What is a complementary health approach?

Over the past half-century, traditional therapeutic and medical methods have made tremendous strides — but even so, they often fail to eliminate or lessen various symptoms and conditions. As a result, people turn to alternative and complementary health approaches to help their recovery. But what does a complementary health method actually entail? 

Loosely defined terms like “complementary,” “integrative,” or “alternative” can mean different things to different people. However, there’s one key difference between them that you should know before opting for either.

On the one hand, you have integrative and complementary health approaches — which is basically the same thing. And it means using non-mainstream methods together with conventional medical treatments. 

On the other hand, alternative medicine – which means the sole use of non-mainstream practices in products instead of conventional medicine. And if that sounds risky, it’s because there are various cases where abandoning traditional treatment altogether can mean serious consequences.

However, a complementary health approach can give you the best of both worlds — the main benefits of professional medical treatment, with added boons from non-mainstream products. 

The most common type of these products is “natural products,” which mostly means herbs, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals. These are widely marketed, readily available to consumers, and frequently found in dietary supplements. One of the most popular products in this category is fish oil. 

Apart from these supplements, behaviours – such as mind and body practices – bring various healing benefits. These are primarily techniques taught or administered by trained teachers and practitioners, such as a mindfulness coach. Massage therapy, meditation, osteopathic and chiropractic manipulation all fall into this category.

Obviously, you’ve heard of the most popular mind and body practice out there — yoga. Its popularity has grown massively in the past two decades, with millions of people practising it every single day. 

Other practices in this category include relaxation techniques — guided imagery, breathing exercises — as well as acupuncture, tai chi, hypnotherapy, and various types of movement therapies. 

Naturally, not every mind and body technique has the same level of effectiveness — and researchers to varying degrees have vetted them. It’s up to you to select which ones you believe will bring you the highest benefits. 

Though, before adopting any kind of complementary health approach, it’s essential to check whether it’s okay with your doctor. You’d be surprised how even simple over-the-counter vitamins can react with different medications. And the same goes for any new outdoor activity and exercise, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. 

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