As a practitioner of Chinese medicine I would imagine that I would be considered to be in the category of alternative healing. Complementary healing incorporates both allopathic medicine and alternative healing. To me that is using the best of both worlds, and that is actually how I see my practice. I work in a chiropractic office with two chiropractors and three massage therapists. We work as a team. We refer patients to one another and we work together with a patient who would benefit from a team approach. We also exchange referrals of patients with other practitioners in the community, such as MDs, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, functional medicine practitioners, and health coaches, and suggest drug rehabilitation programs, weight loss programs, etc. Therefore, even though we don’t provide all services under our roof, I think that that our practice is offering integrative medicine.
We live in a culture of quick fixes. Unfortunately this also often includes health. Many people tend to wait until they have a health issue, such as pain or illness, before they seek help. They also tend to get the more aggressive kinds of treatment, such as medications, procedures, and surgery first. Treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage are often secondary. This is backwards from how I think it should be.
Living a healthy lifestyle should be the first focus. A healthy diet and regular exercise program will go a long way to prevent pain and illness. Unless a health challenge is potentially life threatening, natural health approaches should be tried first. Yes, they may take longer to work. They stimulate the body to heal itself which does often take time. But in the long run we know that simply treating symptoms is a temporary solution to a health problem. If the natural approach isn’t working then, yes, I am an advocate of the approaches provided through Western medicine.
There are many kinds of natural medicine approaches. I see them as being on a continuum with the subtle modalities of energy healing at one end and the physical healing modalities at the other. At the energy-medicine end we find methods that use healing hands, such as Reiki. We would also find energy medicine, such as homeopathy, essential oils, flower essences, color therapy, vibration healing, infrared therapy, electrostimulation, acupuncture, etc. at this end. Then I would place mind and brain therapies, such as hypnosis, imagery, and EFT. Because they work both on the physical as well as the energy body, I would place yoga, tai chi, and qi gong in the middle. Toward the physical end of the continuum, I would place biological medicine, such as nutrition, supplements, and herbs. At the physical end I would place hands-on disciplines, such as chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, physical therapy, massage and body work, and the Chinese medicine modalities of acupuncture, cupping and gua sha. Each person may choose what approaches they want according to their particular problem. A number of practitioners, including myself, incorporate more than one modality in their practice.
I also incorporate the principles of complementary medicine in my own personal health challenges. For example, About two months ago I began to wake up with discomfort in the soles of my feet, especially the left. It would get better as the day progressed. I have to admit that I basically ignored it, hoping it would go away. I did take Epsom salt baths and became more careful about the shoes I wore. I have heard for years that we ought to pay attention to the quality of the shoes we wear but have to admit that I never paid attention.
My right foot got better but my left foot continued to be uncomfortable and became progressively worse. My heel became swollen. I was taking a course on acupuncture injection therapy and asked to be a demonstration model. The instructor observed that my right leg looked shorter than my left, which probably would have made me put most of my weight on my left foot. She made some superficial injections around my heel which took down the swelling. When I got home I went to my nurse practitioner who ordered an X-ray. Inflammation and a small heel spur showed up on the X-ray. I started using the deep tissue laser that we have in the office and using a poultice of some essential oils and a liquid form of a Chinese herb called moxa. I rolled my foot on a frozen ice bottle and slept with ice. One of my massage therapy colleagues did a technique on my foot and leg called lymphatic drainage. He also showed me the proper way to tape my foot for plantar fasciitis.
I made an appointment with the podiatrist my nurse practitioner recommended; however, my appointment was rescheduled twice. I returned to my third acupuncture injection class. This time I was a demonstration model for a homeopathic treatment for a heel spur.
The long hours of travel in the car and being on my feet all day wasn’t helping to keep the swelling of my foot and ankle down. I reached out to another massage therapist colleague who does structural integration and also works with plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. His work helped take the swelling out of my foot and ankle.
I went to a running store to get some supportive shoes and let go of my vanity around wearing clothes and shoes that were ideal for work. I am taking anti-inflammatories, mostly herbal, using an alkaline diet, and awaiting my appointment with the podiatrist. I know the common approach to the problem I have is steroid injections and possibly surgery, which I would only consider as a last resort. I am mostly interested in getting a specific diagnosis and advice about footwear.
In my situation, having practiced preventive care with really good shoes and addressing my leg lengths would have been the ideal approach. I have followed an exercise program but would have been more diligent and regular, especially with stretching exercises. Using natural approaches has been my approach. I will see what the podiatrist advises and will consider whatever advice he offers. If it sounds drastic, I will get a second opinion. I am optimistic that I can heal my foot but will resort to allopathic medicine if necessary.