One of every five people is living with a chronic disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the total number to be approximately 90 million Americans. A person’s chance of chronic disease elevates with age or disability, but it affects all ages.
A chronic disease is classified as a nonreversible, ongoing illness that often cannot be prevented or cured by medication. Examples include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.
Increasingly more medications are available, but some traditional medications may cause unwanted side effects, limiting the medication’s ultimate usefulness. While conventional medicine is hugely successful in the treatment of emergency and acute conditions, it is much less impressive when it comes to chronic disease treatment. For those who suffer from chronic diseases, it may be a relief to learn that a variety of treatments and coping options exist. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be extremely helpful for pain relief and maintaining a healthy body, greatly improving quality of life.
CAM addresses the “whole” person—including mind, body, and spirit. Less invasive alternative treatments encourage the patient to heal faster and fight infection and disease. Alternative practices can help traditional medicine work more effectively. More than one-third of Americans use CAM, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Generally alternative therapies are closer to nature, cheaper and less invasive than conventional therapies.
Integrative medicine is the merging of traditional medicine and complementary forms of health care such as acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathy. The integrative approach focuses more on the whole person than a specific disease that person may have. Many traditional treatments for chronic diseases can be augmented by CAM. Acupuncture has been the standard for medical care in China for more than 3,000 years. Acupuncturists treat the body as a system of organs interconnected by meridians and channels through which energy (chi) flows. According to that approach, disease develops when the energy is blocked and the balance is disturbed.
Health is maintained and disease or pain is prevented by restoring the flow of energy in the affected areas. Acupuncture can treat symptoms caused by chronic diseases such as pain and nausea. It also can help treat diseases such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and complications associated with stroke.
Naturopathy treats and prevents diseases, using natural methods including herbal medicines, nutrition therapy, and bodywork. It can help treat pain and injury, chronic headaches, asthma, digestive disorders, and other conditions.
Chiropractic care is based on the theory that good health is a result of an undisrupted flow of nerve impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. A chiropractor makes adjustments to the spine to maintain the flow of nerve impulses and keep the body healthy.
CAM is a cost effective and safe choice for the management of chronic disease. Many health plans cover CAM. Look for specialists who are trained, licensed and certified in their field.
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Dr. Wendy Cunningham is a Doctor of Chiropractic, Certified Acupuncturist, and has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. For more information, contact Dr. Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org.