What To Consider When Selecting A Complementary Health Practitioner

Complementary or alternative therapies are used by many individuals to support or enhance their standard diabetes treatment regimen.

Acupuncture, for instance, helps some individuals manage chronic neuropathy pain, or people may seek the wisdom of Ayurveda to support their blood sugar management.

Though many of our non-mainstream therapies are traditional treatment offerings from various cultures, we call them complementary or alternative because they are not part of conventional Western medicine. However, an increasing amount of research, and many medical professionals support the use of some complementary options.

Complementary vs Alternative

Though the terms “complementary” and “alternative” are frequently used interchangeably when discussing non-mainstream practices, they actually refer to different treatment concepts:

  • When non-mainstream modalities are used alongside a conventional treatment, they are considered complimentary.
  • Non-mainstream practices used in place of conventional medicine are considered alternative.

Most people today who use non-mainstream therapies do so in a complementary way, to support their doctor’s recommendations.

Choosing Complementary Practitioners

Whatever complementary modality is pursued, the important thing is to select a practitioner as carefully as you would a medical professional:

  • Credentials. It’s easy to locate complementary practitioners working in our vicinity by doing a computer search, but also consider asking your medical provider, nearby hospitals, professional organizations, medical schools, or licensing boards if they have any recommendations.
  • Since there is no national system for credentialing complementary providers, substantiate a practitioner’s education, and credentials according to your state’s standards for training, certification, and licensing in their discipline. To learn your state’s requirements, Google “state licensing, credentialing requirements for…(acupuncture, massage, etc.)”

  • Cooperation and Experience. To ensure a complementary therapy will support or enhance your prescribed treatments, make sure the practitioner is willing to coordinate with your medical providers.
  • Also, when possible, choose a practitioner who has training and (or) experience working with those who have diabetes. Not only will this person understand your specific needs and challenges, but their knowledge will facilitate good communication with your medical providers.
  • Transparency. Make sure all your health care providers (e.g., physician, diabetes educator, dietitian, eye specialist) know about the complementary therapy you are engaging in, and who the practitioner is. The more coordination between them, the better.
  • Insurance. Never assume your health insurance will cover complementary services. Even if you are fortunate enough to have complementary therapy coverage, there may be restrictions.

It always pays to be an informed consumer. Besides reading anecdotal evidence about a complementary treatment’s effectiveness, look at scientific studies that have been done, and get your doctor’s perspective before making a decision.

Also, when considering the use of dietary or herbal supplements, find out about possible side effects, and whether the supplement will interfere with any of your medications.

Source: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Photo credit: Lars Plougmann

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