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Alternative Health

Finding A Good Alternative Health Practitioner

There are so many “alternative” or “complementary” therapies available today that it can be hard to tell which ones are effective, don’t work at all or can do you harm. It’s just as much of a challenge to choose a complementary health practitioner. Should you want to go to one, it’s best to do the research beforehand or you may end up paying money for “treatments” that don’t work. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is part of the National Institutes of Health and an authority in the field of alternative medicine. Here, from the NCCAM, are some tips for getting the best practitioner you can.

Spend as much time looking for a practitioner as you do looking for an MD or a specialist. If you need names of practitioners in your area, ask your physician or health care provider to make some recommendations. Other resources include hospitals and medical schools, professional organizations – such as those for massage therapists. You can also check with state regulatory agencies or licensing boards.

Your health insurance company may also be a source of referrals or information, and at the same time you can check whether particular kinds of services are covered. Don’t assume that your health insurance will cover the practitioner’s services. Insurance plans differ greatly in what complementary health approaches they cover, and even if they cover a particular approach, restrictions may apply.

Once you’ve zeroed in on a practitioner, find out as much as you can about his or her education, training, licensing and certifications, the NCCAM says. The agency points out that requirement vary widely from state to state and from practice to practice.

If your potential practitioner looks good after that research, the NCCAM suggests asking a few questions before beginning treatment. Will the practitioner be willing to work with your regular health care provider? For the safest, best care, the health care professionals on your team should be willing to cooperate and communicate, the NCCAM says. That way, your health care can be managed as effectively as possible.

Talk with the practitioner in the same way you would with your doctor. Tell him or her about the state of your health, and ask what experience he or she has with people who have health issues similar to yours. The NCCAM recommends asking those questions even if you want just general well-being, rather than specific improvement, as your goal. Be sure to ask your present health-care team about interactions; for example, the NCCAM says, some yoga poses might not be safe if you have glaucoma.

For more information about alternative health issues, go to www.nccam.nih.gov.

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