The Rise of Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming increasingly popular for patients who suffer from a variety of issues, ranging from depression to cancer. Often, when patients turn to complementary medicine, they’re doing so in conjunction with their primary Western-based medical treatments.
These forms of therapy and treatment can help patients feel more relaxed and in control of their disease, they can decrease anxiety, and they can improve a patient’s sense of well-being, even in the midst of a significant health challenge.
Alternative therapies can also help lessen or alleviate side effects and symptoms of not only a disease itself, but perhaps the medical treatments being used.
It’s always important to speak with your primary care provider before embarking on an alternative journey, however, so how do you broach the topic that you’d like to explore complementary medical options?
- Be Open and Honest
It’s imperative to speak with your doctor about your desire to explore complementary therapy, particularly if you’re currently undergoing treatment for a serious condition, such as cancer. Patients often feel intimidated to speak with their doctor about alternative medicine, fearing he or she won’t approve. It’s always best to keep all of your care providers in the loop about treatments you’re considering or undergoing.
- Ask Your Doctor for Recommendations
You may not even realize your physician’s connections to alternative medical therapies or care providers. Consider not just informing your doctor of your plans but asking for referrals or recommendations.
- Be Prepared with Research
Doctors and other Western health care providers often respond favorably to scientific evidence and research, so consider this before approaching the topic. Do your own research to not only inform yourself about what alternative therapies may work best for you but also so you can discuss your findings with your doctor. It’s always a good idea to bring printed copies of your research so you can go over it and ensure you’re getting all of the facts and figures correct when discussing the topic with your doctor.
- Outline Your Reasons for Considering CAM
Before you talk to your doctor or team of care providers, be clear on why you want to use complementary or alternative medicine. This will help guide your conversation with your physician and ensure there’s no confusion as to your goals or your hopes for your treatment.
Doctors are pressed for time, which can make patients feel like they’re limited in the amount of time they can spend speaking with them. With this in mind, it’s up to you to start the CAM conversation, so come prepared and don’t wait for your doctor to ask. It’s up to you to bring it up and guide the discussion. You may even consider making a separate appointment, rather than trying to squeeze it onto the tail end of another appointment.
While it’s up to you to bring up the topic of alternative medicine and guide the conversation, at the same time you should also be ready to listen. Unless your doctor seems rude or automatically dismissive, he or she will likely have some useful insights that can help you make the right decision for your health. As well as listening, write down what your doctor says during your conversation because these may be things you want to share with your alternative therapist as well. The more information you can share with everyone you work with, the better your experience is likely to be.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Seek a Second Opinion
Perhaps your doctor is simply not well-versed on complementary or alternative medicine, in which case it’s okay to seek a second opinion. If your doctor or nurse practitioner seems very dismissive right away, it may be another good time to look at another opinion. At the same time, don’t approach this important conversation with the preconceived notion your doctor will shut you down. You don’t know your doctor’s thoughts or feelings on alternative therapies or treatments until you ask.
Opening the Lines of Communication with Your Care Providers
Communication is an invaluable part of health care. Patients need to feel safe and comfortable being honest with those people charged with providing them care, and as long as you feel this way toward your doctor it should be a relatively positive experience to bring up the topic of alternative medicine. From pain management to peace of mind, CAM can deliver big results for patients, making this conversation worth the effort.
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