COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE


Working alongside conventional medicine

Complementary medicine is a wide range of treatments that generally aren’t considered to be mainstream or conventional medical treatments. Complementary medicine includes acupuncture, vitamins and minerals, herbal treatments and naturopathy.

People are often drawn to complementary medicine because the treatments appear natural and safer than conventional medicine. This isn’t necessarily true. As with any treatment, they may cause harm and may 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.

It’s important that you’re aware and cautious when you use complementary medicine. Just like conventional medical treatments, they have the potential for harm.

While many people use and get benefit from complementary medicine, there isn’t as much evidence to support its use for persistent pain. More and more research is now focusing on these treatments. But at the moment the evidence is still lacking for many complementary medicines. So it’s wise to proceed carefully and with caution.

Tips about using complementary medicine

  • Be open and honest with your doctor about complementary medicine. 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 (e.g. acupuncture, yoga).
  • Before stopping a conventional medicine in favour of a complementary medicine or treatment, talk with your doctor and let them know what you’re planning to do and why.
  • Talk with your pharmacist and/or complementary therapist (e.g. naturopath) about your other treatments and medications. 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 persistent pain? 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. Look for Australian-made products that are marked:
    • Aust L – these are considered low risk products and are reviewed for safety and quality.
    • Aust R – these are considered higher risk products and are assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness.
  • Contact our MSK Help Line on 1800 263 265 or helpline@msk.org.au to find out more about complementary medicine.

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