Why use alternative therapies?

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People have many personal, spiritual, and physical reasons for using nontraditional therapies. These may include:

back massageBlending with conventional care
Some people may add complementary practices to help improve their symptoms when health problems don't respond to traditional treatments alone.

Personal and cultural beliefs
Some religious and cultural beliefs include alternative practices as part of their approach to health and healing, such as ayurveda or Chinese medicine.

Pain management
Chronic pain — such as arthritis, back pain, headaches, or fibromyalgia — is the most common reason to seek alternative care, especially when conventional care alone isn't working.*

Possibility of fewer side effects
Some alternative therapies (such as guided imagery, deep breathing, or yoga) may be used because they have fewer side effects than some conventional medical treatments. Of course, other alternative approaches may cause serious unwanted side effects.

Greater control
Some people feel more involved and in control of their health when using complementary or alternative care. This may be especially true for practices you can do yourself, such as meditation.

It just feels good
Therapeutic massage, aromatherapy, relaxation exercises, and other treatments can help you de-stress, find inner peace, and feel better all around.

Making a lifestyle change
From quitting smoking to losing weight, lowering blood pressure to increasing happiness, natural remedies may help you make important lifestyle changes.

Mind-body connection
Because nontraditional therapies often focus on the connection between mind and body, many people respond well to treatments that help their mental and physical health at the same time.

* Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative MedicineKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites. (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health StatisticsKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites. (NCHS)

Reviewed by: Paul Millea, MD, October, 2015

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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