Alternative therapies are popular, in part, because they do not conform to established medical practices. In fact, many of them are not even touched on within mainstream medicine. This can be both a benefit and a disadvantage. There are many types of alternative therapies, so it’s good to understand how they work and what they can do for you.

What is alternative medicine? Alternative medical philosophy is any method of medical treatment that is not based on established scientific principles, or that has not been proven effective in clinical trials. Alternative medical practices vary widely from practitioner to practitioner, as does their treatment philosophy. Some methods are based entirely on intuition, while others are built on centuries of experience with human beings. When used in combination with traditional medical practice, alternative medical practices are often more effective.

There are many types of alternative therapies, and most of them fall under the larger umbrella of “holistic health”. These include such diverse practices as chiropractic care, acupuncture, acupressure, homeopathy, herbal medicine, Reiki, and yoga. Other alternative therapies include acupuncture, acupressure, herbal medicine, and psychotherapy. Holistic health treatments often involve a combination of various alternative therapies, as in the case of chiropractic care and acupuncture.

Why are alternative therapies considered to be outside of the realm of mainstream medicine? First, there is not one definitive scientific evidence that alternative therapies provide any medical benefit at all. Scientific research has not concluded either that chiropractic adjustments improve the health of people who have chiropractic treatments, nor that acupuncture affects the health of those who receive acupuncture treatments.

There are numerous reasons why some people believe that alternative therapies work. One is the placebo effect, the belief that a patient’s ailment can be cured by the mere thought of washing their hands or having a massage. For example, the placebo effect states that some patients believe that they are feeling better after taking an aspirin, when actually their headache has actually increased due to a slight increase in pressure in the brain. The effectiveness of alternative therapies, therefore, may be the result of a placebo effect, which means that it is not backed up by any firm medical evidence.

Not all alternative therapies are based on strong medical evidence, however. Many alternative therapies are based on intuition or faith and have not been proven scientifically. Some are simply common folk remedies that people have used for generations, and thus have had long enough experience to formulate a level of trust and comfort with them. Even when alternative therapies have been proven to be effective, the placebo effect still exists, making it difficult to determine how well they will actually treat a particular condition.

With more people turning towards alternative therapies to treat many common illnesses and diseases, alternative medicine is becoming an increasingly popular field. In the United States alone, there are an estimated five hundred alternative therapy programs in operation. Programs vary widely in scope, but there are many forms of alternative therapies that are widely accepted. Chiropractic medicine, for example, is often the chosen treatment of choice for people suffering from musculoskeletal issues.

With alternative therapies, there are no side effects, unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which carry various risks for the consumer. Many alternative therapies are covered by insurance and may be used alongside conventional treatment. However, be sure to do your research before entering into any type of alternative therapy. With so much controversy surrounding alternative therapies, it is best to err on the side of caution, so that you can get the most effective treatment possible for your condition.