Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Chiropractic

Chiropractic is perhaps one of the most well-known and wide-spread forms of alternative medicine. The practice if primarily concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders, especially those associated with the spine. The primary chiropractic treatment technique involves manual therapy—spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) and manipulations of other joints and soft tissues.

 

Several controlled clinical studies or chiropractic treatments have been conducted, but results are often conflicting. Spinal manipulation, though potentially ineffective at treating conditions, may be a cost-effective for sub-acute or chronic lower back pain. However, there is not sufficient data to establish the safety of chiropractic manipulations.

 

Chiropractic is very established in North America and Australia, often overlapping with other manual-therapy professions like massage therapy, osteopathy, and physical therapy. Most seek chiropractic help for back and neck pain, which are considered to be the specialties of the practice. In the past twenty years, it has gained legitimacy and greater acceptance among conventional physicians and health plans in the United States.

 

In 2009, a review published in Prev Med stated that spinal manipulation was routinely associated with considerable harm, further reporting that there was no compelling evidence to indicate that it adequately prevented symptoms or diseases. In 2012, a systemic review found that the risk of death from manipulations to the neck outweighed any potential benefits. These statements, though bombastic, should not be disregarded. If you enjoy chiropractic, we recommend that you do so in limited quantities; rather than seeing a chiropractor every week, consider switching your appointments to every month to reduce the risk of injury.

 

Alternative Medicine: Knowing Your Terms

Alternative medicine is often loosely defined. It can be a set of products, a set of practices, or a set of theories believed to have the same healing effects of Western medicine. However, there are differing types of alternative healing practices. Before embarking on your own alternative medicine journey, read up on the necessary terminology to get set on the right path.

Complementary Medicine—Also known as integrative medicine, this is when alternative medicine is used in conjunction with functional medical treatment with the believe that it improves the practice.

Allopathic Medicine—This is commonly used by homeopaths. It was used to describe traditional European practice based on the four “humours”: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. Allopathy refers to the use of pharmacologically active agents to treat or suppress symptoms of diseases or conditions.

 

CAM—Known professional as Complementary and Alternative Medicine, this practice often utilizes the terms “balance,” “whole,” and “holistic.” This is an umbrella term for alternative medicine.

 

Traditional Medicine—This refers to pre-scientific practices of certain cultures. It is used as both a healing tool and a as a strategy for understanding and acknowledging cultural heritage.

 

These definitions were generated by the writers of the Alternative Medicine Channel. Definitions vary from organization to organization. For further reading on the difficulties in defining these medicinal practices, we recommend sifting through the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

 

 

The Relationship between Yoga and Alternative Medicine

Stripped down to its bare essentials, yoga is an unobtrusive exercise that can deliver an array of health benefits and preventative buffers against many types of ailments. This fact is heralded by pretty much every health professional you’ll meet. Yoga, as a primary treatment for medical conditions, is a more controversial topic that almost always depends on the individual context.

 

Yoga is a great complementary therapy with any number of other health treatments. Got anxiety, for example? Talk to a therapist AND sign up for a yoga class. Have gastro-intestinal distress? Start a probiotic regimen AND sign up for a yoga class. Just don’t expect two or three beginner level classes to cure your Crohn’s. It doesn’t *usually* work that way. Indeed, when yoga is prescribed as a primary treatment, it’s almost always because more widely used methods have failed, and yoga is all that’s left. Even then, it’s often more about managing the symptoms of a disease more than curing it.

 

The Complicated Place Yoga has in Our Culture

Yoga sometimes finds itself in a certain amount of conflict with people of faith who see yoga’s secular meditation as a threat to the power of prayer and communion with their Creator. There is a spiritual element that many people bring to yoga, but you can really bring any number of religious beliefs to the practice. There is nothing that says you can’t pray—either with a short mantra or an open dialogue—at the end of a yoga practice, for example.

 

There’s also a lingering tension within the yoga community itself between those who believe Americanized yoga is ruining the original art form and those who believe that these yoga purists are hoity-toity nincompoops. There are those who swear by a specific sequence of poses and those who prefer to dabble in as many different forms of yoga they can find.

 

There are those who find yoga to be a slightly more effective form of exercise than other types of weight resistance training, and there are those who see yoga as a crucial component to their overall health plan and ability to get through the day and week without losing it altogether.

 

Here’s the thing, though. No matter what place you belong to within the greater culture and general practice of yoga, there are few stories of people who practiced yoga for any real length of time without improving their health in some substantial measure.

 

The Many Connections Between Urgent Care and Alternative Medicine

When using the traditional, if somewhat outdated, framework of Western vs. Alternative Medicine, urgent care is clearly part of mainstream, western medicine. With few exceptions, rapid onset symptoms and conditions require direct intervention and acute care. One of the ways in which proponents of alternative medicine use urgent care is as a kind of substitute for primary care. They follow their own tenets for a healthy lifestyle, while seeking our urgent care as a kind of al a carte solution for their acute medical needs.

