The Fine Line Between Complementary and Alternative Therapies  

Trying conventional therapies for a given medical condition is all well and good when those therapies work. But what if they do not work? In many cases, patients can inquire about complementary and alternative therapies. Note that there is a fine line between the two therapy categories. Though they are distinct in terms of definition, there is plenty of overlap in practice.

The Strict Difference

The strictest definition of the two types of therapies creates a clear distinction between them. Complementary therapies are so named because they are intended to complement conventional treatments. They are utilized alongside conventional treatments to improve efficacy, provide additional support, improve quality of life, etc.

Alternative therapies are named this way because they are intended to replace their conventional counterparts. If a conventional treatment doesn’t work, that treatment might be set aside in favor of an alternative. Here is the interesting thing: some treatments generally considered alternatives by western medicine can still be used in a complementary fashion.

More About Complementary Therapies

Common examples of complementary therapies include acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, and mind-body practices. They are all considered outside the mainstream but still appropriate in conjunction with more conventional practices. For example, a doctor might recommend a combination of prescription medications and acupuncture to treat chronic back pain.

The key marker of complementary therapies is that they are used alongside conventional treatments rather than replacing such treatments. For this reason, complementary therapies are said to be integrated with conventional medicine. These days, it is no longer unusual for healthcare facilities to promote themselves as offering integrative medicine – a combination of conventional and complementary therapies.

More About Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies are also outside of the mainstream. They tend to receive more criticism because they do not come highly recommended by experts. Right now, the one alternative treatment everyone seems to know about his medical cannabis. Until recently, cannabis was believed to have no medicinal benefit whatsoever. Using it as a medicine was definitely an alternative approach.

Other alternatives include things like aromatherapy, ayurvedic medicine, reiki, and even regenerative medicine practices like platelet rich plasma and stem cell injections. And yet, alternative treatments can be used in conjunction with more conventional practices.

Consider a patient with osteoarthritis. While stem cell injections may be considered an alternative by western medicine standards, it is not abnormal for regenerative medicine practitioners to recommend a combination of stem cell injections and prescription meds. In such a case, what is normally considered an alternative treatment is being utilized on a complementary basis.

Patients Deserve Access to All Three

It seems to me that patients deserve access to all three categories of treatments. When conventional treatments work, fine. But when they don’t work, complementary and alternative therapies should be on the table. Patients should not be limited to conventional treatments.

The treatments on offer at KindlyMD clinics in Utah illustrate the point well enough. In Utah, patients diagnosed with certain qualifying conditions have access to plant-based medicine through the Utah Medical Card program.

KindlyMD complements its Med Card services with additional services including medication management, mental health services, weight loss assistance, and more. KindlyMD clinics treat patients under a complete care model that accounts for physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Conventions Are Made to Be Ignored

Just like rules are made to be broken, conventions are made to be ignored – especially when they do not deliver. In medicine, conventional therapies might not work as well as complementary or alternative therapies. The two types of therapies are technically different. But there is some overlap, and both can be explored when conventional medicine isn’t getting it done.

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