This article is written by Pat Tiffin.
The only option to maintain a good quality of life with chronic illness is symptom management. More and more in recent years, patients are turning to complementary and alternative therapies to improve their health outcomes.
Conventional treatment often leans heavily on medication. Though pharmaceuticals can be helpful in symptom management, quality of life is a whole different issue. For example, ‘mild side effects’ from drugs that manage high blood pressure (hypertension) can include nervousness, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, lethargy and even skin rash. Although your body may adjust over time, symptom management by medication could reproduce new symptoms.
Granted, there’s nothing life-threatening in that list of side-effects, but if you weren’t taking medication and felt sick like that, you’d probably take yourself to the doctor.
The basics about alternative medicine
Remember, you should discuss any changes in your current treatment regimen with your doctor before you make them. If you’re taking medications, adding, subtracting or simply stopping on your own is not safe. Talk to your doctor about the alternative therapies you want to incorporate to understand the risk and reward.
There are three categories of therapies that can include alternative medicine, based on how they are applied:
- Complementary: These are non-traditional treatments that can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. An example might be incorporating massage therapy to help reduce anxiety.
- Alternative: This is when non-traditional therapies replace conventional treatment. An example might be choosing acupuncture to manage pain, as opposed to taking medication.
- Lifestyle: This approach involves behavioral changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle to have an impact on a chronic illness. An example would be dietary changes for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Do your homework
Always remember that chronic illnesses are not curable, so avoid over-hyped products, services or devices. If a “cure” for cancer, HIV or Alzheimer’s had been discovered, you would have heard about it and not just on some vendor’s website.
It’s good to be open-minded about alternative therapies – many can be highly effective. But don’t forget anyone can put up a website, full of glowing testimonials, to sell products that have no proven results.
5 Reasons to Explore Alternative Therapy for Chronic Illness
1. Your current treatment isn’t working
One of the most frustrating parts of treating a chronic illness is finding treatments that helps you manage your condition and achieve positive health outcomes and quality of life.
This is not to suggest any failing on the part of your doctor or medical staff. There are limitations to conventional medicine and patients need to manage expectations based on their condition.
More and more alternative therapies are backed up by scientific studies. For example, floatation therapy has been proven to reduce chronic pain and anxiety. Floatation therapy takes place in a dark sound-proof tank with about 10” of water with enough magnesium sulfate – Epson Salt – to help the body float.
2. Progressive cognitive decline is the primary symptom
For patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, conventional treatments are limited and predominantly used to slow the progress of the disease.
But the quality of life for adults with Alzheimer’s can greatly benefit from various alternative therapies that help to stimulate memory through sensory input like aroma therapy or music therapy. Not only is music enjoyable for the patient, but it’s a positive approach for family members.
These techniques have long been adopted by memory facilities that serve clients who need long-term care for dementia or Alzheimer’s.
3. Side-effects are extensive
Conventional medicine tends to accept side effects as a necessary evil. But many of them affect a patient’s quality of life much more than anticipated. Increased fatigue, weight gain or loss and dizziness can have a significant impact on your daily functioning.
The more medications you’re taking, the more complicated it can become. Again, you shouldn’t stop, add or subtract to that regime without a discussion with your doctor, but you can research alternatives for specific side effects prior to your conversation.
4. Concerns about addiction
The addictive nature of narcotic pain medications has saturated the news. Opioids, even when taken as prescribed, can lead innocent people down the rabbit hole.
Finding effective alternative therapies to help manage pain – such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment or reducing stress and inflammation – can be viable alternatives to pain medication.
5. Alternative therapy is more appealing
Alternative therapies can feel more natural, depending on your philosophy about wellness. Many advocates of alternative therapies feel the practices are better aligned with the body’s natural healing capabilities.
Many alternative practices are based in ancient eastern medicine that takes a holistic approach to health and can be customized to individual cases and lifestyles.
These are just five reasons on why you should look for alternative therapy when dealing with chronic illness. Adding alternative therapies – complementary and lifestyle therapies too – is a personal choice, so there are plenty of others out there.
Just make sure you do it safely and run any changes by your doctor before changing your current treatment regimen.
Author Bio: Pat Tiffin is the chief writer at the Senior Care Directory. The site helps older adults and family members find local resources for long-term care in their community. She sometimes teaches computer skills at a senior center in NC and embraces the holistic approach of mind body and spirit in the aging process. She loves dogs, gardening, Tai Chi and is a Reiki practitioner. Pat has published two novels and is currently working on her third.
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