Although medical consumers enthusiastically embrace a wide array of therapies, from natural medicine to psychotherapy, they often feel that they are on their own when it’s time to add to conventional care. Most medical doctors seem ill at ease with alternatives or frankly admit to knowing little about them. Patients may be reluctant to turn to their primary care providers for advice. On the other hand, consumers know that they need to exercise good judgment when they choose practitioners and remedies from complementary sources. They understand that drugs and herbs can work at cross purposes and they are willing to research the various ways to combine kinds of care that are easily available, regulated, or well-known with those that are not. Here are a few tips for adding complementary therapies to your medical care in an intelligent way:
• Even if you risk disapproval, it’s important to share your plans with all your practitioners. Psychological and primary medical providers may need to discuss medication or symptoms; osteopathic and orthopedic doctors may unknowingly repeat each other’s diagnostic tests or treatments; professionals who have already have established relationships with providers in your field of interest can make suggestions; your pharmacist is a wonderful source of advice. These professionals truly have a need to know — often for the sake of your safety.
• If your request results in turf battles or your healing professionals are unable to treat your decision with respect, you may need to find people who are more willing to be open to cooperating with each other.
• Although you may not be completely satisfied with certain aspects of orthodox medicine, don’t dismiss its advantages. Be sure you give objective consideration to diagnostic testing, inoculation, surgery, and chemical control of symptoms while you’re assessing what’s best for you. It doesn’t make sense to throw out the baby with the bath water.
• Remember that herbs, vitamin supplements, and other natural substances are not free of side effects and require careful monitoring, especially in large doses. They are often not tested or regulated by the Federal Drug Administration
• If your ailment is related to stress or to predominantly psychological factors, consider alternatives to biomedicine. Biofeedback, psychotherapy and psychotherapeutic hypnosis, meditation, and various forms of exercise may be safer and provide relief more effectively than drugs. Chronic illness, pain, and the side effects of treatment such as chemotherapy may also respond to these kinds of therapies.
• Consider the addition of non-traditional elements such as positive imaging to surgical procedures. They may reduce discomfort and speed healing. Enlist the help of your surgeon in these efforts.
• Utilize the many sources of information about all kinds of medicine available on-line, in library reference sections, and through commercial databases. Hook up with groups of people whose concerns reflect yours. Don’t reinvent the wheel! In recent years our resources for health care have been enriched by the addition of many alternatives. You can influence your health care by choosing from those available to you, but it’s up to you to be sure that they really do complement each other.