Many of us are using complementary medicine. It may be to help with a specific health condition or to improve our overall health. But what is complementary medicine and what do you need to think about before trying it?
Complementary medicine is a wide range of treatments that generally aren’t considered to be mainstream or conventional medical treatments. It includes acupuncture, vitamins and minerals, aromatherapy, herbal treatments, yoga and naturopathy.
We’re often drawn to these treatments because they appear to be more natural and safer than conventional medicine. But that’s not necessarily true. As with any treatment, they may cause harm and make you unwell if they’re not taken correctly, if they interact with one of your other medications, or if the practitioner you see isn’t properly trained or qualified.
Our top tips
Let your doctor know what you’re doing. Keep them informed about any things you’re taking or considering taking (e.g. supplements, homeopathic treatments, herbal medicines) as well as any other therapies you’re trying or considering trying (e.g. acupuncture, yoga).
Do your research and ask lots of questions. Some treatments may help you manage your pain, while others will have no effect. Is there any current evidence that says the treatment is effective and safe for people with your condition? Is the treatment affordable? What are the possible side effects? Will the treatment interact with your other treatments or medications?
Check the qualifications of the person providing the treatment. Do they receive regular training and updates? Have they treated other people with your condition or health issues? Are they a member of their peak body? Are they accredited?
Buy Australian. Australian complementary medicines are subject to strict safety and quality regulations. This may not be the case in other countries. In Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ensures the safety of medicines and other therapeutic treatments.
If in doubt, don’t take it. Talk with your doctor or contact our MSK Help Line weekdays on 1800 263 265, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More to explore
- Complementary therapies – Better Health Channel
- Complementary and alternative medicines – Arthritis Research UK
- National Prescribing Service
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (USA)