains a full-time Wellness Line, staffed by trained naturopathic doctors who answer clients' health care questions. Premiums for the Wellness plan are about 20 percent lower than for the company's traditional plans.
Classification of Alternative Systems of Medical Practice
Office of Alternative Medicine of National Institutes of Health classifies the following complementary and alternative medical health care practices.
*Integrative medicine treatments are available for the following conditions
*Integrative, alternative, and complementary medicine treatments are not guaranteed to cure anything. Traditional medicine also carries no guarantees.
For more information on the benefits of alternative medicine, see www.holisticonline.com. For the dissenting view, read www.quackwatch.com. Quackwatch.com is written by a physician who is equally critical of medical doctors and any other provider who sells a service he sees as useless. His reports are reasonably unbiassed but a bit harsh.
Questions and Answers About Alternative Medicine
Q: Can acupuncture help reduce the craving for cigarettes?
A: Acupuncture, in combination with the burning of a traditional Chinese herb, moxa, at specific acupuncture points has been demonstrated to be effective in addictions such as cigarettes and tobacco products.
Q: What is a phytonutrient?
A: Phytonutrients are “plant-based” nutrients from the Latin “phyto” for plants. A good example is the naturally occurring estrogens on “phytoestrogens” in soy beans and products.
Q: What is an antioxidant?
A: An antioxidant is a substance, such as Vitamins C and E, that prevent the cellular damage due to oxygen interacting with cellular metabolism. Although oxygen metabolism is essential to life, the antioxidants diminish excessive activity and damage to the cell.
Q: Does melatonin prevent jet lag?
A: Melatonin can alleviate jet lag. There are a number of complex ways of using melatonin but the best general approach is to ingest no more than 3 mg of melatonin approximately 45 minutes prior to going to sleep in the new time zone.
Q: Is St. John’s Wort effective in treating depression?
A: St. John’s Wort is effective in treating mild to moderate depression. It has been studied in comparison to common antidepressants, such as Prozac, and been found to be equally effective with fewer side effects.
Q: Is Echinacea effective in treating colds and flu?
A: Echinacea can be effective in preventing the onset of cold or flu if taken at the earliest possible onset of the symptoms. Evidence is actually better that Echinacea can shorten the duration, if not prevent altogether, a cold or flu episode.
Q: In homeopathy, what does “Like cures like” mean?
A: In homeopathy, the principle of “like cures like” refers to the use of dilute preparation of a substance that would produce the symptoms of the illness in a healthy person. Using the “like” substance is theorized to provide the body into a healing response to that same illness.
Q: What is Ayurvedic medicine? According to Ayurvedic medicine, what are the three basic life forces, or doshas?
A: Ayurvedic medicine is the indigenous, traditional medicine of India. According to Ayurveda, there are basic life forces, or “doshas,” that determine a person’s unique constitution. These are the “vata” or air aspect for very energetic people; the “pitta” or fire aspect of aggressive people; and the “kapha” aspect of slow moving, conservative individuals.
Q: What is yin and yang?
A: According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the universe is in constant dynamic interplay between the two forces of “yin” (the male, active, aggressive) and “yang” (the female, passive, receptive) energies, which need to be in balance to achieve individual, environmental, and spiritual balance and harmony.
Q. Are some medical therapies considered experimental in the United States but regarded as mainstream medicine in other countries?
A: Many medical therapies that are considered alternative in the United States are actually conventional medicine in other countries. For example, acupuncture has long been a standard medical procedure in China. In fact, given the populations of China and India, the vast majority of people in the world receive their medical care by interventions considered alternative here in the United States.
Q: What benefits does fasting have?
A: Among the benefits of brief fasting (three to five days) are short-term water weight loss, increased energy, modest long-term weight reduction, possible increased elimination of toxicity, and mood enhancement. Among the dangers are dehydration, short-term malnutrition, possible arrhythmias (which can be life threatening), irritability, light-headedness, fainting due to hypotension, and excessive urination. Any fast of more than one day should be undertaken with clinical supervision and expertise.
Q: What benefits does meditation have?
A: The primary benefit of meditation is relaxation and pain management. It also improves concentration, stimulates the onset of sleep, and reduces blood pressure. While meditating, the meditator experiences enhanced immunity for a brief duration. The meditator also may have an enhanced response to UV treatment of psoriasis, as well as to treatment of painful menstruation, headache, and many other conditions. In fact, meditation and relaxation therapies have the best scientific record for helping the broadest array of medical and psychological conditions for the largest number of people. The record for these therapies is better than that for any other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions.
Q. What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
A. According to the Cochrane Collaboration, an international research group based in London and dedicated to evidence-based medicine (medical treatments that have undergone objective, rigorous scientific evaluation), CAM is defined as “diagnosis, treatment, and/or prevention which complements conventional medicine by contributing to a common whole, by satisfying a demand not met by orthodoxy, or by diversifying the conceptual framework of medicine.”
