Have you ever undergone or been tempted to try acupuncture? Hayley Enright is an American-licensed acupuncturist in Paris who practices the art of healing with needles. Ironically, this ancient practice is considered today as alternative medicine.
Many INSPIRELLE readers have sought out Hayley’s needles for everything from relief from severe back pain and menstrual pain to stopping colds and cigarette smoking. Having treated thousands of patients on two continents, she explains why alternative medicine can help when Western medicine does not.
What is Alternative Medicine?
Sometimes called complementary medicine, it’s basically anything that isn’t drugs or surgery. It includes acupuncture, herbs, massage, Ayurveda, naturopathy, osteopathy, reiki, homeopathy, craniosacral, chiropractic, and many more.
Western medicine has only been on the scene since the 19th century, so the name “traditional” medicine is actually a misnomer.
Everything people were using before is technically traditional, and some of it (like acupuncture, herbs and Ayurveda) go back thousands of years.
When Should You Use Alternative Medicine?
1. When you can’t get a clear diagnosis
The first step to fixing a problem is defining it. If you’ve seen multiple doctors but have only gotten vague or contradictory diagnoses, it probably means your issue is not well understood by the Western paradigm. Trying an alternative paradigm is a rational approach! You can see from the list above there are a lot of therapeutic options.
2. When you don’t respond well to Western treatment
Your body doesn’t do well with medication or surgery hasn’t helped? Join the club – millions of people each year experience problems. See #3!
3. When your doctor gives you medications to deal with the side effects of the ones you’re already on
Drugs are prescribed casually, but they shouldn’t be. In 2014, Harvard reported they are the 4th highest health risk in the US, leading to 1.9 million hospitalizations, 2.74 million serious adverse reactions and 128,000 deaths a year. Chances are you or someone you know has had some kind of problem with medication. Unfortunately, this is primarily what doctors are trained to do, even though in many cases lifestyle changes can produce better results. Please educate yourself about the risks before taking medications.
4. When there’s a musculoskeletal issue
Are you limping or limiting your range of motion because of a pinched nerve, tight muscles, sprains, or strains? I see these problems daily, usually after people have thrown drugs at them to no avail. But Western medicine is never my first choice for dealing with these problems.
Generally the tissue is bunched up and inflamed, which is what gives you pain and makes it hard to move. Drugs often only offer a temporary fix – they don’t do much for smoothing out tissue constrictions and knots. Alternative techniques coax tissue back into its proper shape, thereby soothing inflammation and working to fix, rather than mask, the issue.
5. When you have back pain
In an 800-page report on back pain, acupuncture beat out most drugs in two categories: reducing pain and improving function. Considering scientific studies do a famously poor job of measuring acupuncture’s effects, it’s interesting (although not surprising – do you know how many people I’ve treated with back pain?) to see alternative medicine take the medal in this science-based study.
6. When you have these common issues
Each alternative therapy will excel with certain issues. Do a little research about yours and see what is recommended. It’s well known the following health problems benefit from treatments such as acupuncture:
High blood pressure
Stress / Anxiety / Depression
Issues during pregnancy
Get to the Core of Health
If I could impress upon my patients one thing, it’s that the body-mind is a powerful, flexible construct that always responds to changing input. If something doesn’t feel right, do something different. Get curious about your options. It may be something simple like adding more vegetables to your diet or exercising a few times a week. Your body-mind is vastly intelligent and will always do its best to operate at full capacity. I get inspired every day seeing how it handles so many things without our conscious control.