What is Alternative Healthcare?
Michael Thomas, D.C.
More and more, there are articles discussing alternatives to the care
given by the medical doctor . This wide diversity of alternatives can be
very confusing. The following article will attempt to touch on some of
the high points of alternative care and lend a bit of perspective. Most
of us are very familiar with the medical system in this country. The
family M.D. who may have delivered us at our birth and then took care of
us through childhood, and as an adult has been shifted a bit. Increasing
complexity in medicine has resulted in specialization. Now one M.D. will
deliver us, another, take care of us as kids, and another as adults.
When we are older there is yet another set of specialists. Medicine in
the United States has dramatically evolved since even mid-century and is
frankly, the best there ever was in many areas. Surgical procedures have
been amazingly refined. Trauma care is without parallel. Drugs can keep
some conditions under control. Antibiotics have been a godsend for
Even so, many conditions remain beyond the ability of medicine to
overcome. Many chronic illnesses do not respond well to the drugs we
have, and sometimes the side effects of drugs are unacceptable. Whenever
one’s life has been limited, it is natural to look for some other avenue
that may be of help. It is in this context that alternative measures are
being examined and increasingly, used.
It may be of help to note that alternatives methods have begun to be
gathered under the banner of complementary medicine. This refers to the
use of any method that works with the innate healing ability of the body,
enhancing it rather than trying to overcome or control body functions
with drugs. There is growing acknowledgement that the real and only
healer is inside each of us. The power that made us in the first place
from one tiny cell and the power that heals our injuries daily is the
only true healer. Sometimes body functions must be stifled and
controlled because our life is at risk. It is in this context that
M.D.’s shine. Long before this occurs however, there is often an array
of simple conservative methods that can assist the return to healthy
functioning. These complementary approaches comprise alternative
Having grown up in the M.D. based system of medicine, most of us are
familiar with what to expect from care. We understand that as the
knowledge of body function became more vast, that specialization had to
occur. No one person could know all of it. Even so, within their
specialties, the great majority of M.D.’s “read from the same book”.
Care is essentially the same in Ocala or Atlanta or Seattle. In
complementary healthcare there is a wide diversity of practitioners who
practice very differently. This requires the individual to take on some
responsibility for themselves. A consultation with the practitioner is
reasonable, and questions should be asked and answered to the
individual’s satisfaction before care is begun. Actually, I would advise
this preliminary assessment to be made by everyone regardless of the
practitioner, complementary or not.
Venturing into the world of complementary healthcare, there are many,
many diverse titles to become familiar with. Among them: chiropractic
physician, homeopathic physician, acupuncturist, naturopathic physician,
herbalist, reflexologist, massage therapist, nutritionist, and untold
others with new approaches arising or being recovered from the past,
everyday. Even a given title does not assure a given approach. In
chiropractic for instance, there are seven or eight basic ideas that at
least 300 techniques are based on. This wealth of approaches presents
greatly diverse opportunities for successful results, but again, requires
some amount of inquiry and understanding by the individual seeking care.
In a consultation, the individual should be able to explain what has
brought them to the health provider’s office. When did the problem
begin? Was there a specific cause or did the condition come on gradually
without any specific trigger? What makes it better or worse? Are
there any other conditions that are chronic or acute? Is there is
history in the family for this problem? Any hospitalizations or
surgeries? Allergies? These and many other questions may be asked in a
consultation by the healthcare provider. There are questions the
potential patient should ask. What is the background of the
practitioner? Education? Licenses? What is the basic idea behind the
care? What kind of success does this care have in the particular problem
presented? What is a reasonable timeframe for the care to be rendered?
What are the costs involved? Will insurance cover any of it? These are
samples of reasonable questions anyone might want to ask any healthcare
provider before agreeing to care.
We are in an age of information explosion. The great difficulty lies in
making sense of this mountain of data. Libraries have a lot of
information that can help people sort through alternatives. The
internet has opened up incredible opportunities for accessing knowledge
and options. The primary point here is that each person must take some
responsibility for their own health.
I often tell people that it makes sense to explore the conservative
measures before the more radical ones. As a chiropractor, I have taken
care of quite a number of people who were scheduled for spinal surgery.
The great majority of these people in my practice, have been able to
avoid surgery, come out of pain and regain normal function in their
lives. If degenerative processes have proceeded too far, then surgery
can be the only and best option. That is why it is necessary for each
person to pay attention to, and take control of, their own health. By
working with health providers at the beginning of problems, and often
even in more advanced problems, drastic measures can be avoided and the
health that is our birthright can be regained.
I wish all of you great health and long, happy lives. I encourage you to
open your eyes to the safe and conservative measures available to you in
the alternatives provided by complementary medicine.