Are complimentary therapies widely used by patients receiving conventional treatments?

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Literature Review:

Are complimentary therapies widely used by patients receiving conventional treatments?

Zollman et al (1999 p 693) defines complimentary therapies as:

“therapeutic and diagnostic disciplines that exist largely outside the institutions where conventional health care is taught and provided, complimentary medicine is an increasing feature of healthcare practice, but considerable confusion remains about what exactly it is”.  

Moule (2000 p75) explains that there is a wide range of therapies that are used instead of conventional treatment, which can be used very effectively; these are known as alternative therapies.

Some definitions seek to distinguish between ‘alternative’ and ‘complimentary’, and suggest that ‘alternative’ treatments are exclusive and a substitute for conventional medicine, (conventional treatments are those that are widely accepted and practiced by the main stream medical community). However, the terms ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ are conceptually distinctive and should not be used interchangeably. Lamont (1993 p6) argues that ‘complimentary’ therapies are used in conjunction with, and not in replacement of traditional medical care. Endacott, (1999 p115) suggests that practitioners of complimentary medicine see the symptoms as the body’s response to illness rather than the disease itself. The fundamental philosophy of complimentary therapy is to use the gentlest approach, to avoid dangerous and traumatic procedures, and to treat the patient ‘holistically’. Jones, (1998 p63) views the patient as a ‘whole’ individual, composed of body, mind, and emotions, and sees complimentary therapies as promoting healing focusing on the strength of the health of an individual, rather than destroying the cause of the disease.

In his book Holistic Living, Patric Pietroni describes the concept of holism as

“essentially about an approach each one of us can use to help us understand ourselves and our place in the world in which we live. From this deeper understanding, we can begin to make informal choices about our health and the way we conduct our lives”.

Holistic health, then, represents an approach to all aspects of life and has implications for each one of us. It directs individuals towards a greater understanding of the way in which social, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of our lives interrelate to influence personal well being.

According to Barber, (1996 p55) holism promotes an image of naturalness, which will not assault the body as biomedicine has. This is a direct contrast to biomedicine, which has been dominated by the chemical and physical manipulation of the body. Barber argues that under these conditions we are separated from our own potential for self-healing.

“Biomedicine blinds us to our intrinsic potential for growth; leaving us akin to ghosts trapped in a machine”.

Orthodox medicine can dehumanize people, the doctor has the authority to make decisions for us and use technical knowledge to alienate us from what is happening to our bodies. We become forced to be dependant on the doctor and thus we loose our sense of autonomy. The doctor reduces the patient to just an object. Biomedicine has ignored the close connection between the body and the identity of the individual. Barber (1996 p79) argues that the ‘soul’ or the ‘self’ has become lost in biomedicine. Jones (1988 P 55) has a similar opinion and suggests:                                                                                                “Alternative and Complementary medicine has brought the self or the soul back into medicine”.

 The biomedical model’s definition of the body is illustrated as a machine. In 1992, the government launched a series of national media advertisements in conjunction with the release of the White Paper ‘The Health of the Nation’. The adverts featured men and women’s bodies with machinery underneath the flesh. Shillings (1994 p79). This metaphor suggests that the body is radically different and other to the self. Although this reductionist approach has had considerable success, it obviously neglects major aspects of human behavior that influence our state of health.

We have been conditioned to believe that sickness and health are too complicated for us to comprehend. Only the doctor, with a seemingly infinite knowledge, can cure us. Any imbalance in our health is seen as sufficient cause to see the doctor. We usually follow our doctor’s orders without questions, taking our pills as prescribed. This form of medicine effectively strips individuals of any responsibility for their own sickness or health.

According to Jones, (1998 p24) the British National Health Service is still regarded in some respects as the envy of the word, but there is much about the NHS that severely limits the ability of the doctors to satisfy all the needs of their patients. An average consultation with a doctor is five minutes. Within this consultation framework, most patients find it impossible to put across the exact nature of their problems or symptoms in their time available.

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The alternative practitioner does not treat the patient like another NHS number, on average they spend between one to two hours with the patient instead of the usual five minutes. Complimentary and alternative medicine treats ill health not as a mechanical fault but a lack of harmony between the body, mind, and self. It seeks to use the bodies own healing mechanisms and not high-powered drugs to restore the lost balance.

Complimentary and alternative medicine is known by the acronym, CAM, Zollman et al (1999 p694) state that

“Complimentary and Alternative medicine (CAM) is a broad ...

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