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Complimentary and alternative therapies, do they work for you and if so which therapy is it? I don’t know about you but you read so much about complementary therapies and alternative therapies but I’m not quite sure which category they go into.

The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The mission of NCCAM is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and alternative medicine interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.’

Experts put CAM into four major categories. Biologically based practices ie homeopathy and herbalism, energy medicine ie chi, reiki and healing touch and manipulative and body-based pratices ie acupuncture, and massage therapy and yoga and finally mind-body medicine ie cognitive behavioral therapy.

Patient info explains that an ‘Analyses of studies into the prevalence of use of CAM in the UK report poor methodological quality. A 2013 systematic review found that across surveys on CAM in general, the average one-year prevalence of use of CAM by people in the UK was 41.1% and the average lifetime prevalence was 51.8%

Basically Complementary medicine is used together with standard medical care and alternative medicine is used in place of standard medical care for example in treating heart disease with chelation (pronounced “kee-lay-shen”) therapy (which seeks to remove excess metals for the blood) instead of using a standard approach (nihseniorhealth.gov)

The term alternative medicine, as used in the modern Western World, ecompasses any healing practice “that does not fall within the realm of convential medicine” or the practice of medicines without the use of drugs, may involve herbal medicines or self awareness or biofeedback or acupuncture. Complementary meaning the practice of medicine that combines traditional medicine (drugs) with alternative medicine.

Which treatments are available on the NHS ? The NHS say that the availability of CAMs on the NHS is limited, and in most cases the NHS will not offer such treatments.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides guidance to the NHS on effective treatments that are value for money. NICE has recommended the use of CAMs in a limited number of circumstances.

For example:

  • the Alexander technique for Parkinson’s disease
  • ginger and acupressure for reducing morning sickness
  • manual therapy for lower back pain

They also explain how you should go about getting a complimentary or alternative therapy treatment, ‘If you think you may have a health condition, first see your GP. Do not visit a CAM practitioner instead of seeing your GP. It’s particularly important to talk to your GP if you have a pre-existing health condition or are pregnant. Also, some CAMs may interact with medicines that you’re taking or should not be taken if you’re pregnant.’

You can go onto the NHS website and find complementary therapies in your area by tapping in your postcode to see if there is a practitioner near you. But Networks NHS UK point out that ‘More people would enjoy the benefits of complementary therapies if they were available free on the NHS. One of the big advantages of our health service is that you can go to the doctor and receive treatment free of charge, but while you may be given a prescription for drugs or referred to a specialist, what are the chances of being sent for a massage or a session of reflexology to ease your stress?

The answer is that the chances are quite slim and again it is a bit of a geographical lottery. If you live in areas where the GP practice (or Primary Care Trust) is in favour of such therapies you may find it much easier, than one where only traditional treatments are available.  Both osteopathy and chiropractic are regulated which means that they are accepted under NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines, yet surprisingly they are not as available as you might expect.
Acupuncture is, however, widely available in the NHS but provision is still patchy and you may not get it wherever you live.

When I first went to my local pain clinic I was initially offered acupuncture and aromatherapy massage. The acupuncture pain relief just didn’t last long enough to warrant further treatments but I did benefit from a relaxing massage but the postcode lottery cams into place and just like facet joints injections the treatments were no longer available to me.

Most complementary and alternative therapies for pain are expensive to have on a regular basis and so for chronic pain sufferers it’s a catch 22 situation as most of us are not fit enough to work full time and so therefore cannot afford these treatments on a regular basis. We can only hope that future research proves they do more good than harm.

The book I published in 2015 is all about Complementary and Alternative therapies for pain but a lot has changed since then, and new treatments have arrived on the scene so I am just in the process of updating it and adding new treatments now available.

Have you had any therapy treatments for pain, and if you have how successful were they?



  1. I have tried homeopathy and herbalism, reiki, acupuncture, and massage therapy and yoga.
    I found it costed me a lot of money (in the Netherlands, parts of the alternatieve therapy is payed by the insurance, but the other part you have to pay yourself) and it didn’t help much. That is, the acupuncture and homeopathy. I still like yoga and massages, they seem to help a little, because you learn to relax. You have to keep doing it, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Living in the US, CAMs are not paid for by insurance even if a GP prescribes it. I’ve tried many CAMs as I pursue living FULLY while having Fibromyalgia. I’m using some supplements (expensive and not covered), massage therapy (covered if I go to a chiropractor), yoga, breathwork, sound journeys, meditation, reiki, and ACT through counseling (75% covered by insurance) all in the search to calm my nervous system. Some are working, some no effect, a couple negative results. With scientist finding that using neuroplasticity to help the brain rewire to eliminate pain is possible, I sure do hope Western Medicine and insurance companies begin to put more credence in CAM treatments.


    1. Thanks Katie, you have certainly tried a number of them. Like I said to another blogger sometimes it may not work well simply because the therapist isn’t so good at giving it. Good luck with your search for something to help and do let me know if you find something amazing. Take care.


  3. Interesting the availability is so spread out in the UK. I’m in the US and nothing alternative is covered my insurance, but for some reason I thought in the UK there was better coverage.


  4. i will be interested to read the updated version of your book when it comes out. I am all about complementary treatments as I am just too sensitive to standard medications and seem to get all the side effects which can often be worse that some of the symptoms. I’ve tried acupuncture and their is research to show that it helps, massage, meditation, homeopathy, vitamins and minerals, hydrotherapy and dietary changes. The main focus of what I do is search out research proving whether these therapies work for fibromyalgia. The two that work for me to relieve pain are myofascial massage and hydrotherapy. I also think that things we do daily help so much. For me it’s specific vitamins and minerals, meditation, pacing and dietary changes.


    1. Thanks for your great comment Lee, just with the few replies I have had on here it sounds like massage really helps us all. I’ve tried myofascial massage which is very uncomfortable but does help. It’s also helps if you can find a good therapist. X


  5. Hi Ruth, when I first read it I thought you had but messages then realised massages. I had a fab aromatherapy massage therapist but she’s now retired and I haven’t found one anywhere near as good. They definitely help.


  6. Great article and it was interesting to read how things are in the UK. Here in Canada, most private insurance companies offered through employers provide for care with massage, chiropractic, acupuncture and more. I feel for those in the States who may not have those same options.


    1. Thanks Pam, that’s amazing it’s offered through private insurance as here in the UK just a few offer chiropractic and acupuncture but not massage. You take care.


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