Conventional medicine is not the only accepted health treatment anymore. Therapies such as herbal medication, acupuncture, Naturopathy and massage treatment have also become accepted in recent years. But are they a good idea for the elderly?
Pros of Alternative Medicine
Alternative medicine can complement a conventional course of treatment. Some conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, can be vastly improved through the use of herbs and dietary supplements. These are not substitutes for conventional treatments, but can be used in conjunction with them, as long as your physician approves their use.
Alternative medicine can replace surgery. Conditions like severe back pain, headaches and neck pain are often treated with surgery, but surgery isn’t always the best choice for elderly patients. The risks of anesthesia are greater and the body is not always healthy enough for invasive procedures. In these cases, chiropractic treatments can help relieve the pain without the need for surgery.
Alternative medicine can aid in recovery. Many stroke victims only recover partially after a stroke and are sometimes permanently disabled. Acupuncture has been shown to improve balance function, sensory stimulation and consolidation and coordination of motor function. Chinese herbal medicines can also aid in the recovery process.
Cons of Alternative Medicine
Herbal medicines are not FDA-approved. The FDA does require some manufacturing procedures for herbal medicines, but doesn’t guarantee that they are safe for everyone’s use. Before starting on any supplement, especially for the elderly, it’s important to check with your doctor that they are safe and don’t interact negatively with other medications.
Scientific research is still limited. Conventional medicine has been studied much more thoroughly than alternative medicine, so there’s much less research to lean on. Many questions are still unanswered, and it’s hard to know what really works. It’s best to a get a recommendation from a physician about which alternative treatments to try and to periodically check whether they are having a positive effect.
The market is confusing. It can be difficult to understand which supplements are really safe and which practitioners are properly certified and have sufficient expertise. Consider consulting with an MD who also treats patients with alternative therapies, to avoid falling into the trap of unregulated treatments and medications.