Let's say you have intractable stubborn back pain. You look online for an answer, talk to your GP, but all you find out is that you have "_____ syndrome" or "_____ dysfunction" or "idiopathic _____." Your doctor tells you to take ibuprofen or writes you a prescription, but it doesn't work well enough or you have side effects. You go online again, search for that syndrome/dysfunction/condition, and what do you find? Not much…except advice to take ibuprofen, hope it gets better, or "try surgery as a last resort." When you look up the medication itself, you find scary stuff like this. It all leaves you with a sick (or sicker) feeling, wondering what other options are out there. Is this really the way it has to be?
No. In fact that doesn't even make sense anymore. As a society we're finally starting to get that the best health solutions are the ones that are tailored to you. Conventional medicine can fall short in this area, because most of its ideas and treatments come from a different mindset entirely - one of treating symptoms rather than people. This is why we are slowly but surely headed in the direction of more individualised and holistic health care. Taking this path yourself can be challenging and scary, but it is worth it. Most of us just need to know that there are solutions out there, and in most cases, finding them means looking into the field called "complementary medicine”, also known as “holistic health" or "alternative health." There are many modalities within this umbrella term, so it can be hard to find what's right for you, but it's worth the search.
First don’t be deterred by the many naysayers you will find and the relative lack of “gold standard" Western placebo-controlled double-blind studies. Don’t let that stop you from finding what works for you. Remember: that standard is really meant for pharmaceuticals like the ones you are trying to avoid! Drugs weren't made to work for you, they were made to work for the pharmaceutical industry. They have billions of dollars to research their drugs and fund these studies, and as we see time and time again, they need it! Complementary modalities without that kind of funding are safely working for millions of people every day, and the number of people taking advantage of them is growing fast.
Most of these therapies work on many different levels to provide you with a lasting, holistic (meaning: taking the WHOLE of you into account) solution - they don't just try to lessen a problem's symptoms! The best part is that complementary therapies can and should complement your regular health care rather than replace it. (This is why "'alternative' health/therapy" is an unfortunate and misleading term. The word "holistic" or "complementary" better suits its true purpose.) They optimise your care, so you can live your best possible life and lifestyle.
So how do you find what works? There is a whole different energy motivating these kinds of health solutions, so the key is to have patience and follow your intuition. They are not all the same, they don’t all work for everyone, but there are multiple ones that will really agree with you - but you have to try them first. If you feel more comfortable, you can find modalities that do have Western studies supporting their efficacy and then branch out from there.
When you find a therapy that sounds interesting, find customer reviews, seek out referrals, call the therapist and ask questions, and look into any supportive organisations or associations there may be. For instance one of my modalities, the Emmett Technique, has a worldwide organisation with a website you can use to learn more about the technique and find experienced practitioners in over a dozen countries. Another good resource to learn about the many different complementary medicine modalities out there is the website of the International Institute for Complementary Therapists. They have listings of complementary therapists all over the world. You can even go to your local health foods store and ask the attendants for information and advice.
Most importantly, just be open to trying things out for yourself, and be patient. Don't give up on all of holistic health if one session or one modality doesn't quite give you everything you hoped for. Remember, this is about finding that solution that works for YOU. Give the process - and yourself - the time and attention you need to find it.
James L Poole
I am a holistic health therapist: Emmett Technique practitioner, aromatherapist, nutritional therapist, and Reiki healer. This is my blog about natural healing.