Complementary therapies have gained in popularity with the move towards more integrative health care and taking a “whole-body” or “holistic” approach to health. Despite it gaining in popularity there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding complementary therapy; what it is, who would benefit from it, etc. So, let’s take a look at complementary therapy and whether it’s right for you.
What are Complementary Therapies?
Complementary therapies are therapies used alongside conventional medical treatment. These are therapies that, in many cases, have been proven to aid in recovery, increase the quality of life and/or are preventative in nature. For example, in cancer care, complementary therapies have long been used to support patients going through chemo to have a better quality of life (e.g. acupuncture to help with nausea).
Types of Complementary Therapies
Complementary therapies encompass a wide range of therapies and treatments, these include:
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga and/or Pilates
- Naturopathic Care
- Tai Chi
- Nutritional Support
What are the Benefits of Complementary Therapy?
There is evidence to support many complementary therapies in their ability to improve certain healthcare outcomes (especially in relation to cancer care where we have the most research currently), symptoms, or feelings of wellbeing. Some of these benefits can include:
- Pain/Chronic Pain Relief and Management: Complementary chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, physiotherapy, etc are all therapies that are known for their benefits to pain relief and pain management. Using them in conjunction with conventional treatments may further improve outcomes.
- Management of Side Effects of Conventional Treatments: Many conventional treatments come with side effects that can range from mild to those that greatly reduce the quality of life. Complementary therapies can help with the management of these side effects. For example, naturopathic care and acupuncture offer treatment for side effects such as nausea.
- Better Mental Health: Complementary therapies such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and psychotherapy have a significant impact on our mental health in general. Using these therapies alongside conventional treatment can improve feelings of wellbeing, reduce stress, and have an impact on symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
- More Feelings of Control: Incorporating complementary therapies can help patients feel more in control of their health and wellbeing. While conventional treatments often rely heavily on the healthcare provider, many complementary therapies require more “active” participation by the patient. Exercise, psychotherapy, lifestyle and nutrition changes, meditation all rely on the patient committing to doing the “work” and being more in control of their health.
What are the Risks of Complementary Therapy?
Most recommended complementary therapies are scientifically proven, regulated, and are considered generally safe. However, you should always consult your primary care physician before beginning any form of complementary therapy and ensure you’re visiting a reputable practitioner. There are also many “alternative health” modalities that are not backed by science or properly regulated and may prove to be detrimental to your health outcomes.
Things to Consider
So, is complementary therapy right for you? How do you decide? Great questions! Most importantly, consider your feelings. If you feel as though there is more you can do to achieve a more “holistic” approach to your healthcare outcomes, you may want to consider complementary therapy.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your doctor knows your health and risk factors the best. Before beginning any complementary therapies ensure that your doctor is aware of the treatments you’re considering. If there are any contraindications to your current treatments or health concerns your doctor will be able to tell you the best course of action (which may be avoiding that therapy or using another type of therapy).
Find a Reputable Practitioner/Clinic
As previously mentioned, there are many “alternative health” practitioners and modalities that are not scientifically backed or regulated. These are generally not considered complementary therapy as they are often advertised as “alternatives” to conventional treatment. Be careful and consult your doctor about these types of treatments.
Finding a reputable practitioner and clinic for common complementary therapies is best done through word-of-mouth recommendation (asking friends/family) but you can also do searches on the website of the regulating bodies for the treatments you are seeking. Additionally, making use of Facebook groups for your city, or reading google reviews can point you in the direction of a great clinic like COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES or practitioner, just always remember to research the clinic and practitioner. Many reputable practitioners will also offer 15 minute free consults to discuss your desired outcomes and see if they are the right fit for you – use this to assess how you feel about this practitioner, treatment, etc.