What Are Alternative Medicine Doctors?

Nicole Etolen

Alternative medicine doctors are those who use methods other than traditional modern medicine in their practices. While modern medicine typically focuses on treating each disease and symptom separately, those who practice alternative methods of healing focus on patients as whole people, which is why they are often called holistic practitioners. While there are many different types of alternative medicine doctors, the most common are naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, and herbal medicine practitioners. Other types of alternative health doctors include massage therapists, foot and hand reflexologists, and practitioners that specialize in teaching meditation.

Chiropractors are quite mainstream, but are still considered to practice alternative medicine.
Chiropractors are quite mainstream, but are still considered to practice alternative medicine.

Naturopathic doctors are alternative medicine doctors who use various methods of treatment aimed at changing patients' overall lifestyles to promote healing. This may include establishing a more nutritious eating regimen, teaching patients to prevent illness, and using dietary supplements or herbal medicine to treat symptoms that aren’t life-threatening. Naturopathic doctors can diagnose and treat many different types of illnesses and can prescribe medications when necessary. They work closely with traditional modern medicine in hospitals, clinics, and other facilities.

Although chiropractors are seen as a bit more mainstream than other types of alternative medicine doctors are, their style of medicine fits the overall definition of alternative medicine. Chiropractors treat conditions related to the muscular and skeletal systems and their effects on the body as a whole. Some choose to specialize in a particular area, such as sports medicine or pediatrics. In the United States, all practicing chiropractors are required to obtain and maintain a license granted by their individual state.

The term "herbal medicine practitioner" is a generic name that encompasses a wide variety of alternative medicine doctors who focus on the benefits of herbal remedies. Two of the most popular types are ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners. Although they may prescribe many different types of herbs to help alleviate symptoms in their clients, like other alternative medicine doctors, they focus more on the body as a whole than on a single ailment. While their belief systems vary slightly, maintaining the balance of the body’s energy is at the core of their practice.

Those considering using alternative medicine doctors should speak to their primary care physician first, especially if they are suffering from certain diseases that require careful monitoring. Patients should also keep in mind that some herbal treatments can interact with medications or cause serious side effects. There are benefits to using alternative medicine to treat many symptoms and illnesses, but it is very important that all those involved in a patient’s care are aware of what herbs, medications, and treatments are being used.

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