What is complementary medicine?
Complementary medicine is a group of diagnostic and therapeutic disciplines that are used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery.
Complementary medicine is usually not taught or used in Western medical schools or hospitals. Complementary medicine includes a large number of practices and systems of health care that, for a variety of cultural, social, economic, or scientific reasons, have not been adopted by mainstream Western medicine.
Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine. Whereas complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example of an alternative therapy is using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy that has been recommended by a physician.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can include the following:
Ayurveda (Ayurvedic medicine),
osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT),
Qi gong (internal and external Qiging),
traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and
Complementary Alternative Medicine is used in cooperation with Western Medicine and is not in opposition to Western Medicine, although many of the approaches focus on reducing the need for pain medications through alternative approaches such as stretching, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, massage, and other therapies our treatments are intended to work with not against Western Medicine.
A good therapist will always tell a client to speak with their existing doctor if they have any medical concerns. I personally have referred some of my clients back to their doctors and encouraged many to see a doctor about their conditions. It is always best for both the client and the massage therapist to have a good understanding of the condition the client has and any contraindications that may alter the course of treatment for the client.
A massage therapist is not allowed to “diagnose” a client, so if we do see something of concern we may suggest that the client should talk to their doctor about it, we can tell them that many conditions present with similar symptoms and that it is always best to ask the doctor to be sure.
I always make sure to note if I recommended the client see a doctor in my client notes along with a description of what I observed. We should always make careful notes when we observe anything that seems unusual, such as excessive bruising, and make note of our approach such as “I avoided contact with the area in question.”
If we see something that we feel needs to be addressed by a physician it is our responsibility to say something to the client. There have been cases of melanoma that would have gone unnoticed by the client if their massage therapist had not noticed it and voiced concern that the area should be looked at by a professional. We are in a unique position to see areas of the body that even the client cannot adequately see and are often covered by clothing and could go unnoticed.
What we do is often times more than simply massaging and stretching a body, our focus is on the clients overall health and wellness, they trust in us, and we owe it to them to be honest with them if we believe they should see a doctor. The doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, and osteopaths are not our competition, they are our allies in health and wellness.
If a client has or has had cancer it is always best to get a release from that doctor that states the client is able to receive massage therapy.