Thinking outside the medicine chest
July 19, 2006
So you have a crick in your neck or a case of the sniffles that just won’t go away. You’ve been to the doctor, popped a few pills and … nada. Perhaps it’s time to think outside the box – get a massage, see a chiropractor, take herbal supplements. At least that’s what an increasing number of Americans are doing.According to a 2002 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 36 percent of American adults have turned to complementary (meaning a complement to traditional Western medicine) or alternative medicine to treat an ailment. If you factor in those who use prayer for healing, the percentage rises to 62.In the Roaring Fork Valley, that percentage is quite likely higher.”There’s certainly a growing community of complementary providers in this valley,” says Rita Marsh, chairwoman of Davi Nikent, a Carbondale-based nonprofit that is creating an innovative health center focused on integral health and healing. In fact, Marsh estimates that the number of complementary care providers in the valley is “neck and neck” with traditional doctors. “I think there are definitely more solo practitioners here than there would be in another place this size,” agrees Glenda Greenwald, founder of the Aspen Center for Integral Health (ACIH), which holds its annual Summer Health Symposium and Healthy Gourmet Fest this week. “Certain places are a little more spiritual, more open to alternative and complementary therapies.”Such alternative and complementary therapies run the gamut, from massage and acupuncture to herbs and aromatherapy; they can be used in conjunction with traditional medicine or on their own.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine; alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. For example, using aromatherapy to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery is a complementary therapy; using a special diet to treat cancer instead of undergoing surgery, radiation or chemotherapy would be an alternative therapy.This new way of thinking is taking hold far and wide. Most major medical centers now have an integrative arm and more insurance providers are covering alternative therapies like chiropractic.
“We believe in a very broad definition of health,” says Jennifer Young, executive director of ACIH. “We want to raise awareness that there is more to health than the traditional model of medicine.”To accomplish this, ACIH advocates the “four integral dimensions of health”: pyschospiritual, physical, interpersonal and societal. In other words, the blending of many types of therapies for optimal health. “Integral takes into consideration all the aspects of human life, because if one aspect is broken down, it affects our overall health.”It is also the approach many local alternative and complementary care providers take with their patients. On the following pages, we meet a few of them and learn how – through chiropractic, colon hydro therapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture and Leela therapy – they are making a difference in the lives of those who choose to think outside the box when it comes to their health.Jeanne McGovern’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org