Is your doctor open to alternative medicine?

How Open is your Doctor to Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (or CAM) is widely used by patients, but often left undiscussed with their traditional doctors. According to one study, 82% of headache sufferers use some type of alternative methods to treat their Migraines, but only 50% tell their doctor. Why? Because their doctors aren’t talking about it or suggesting it to them. Patients can feel judged by their doctors especially if the doctor doesn’t show an interest or have any belief that alternative therapies other than medication can be helpful.

A paper recently published by Robert Cowan titled “CAM in the Real World: You May Practice Evidenced Based Medicine, but Your Patients Don’t,” encourages all doctors to stop ignoring that their patients use CAM and start integrating it into their treatment plan.1 Doctors tend to dismiss the benefits of acupuncture, yoga or herbs because there is little evidence to show that it works. Studies in this area can often be inconclusive or hard to test. On the flip side, these types of treatments rarely have serious side effects.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine can include:

Mind-Body Medicine- Meditation, Biofeedback, Hypnotism, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Body Based Practices- Chiropractic, Massage, Acupuncture, Trans-cranial therapy

Less than 20% of Headache Specialists surveyed incorporate CAM into their treatment plans. Cowan suggests that this is a disservice to the patients. Doctors should at least have a basic knowledge of complementary and alternative medicines in order to support patients who want to incorporate these practices into their daily life. Unfortunately there still exists a way of thinking among medical professionals that the healing arts are not a legitimate way to treat disease. Medicines are seen as a tangible solution, while it is hard to scientifically judge the effects of herbs or biofeedback.

As Cowan urges physicians to acknowledge and integrate alternative medicine with their patients, I find that some patients could also use encouragement in being open to these suggestions. I have found for me that a mix of medication and alternative methods have helped me tremendously. Taking pills seems to be the first line of defense for any illness. Being given a prescription almost validates any issue that we have. I think that some are hesitant to add in yoga or meditation or acupuncture because it says that healing can come from within, which translates into “the problem is all in your head.” If you’re not taking a pill for it, then you’re making it up or it’s not a serious problem if you can control it with a few “Ooommms,” at the yoga studio. Like physicians who are ignoring the benefits of CAM, some patients may fail to see the powers of these alternatives because it doesn’t come in a pill with a warning label.

Don’t get me wrong, I take plenty of medication to prevent and abort my Migraines. But in also integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I find that I feel more in control. Maybe it’s just taking the time to take care of myself. I’m able to listen and be more in tune with what my body needs and I feel less guilty when I need to make a change to accommodate my illness. Luckily, my doctor is very on board with using herbs, encourages me to exercise, gives me meditation websites to visit and always tells me that I’m not getting enough massages.

What Complementary and Alternative Medicine do you practice? Do you discuss it with your doctor?

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