Q: What conditions can homeopathic remedies treat effectively?
A: According to well-designed scientific studies, homeopathy appears to be effective at treating the following conditions: respiratory infections; hay fever; peripheral circulation disorders; pain and trauma; and, swelling due to trauma or surgery. It is also a helpful aid in returning normal gastrointestinal function after bowel surgery. In addition, some evidence indicates that homeopathy may be helpful for depression, otitis in children, and diarrhea. Studies have shown that homeopathy is not effective at treating plantar warts or osteoarthritis or at preventing flu or conjunctivitis.
Q: How does hypnosis work? Does it have medical applications?
A: Hypnosis is a state of focused attention similar to deep relaxation. The exact mechanism of the state of hypnosis remains unknown. Either under the direction of a clinician/hypnotist or through self-hypnosis, an individual can learn to focus on specific inner sensations that are positive while withdrawing the attention from negative internal sensations or thoughts, such as pain and anxiety. Hypnosis is used in medicine to help patients achieve self-control over conditions such as drug and cigarette addiction, acute and chronic pain, and an array of psychological conditions, including sleep onset insomnia and depression.
Q. What is the difference between a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) and a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)?
A. Doctors of Medicine (M.D.'s) and Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.'s) receive virtually identical training, and both are equally licensed in all 50 states. In their medical practice, D.O.'s generally place a greater emphasis on manipulating the muscles and skeleton than M.D.'s do. D.O.'s also tend to emphasize herbal medicines and methods that influence the biological energy fields in the body.
Q: What is Mind-Body Medicine?
A: Mind-body medicine focuses on the interaction between the mind and physical responses in the body. Emotions such as stress or depression can have a debilitating affect on health, affecting the body’s ability to fight off disease. Likewise, a chronic disease can affect mental outlook, causing emotional ills such as stress, depression, or loneliness. The scientific name for this type of medicine is psychoneuroimmunology, in which psycho refers to the mind, neuro refers to the brain and nervous system, and immunology refers to the body’s response to infections.
Q. In acupuncture, what is moxibustion?
A. Moxibustion is an acupuncture procedure that uses a dried herb, commonly known as moxa or mugwort. This herb is burned so that the heat from the herb is transferred to specific points on the body for tonifying (increase the energy) along the body’s meridians (lines of subtle energy that flow on the surface of the body). Like acupuncture, moxibustion activates a patient’s natural power to heal.
Q: What is naturopathy? What type of therapy does it use? How are naturopaths trained?
A: It should be noted that naturopathy is not the same as homeopathy. Naturopathy is a clinical specialty that emphasizes the use of natural products in both prevention and treatment of disease. It is founded on six basic principles:
Q. What is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)?
A. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), established within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has the objective of researching a vast array of alternative medicine interventions to determine their safety and efficacy. NCCAM defines complementary and alternative medicine as “those treatments and health-care practices not taught widely in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals, and not usually reimbursed by medical insurance companies. Some approaches are consistent with physiological principles of Western medicine, while others constitute healing systems with a different origin. While some therapies are far outside the realm of accepted Western medical theory and practice, others are becoming established in mainstream medicine.”
Q. Do practitioners of acupuncture use only needles in their treatments?
A. Practitioners of acupuncture use various needles in their treatment as well as massage, herbal remedies, and considerable psychological and emotional counseling.
Q. Can acupuncture relieve the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis?
A. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is good scientific evidence that acupuncture can have a positive effect on rheumatoid arthritis. Acupuncture has also been found effective in treating over 15 common medical conditions, including fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, headache, and asthma.
Q. What conditions can Reiki therapy treat?
A. Reiki is a form of massage and subtle biological energy manipulation. There is some preliminary evidence that Reiki may relieve the pain of neurological damage caused by diabetes mellitus. Ongoing research is investigating if Reiki can help patients make a faster recovery from open-heart surgery.
Q. Do any medical schools in the United States teach alternative medicine therapies?
A. Over half of the approximately 144 medical schools in the United States that offer degrees in medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.) teach courses in alternative medicine and/or courses on specific complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices, such as acupuncture.
Q: What do chiropractors do? What conditions do they treat?
A: Chiropractic medicine is an approach that is derived from the Greek roots “cheir,” meaning hand, and “praxis,” meaning practice, and was formulated by the founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer, to mean “done by hand.” The emphasis in chiropractic is on the use of physical force to correct malalignments of the spine, alleviate nerve root compression, and decrease abnormal muscle tension.
Q: What is reflexology? What conditions can it effectively treat?
A: Reflexology is a form of massage that focuses on certain “trigger” or “reflex” points in the muscles and tendons. Through a focused massage at these trigger points, the reflexology therapist releases physical tension and psychological issues that arise.