Practicing something like acupuncture or chiropractic back in the 1970s and 80s was a risky business. Alternative medical practitioners were largely considered quacks, not worthy of any recognition among the mainstream medical community. Thankfully, a lot has changed over the last 50 years. Yet one thing remains: skepticism about alternative medicine as a whole.
The primary motivation behind much of that skepticism is the belief among some observers that alternative medicine is a free-for-all. It is not, nor has it ever been. Those who practice with all the seriousness alternative medicine demands know full well that not everything passed off as alternative, holistic, or homeopathic is necessarily safe or efficacious.
Legitimate Shouldn’t Be Easy
Though there are exceptions to the rule, one of the markers of legitimate alternative medicine is that it is not easy to practice. Remember that we are talking about healthcare here. Nothing involving human health is as easy as reading a book or watching a video. It takes real-time and effort to truly understand the human body and what it needs to be healthy.
Becoming a chiropractor isn’t easy. Future chiropractors start with a three-year bachelor’s degree program. From there they go on to earn a master’s degree in chiropractic medicine. Then they have to take and pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exams. Finally, most jurisdictions require chiropractors to take and pass an additional exam in order to be licensed.
Acupuncturists, homeopathic physicians, and other alternative medicine practitioners go through equally rigorous training programs before they are ready to practice. And they should. Practicing alternative medicine is not a license to hang a placard and open an office with absolutely no training.
Selling Alternative Medicine Products
Fortunately, most practitioners do things by the book. They receive the necessary training and obtain proper licensing. Even if a person doesn’t believe in the value of alternative medicine, it is hard to question those who practice it legally and to the highest professional standards.
On the other hand, there is another aspect to alternative medicine that raises plenty of concern: selling alternative medicine products. Thanks to the way regulatory regimes are written, there is plenty of wiggle room for unscrupulous companies willing to sell products that either do not work or could potentially harm consumers.
First-aid kits and bags offer a perfect example. Standard first aid bags for sports teams, outdoor enthusiasts, etc. come with all of the supplies you would expect. You get bandages, burn cream, splints, eyewash, and so forth. Each item in the kit is included for a reason. It is intended to treat a specific and known injury.
On the other hand, you can also buy homeopathic first aid kits that do not contain any of the traditional supplies. Instead, they offer a selection of herbs, oils, and tinctures intended to treat everything from sunburn to insect bites. The challenge is knowing what you are actually paying for. Whether or not any of the treatments actually work is debatable.
Vitamins and Supplements
Another thing to be careful with is buying vitamins and supplements. Now, as any alternative medicine practitioner will tell you, vitamins and supplements play an important role in good health. But that does not mean that everything manufacturers claim about their products is true. Not every supplement on the market does what it is purported to do.
In most countries, vitamins and supplements are very loosely regulated. As long as they do not cause any harm and manufacturers are careful about the claims they make, the products can be freely sold with very little interference. We all know how that works out much of the time.
A company might produce a diet supplement marketed as an option for losing weight and keeping it off. Through creative marketing, the manufacturer could imply that they are selling a miracle product without ever coming out and saying so. They can lead consumers to believe something that isn’t true without any penalty to worry about.
The Regenerative Medicine Question
The idea of misleading advertising leads to one final issue: the issue of regenerative medicine. Considered alternative medicine by the mainstream medical community, regenerative medicine utilizes procedures like stem cell and PRP injections to treat musculoskeletal injuries and disease.
As you know, there has been a wave of clinics in recent years taking musculoskeletal applications to the next level without any scientific basis for doing so. You have heard the stories of macular degeneration patients going blind after receiving stem cell injections.
Thankfully, examples of this sort of thing are few and far between. The point is that something as safe as a stem cell injection for osteoarthritis can become dangerous if applied in a way that was never intended.
There is no arguing that legitimate forms of alternative medicine have their place in the larger medical community. Chiropractic, acupuncture, and so many others have proved themselves invaluable over the years. Furthermore, millions are helped by them. Still, alternative medicine is not a free-for-all. Promoting something as an alternative to Western medicine does not guarantee either efficacy or safety.