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Alternative Medicine: What Seniors Should Know

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Alternative Medicine: What Seniors Should Know

When you hear the term "alternative medicine" you might think of old wives tells, but alternatives to traditional western medicine are actually recognized by the medical community. Johns Hopkins notes that complementary and alternative medicines are used by around 38% of adults in the United States to help treat a wide array of conditions and problems.

Residents at Autumn View Gardens assisted living community in Creve Coeur have access to on-site staff that can help promote wellness via exercise and nutrition programs, education on and management of chronic conditions and medication management, among other services. But understanding all your options is always a good idea.

What Is Alternative Medicine?

The National Cancer Institute defines alternative medicine as treatments that are backed by less research than standard treatments. It says, "Alternative medicine may include special diets, megadose vitamins, herbal preparations, special teas and magnet therapy. For example, a special diet may be used instead of anticancer drugs as a treatment for cancer."

Alternative medicine is also called complementary medicine because many people choose to combine some of these elements with mainstream options, such as medicine, therapies and surgery.

What Are Some Examples of Alternative Medicine?

The exact classification of different types of activities changes over time as research is conducted on certain treatments. Treatments that were once considered alternatives may become part of the mainstream body of options used by healthcare professionals if science continues to show their efficacy.

Some common forms of alternative medicine include:

Acupuncture, which uses needles to stimulate nerves in the body to help reduce certain symptoms

Magnetic field therapy, which uses magnets to alter electrical fields to treat certain conditions, such as osteoarthritis

Touch and body movement therapies to address specific symptoms or range of motion issues; some common options include massage, tai chi and yoga

Herbal treatments, which use herbs to treat symptoms

Reiki, which involves a practitioner moving his or her hands above your body to channel energies

Using Alternative Medicine

Some complementary medicine practices aren't dangerous and may actually offer some benefits, even if it's simply that you feel better having done something else to solve your issue. However, other practices can be dangerous. Ayurveda, for example, is an ancient medicine practice that originated in India and involves the use of special diets and activities as well as herbs. But researchers have found dangerous components in some products sold as Ayurvedic medicine, including lead.

Seniors who want to engage in alternative medicine should broach the subject with their doctor. Make sure that any herbs or activities you want to use won't have negative consequences or stand in the way of any treatments you're currently engaging in.

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