Acupuncture needles for treatment of the patient.
Acupuncture needles for treatment of the patient. Thinkstock

Complementary medical practices: What are they?

THE concept of complementary therapies is that they aim to treat the entire person and not just the symptoms. Today, the gap between conventional medicine and complementary therapies seems to be blurring.

Each complementary medical treatment has its own theory and practice components, which makes it difficult to offer a blanket definition of what exactly a complementary therapy is.

There are a vast range of treatments that exist under the umbrella term of 'complementary therapy'. Perhaps a simple definition can be reached by comparing the philosophy of complementary therapies with that of allopathic medicine.

Allopathic medicine, known more commonly as general or conventional medicine has only been around for a few hundred years. Whilst your general practitioner, science and allopathic medicine have contributed greatly to our health and wellbeing, complementary medicines, such as Chinese acupuncture, therapeutic massage, physiotherapy also have much to offer the recipient.

Historically, modern medicine evolved out of an assumption that the mind and body are separate. Disease and illness were viewed as mechanical breakdowns and, generally, it was these breakdowns and the symptoms they caused that were treated.


Woman Eating Grapefruit
Woman Eating Grapefruit Fuse

Many complementary therapies are based on anatomy and physiology while modern medicine has widened its scope to include a more holistic approach to healthcare and has adopted therapies that originated in complementary medicine.

It is important to realise you don't always have to choose between conventional medicine and your preferred choice of complementary therapy. They often work well alongside each other, however, it is always important to inform your doctor and your complementary therapist of all drugs, treatments and remedies you take. Herbs, natural based remedies and even grapefruit can sometimes interact with prescription drugs and cause side effects.

Today, many private health insurance providers cover a range of extras, so it may be worth looking into which private health insurance providers offer the complementary services that best suit you and your family.

But again, it is very important that you never stop taking prescribed medications, or change the dose, without the knowledge and approval of your doctor. Open and clear communication with your doctor and all practitioners you are receiving treatments from is vital for your continued good health.