 

Seen a different way, however, urgent care is very much alternative medicine—with people of pretty much any medical background and proclivity calling it an “important alternative to emergency care.” Urgent care is also undergoing a rapid and dramatic transformation itself. From sleep disorders to allergies to physical therapy to weight loss, urgent care providers are offering a greater range of healthcare services that are more in line with chronic conditions that may respond better to long-term alternative medicine practices.

 

Put another way, if integrative medicine assimilates multiple medical philosophies into a holistic practice, it’s no surprise that urgent care centers have been the natural landing spot for implementing a more integrative medicine. Here are a few featured urgent care centers from around the country that are good examples of this trend:

 

Known as “acute alternative,” this urgent care clinic in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers a range of primary care, supplements recommendations, and a Smoothie Bar, but what they’re perhaps best known for is their accredited sleep center and sleep disorders program.

 

Despite their reputations, most followers of alternative medicine want to do so under the guidance of a highly qualified medical professional. This Clemente, CA urgent care practice introduced new alternative medicine services after feedback from their patients indicated a lack of services in the area.

 

Some urgent care centers put their connection with alternative medicine front and center. This holistic urgent care center in Scottsdale, Arizona doesn’t just incorporate aspects of alternative medicine into its practice. They “accommodate acute illness, infections, and injuries with an emphasis on natural medical remedies and modalities whenever possible.”

 

More and more providers are combining urgent and comprehensive care services.

This metro Denver urgent care provider is pushing the boundaries of what healthcare services can be effectively offered at their sites. Their adult and pediatric clinic locations have services that include family medicine, occupational medicine, weight loss, mental health, physical therapy, and allergy care.

 

Health education, especially for parents and their kids, can be hugely important for the patient and their family to consistently make the best possible healthcare decisions. Urgent care providers are positioning themselves as a natural authority and arbiter over the practices and philosophies of alternative and traditional medicine. This Coppell, Texas pediatric urgent care center clearly and succinctly lays out the differences and commonalities, between alternative, western, and integrative medicine.

 

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is the third most commonly taken supplement in the U.S., but is it worthy of such popularity and widespread use? We do think there’s enough evidence to use fish oil—and other omega-3 supplements—as a dietary supplement for targeted results, but to simply say that fish oil is good for your heart and good for weight loss isn’t good enough. And depending on how it’s presented, it can be downright misleading.

 

While there is some evidence to suggest that fish oil can be good for overall heart health, the big thing it can do for you is to lower your triglyceride levels. (Triglycerides are a kind of fat cell in the blood that the body can use to store energy.) This alone should have some benefit in promoting a healthy heart and metabolic system. Still, it’s a long way to go from showing lower triglyceride levels to showing better health outcomes overall.

 

Take weight loss, for example. Studies show that fish oil may not help you lose weight so much as prevent and mitigate abdominal weight gain in particular. In other words, if you struggle with weight in your midsection, fish oil may be a smart supplement to take in combination with a leaner diet and healthier exercise routine. (For men and women alike, abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind in terms of health outcomes and mortality rates.)

 

The studies and claims made surrounding cancer, mental health, and other health conditions are mixed and inconclusive. For cancer, in particular, you can find studies that suggest fish oil increases your risk of some cancers and decreases your risk in others. Looking for a roundup of various studies on fish oil? Check out this news resource.

 

Still, alternative medicine isn’t isolationist medicine. We do think taking a fish oil supplement can be right for a lot of people. On the other hand, many people also have limited resources. It might make more sense, for example, to spend your disposable income on higher-quality foods that are rich in omega-3. But maybe you can’t stand fish and aren’t all that crazy about other sources of omega-3 (walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy). The best use of a fish oil may not be as a diet “supplement” so much as a diet “substitute.”

 

The Chemistry of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This article does a good job of explaining the different health benefits between the two acids. Although EPA is better for many of fish oil’s purported health benefits, especially as an anti-inflammatory, it’s the less well known DHA that’s likely better for stroke prevention and brain health, as it’s believed the longer DHA chain does a better job in maintaining a healthy brain. The article also reminded us that both EPA and DHA are shown to reduce triglyceride levels, which may help explain why this effect is so widely observed.

 

Don’t Overdo It

There aren’t a lot of acute dangers with taking in a bunch of omega-3 fatty acids, but you still don’t want to overdo it. Excessive amounts can lead to heavy bleeding and anticoagulant properties. Rash and nosebleeds are another potential side effect. Daily consumption of up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids is generally recognized as safe. But again, it’s also important to account for the omega-3 that’s already in your diet.

 

  • Practical Tip—Burping, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea are also potential side effects with fish oil. Look to eliminate these side effects by freezing and/or taking the supplements with a meal. If you still experience negative side effects, you might try krill oil or isolated EPA or DHA supplements. You may also want to talk to your doctor about the trade-offs and alternative supplements and medications that can help you achieve comparable health benefits.