Millions of Americans are now using some type of alternative practice as part of their self-care. There are many different alternative health modalities, from acupuncture to nutrition, massage to reiki, and dozens of others. As you choose a complementary health practitioner to help treat a medical condition, exercise the same care you would take in selecting a conventional care provider.
Here are some guidelines to follow, courtesy of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH):
1. Ask for referrals from your doctor, chiropractor, or other health care provider. Many states have regulatory agencies and licensing boards that cover alternative health practitioners; you can often access information about professional standing on their Internet sites. Hospitals, medical schools, professional organizations, or even your health insurance company may have lists of respected providers.
2. Gather as much information as possible about any practitioner you may be considering. Research that person’s education, training, licensing and certifications. Credentialing of practitioners varies from state to state and discipline to discipline.
3. When you interview a potential practitioner, ask whether that person is willing to work cooperatively with your conventional health care team. Also be sure your medical team is open to cooperation. To ensure safe, coordinated care, you want to have both your traditional and alternative providers communicating and cooperating.
4. Discuss your health status with any practitioner you consult, and ask about that person’s training and experience with people who have your condition. Select someone who understands how to work with your specific needs, even if you are simply pursuing a higher level of general health. Be aware some health conditions are incompatible with certain complementary approaches. One example: patients with glaucoma should avoid certain yoga poses.
5. Health insurance companies may cover some complementary health practices, but companies differ greatly in which approaches they cover. They may also impose severe restrictions.
6. Think of yourself as the hub of a wheel, with each of your practitioners and providers a spoke. You are the one person uniquely positioned to coordinate your own care, keep all of your providers fully informed, and effectively manage your health.