Alternative Medicine; Great Options for Seniors

Alternative Medicine is a term given to health treatments that are not sanctioned by the current medical establishment and in the United States that is the American Medical Association (AMA). The good news is that what once used to be an "us or them" mind set seems to be mellowing.

The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.  ~Thomas Edison

The future that Edison referred to is now. The delay was probably caused by two things; the phenomenal development in medical science and the profit motive in medical practice and pharmaceuticals. Finally demand for alternative medicine became so great that both the AMA and the US government had to come to terms with it.

According to a nationwide government survey released in December 2008, approximately 38 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over and approximately 12 percent of children use some form of CAM. CAM is the acronym for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine that is monitored by the the National Institute of Health (NIH). That number of people looking outside conventional medicine demands attention.

Here is the NIH definitive breakdown: "CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Integrative medicine combines conventional and CAM treatments for which there is evidence of safety and effectiveness."

The three general areas described by NIH as complimentary medicine, alternative medicine and integrative medicine can overlap but it is a good way to look at the most used CAMs.

Complimentary Medicine... These practices are often used in addition to conventional medicine.

  • NATUROPATHY Naturopathy is a medical system based on the belief that nature itself is a healing power and that the human body has the ability to maintain a balance of health and to heal itself. Concentration is on the cause of the affliction rather than on the symptoms. Drugs and other invasive procedures are avoided in all but extreme cases.
  • HERBS The use of herbal medicine in healing precedes modern medicine by thousands of years. 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.
  • REFLEXOLOGY A natural healing art based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet, hands and ears which correspond to every part, gland and organ of the body. The practitioner applies pressure and massage to affect those parts. Try reflexology for a new 'feel good' experience.
  • YOGA Yoga became popular in the western world mostly as a form of exercise, which in itself is good. Yoga is an ancient Vedic science that deals with purifying the mind and consciousness as way to achieve optimal health, peace, and longevity. It is a complimentary practice as well as an alternative and has much in common with Ayurveda.

Alternative Medicine... These practices are often used instead of conventional medicine.

  • AYURVEDA Ayurveda is an intricate system of healing that originated in India thousands of years ago. Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words: Ayu which means life and Veda which means the knowledge of. To know about life is Ayurveda. It is an interesting and somewhat complicated practice based on the belief that each individual is influenced by five elements; ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth. It's popularity as an alternative medicine continues to grow in the U.S due in large part to influences by authorities such as Deepak Chopra.
  • CHINESE MEDICINE Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has also been around for thousands of years. Like Ayurveda, it is an intricate system based on the belief that the life and activity of individual human beings have an intimate relationship with the environment on all levels. Diagnosis and treatment are mainly based on the yin-yang and five elements theories. Therapies include acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong exercises.
  • HOMEOPATHY This theory of healing was developed in the late eighteenth century by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physicist. His principle is that like shall be cured by like. In other words, if a substance produces symptoms of illness in a well person when administered in large doses, it will cure the disease in a sick person if we administer the same substance in minute quantities. An oversimplification of the process is that the patient is administered minute quantities of the disease that afflicts him. The process is used to this day and has never been clear of controversy.
  • HOLISTIC Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person - body, mind, and spirit. The practice integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and most importantly, to promote optimal health. This condition of whole health is defined as the unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind, and spirit. It's popularity as an alternative medicine is growing.

Integrative Medicine... These practices are used in cooperation with conventional medicine.

  • ACUPUNCTURE Acupuncture has a history of success dating back thousands of years and continues to be validated today. In North America, acupuncture has grown into what is now a common form of pain management therapy in many clinics and hospitals.
  • OSTEOPATHY Places emphasis on the musculoskeletal system. Osteopaths also believe strongly in the healing power of the body and do their best to facilitate that strength. Osteopathy and conventional medicine are gradually becoming more closely related.
  • CHIROPRACTIC Based on the belief in the relationship of the structure, particularly the spine, and all body functions. The goal is to normalize that relationship. A large part of this practice deals with lower back pain. Some work closely with MD's and some do not.
  • MEDITATION Meditation has been used for thousands of years throughout the world to alleviate suffering and promote healing. Modern medicine is finally coming around to recognizing its value in all kinds of treatments. Meditation has been scientifically proven to be beneficial in several areas of wellness.
  • MASSAGE Massage has a history at least as old as Chinese Medicine, Yoga and Ayurveda. Massage therapy has become an integral part of modern medicine for specific injuries or ailments. A variety of massage techniques have also been incorporated into several other complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy, reflexology, Rolfing, Hellerwork, and osteopathy.

There are more details on other Naturopathy, Holistic Medicine and Herbs at NaturalHealth

There are more complimentary and alternative practices such as aromatherapy, biofeedback, energy healing, qigong and reiki. There is no reason not to objectively view these methods as potential solutions to health problems along side and not below conventional medicine. Most of them have a proven history much longer than current scientific methods. Most also adhere to what once was a universal medical principle; "First, do no harm".

It is not my purpose to defend any of these alternative medicines as each stands on it's own merits. But to the naysayers who insist that if it has not been be proven scientifically it must be bogus, I offer this. If you do not believe that body, mind, spirit and the universe are indelibly connected, then you are right. And if that is the case I am sorry that your window on life lets in so little light.

Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Pain Relief for Seniors

Yoga and Ayurveda for Senior Fitness

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