I AM: Alternative

i-am-alternativeLife begins at the end of your comfort zone and, maybe, so does good health. Medical devices and pharmaceuticals have come a long way in restoring people to health or at the very least extending their lives. For this, we are thankful. Question – are we over medicated and under educated when it comes to our health options?

I decided that 2015 will be my year of exploring alternative medicine options. Alternative medicine is a term that is broadly applied to therapies that are basically not considered to be part of “standard care” as defined by Western medical standards. The term “Western” comes from the fact that modern medicine was “developed” in the western hemisphere of the world. Eastern medicine or traditional Chinese medicine, for example, is considered to be alternative medicine. Alternative medicine can be complementary to or used instead of the standard of care.

I don’t really care for taking medication. The body is designed to heal itself if given the chance. Don’t misunderstand, pharmaceuticals has a place in health care but we’ve reached a point in this country where we are the most medicated population on the face of the planet. According to an IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics study Americans spent $326 billion on prescription drugs in 2012. It’s no wonder with the pharmaceutical companies advertising prescription drugs directly to the public despite being fined for some of their aggressive practices. It doesn’t matter what you go in for you come out with a prescription.

A couple of years ago I re-injured my lower back playing soccer. It was incredibly painful, this literally seemed like the straw that broke the camel’s back. During this time I also had extreme shoulder pain unrelated to the soccer injury. I went to the sports medicine clinic where I was seen by two different physicians on the same day. One for the back and one for the shoulder. The one for the back took an x-ray and upon seeing no signs of physical damage whipped out the prescription pad. He didn’t even tell me what it was for. I seemed to be an inconvenience for him really. The second physician did x-rays of my shoulder and discovered I had a separated shoulder. He told me to take over the counter anti-inflammatory for the pain and prescribed physical therapy. I asked if I could do it for my back as well.

I didn’t fill the prescription from the first doctor and instead did eight weeks of physical therapy. I felt so much better, no drugs involved. Fast forward to present day I still had some tenderness in my lower back and had developed some bad knee pain so I decided to see a chiropractic. After the first visit the knee pain was gone. My patella was just out of place, the original injury occurred in high school. The back and neck started to improve immediately, but still some tenderness in the lower back. I then discovered floating in a sensory deprivation tank. The tank is filled with water and enough Epsom salt so you literally float along the top of the water. It temporarily relieves the stress of gravity on the body and allows some magic to happen in your joints. After two floats, the tenderness in my back was greatly reduced. The mixture is also rich in magnesium which has been called a wonder mineral. It’s thought to reduce stress and help regulate bodily functions. I can attest I felt remarkably relaxed after floating.

I followed up floating with an infrared heating pad for one hour twice a day along with some core-strengthening exercises and stretches. Within two months the discomfort was almost completely eliminated. I kicked up the infrared heating pad to sweating it out in an infrared sauna. Infrared heat is different from the heat generated by heating pads you buy at the drug store. It’s believed that the heat penetrates much deeper into the tissue and oxygenates the area which promotes healing. Sweating is the body’s natural way of detoxifying. The theory behind the traditional sauna is the same as infrared except that the benefits are amplified and occur in half the time. The infrared heating pads are a bit pricier but I definitely notice the difference. I felt temporary relief from a traditional heating pad but I feel the effects are longer lasting with the infrared.

Another thing I’ve added is massage therapy. Instead of heading to a fancy spa I opt for a small business that offers massages for less because they don’t have the overhead of a spa. I started getting regular deep tissue massages that have helped with relieving stress and the lower back pain.

Lastly, I used food as the natural healer it is. I juice fruits and vegetables to help get my daily servings of vitamins and minerals. I also have a special recipe that use at the first signs of a cold and it works every time! I use a neti pot to help with allergies as well as at the first sign of an infection or cold with positive results.

I still have a problem with my neck and shoulders being super stiff. Chiropractic and deep tissue massage have helped but I still have some more things to try:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese herbal medicine
  • Rossiter massage
  • Reflexology

All of this is in addition to standards of care when necessary. Alternative medicine has a place alongside or in place of Western medicine. Always consult a physician first. My journey into alternative medicine was done in conjunction with visits to a physician and a proper diagnosis. I haven’t taken a single prescription to help heal my lower back injuries, flu or cold. And I use over the counter medications carefully, they can be just as dangerous as prescription drugs. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how my journey progresses.

I Am.


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