SCIATICA: ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS THAT CAN HELP

There are many other alternative therapies that can help in certain situations and these are described in this chapter. But first, let’s consider why sufferers may turn away from what can be called the ‘mainstream’ therapies to try others, whose record although good, has less documented evidence to back up their efficacy.

Many forms of back problems, including sciatica, while chronic, do tend to come and go, waxing and waning in intensity with there often being little obvious reason why suddenly there is a worsening or improvement in the condition. While the correct treatment, coupled with sensible lifestyle adjustments and the taking of proper precautions will usually bring great relief from any acute attack of back trouble, this does not necessarily mean that any underlying condition has been cured permanently. As most back pain sufferers will testify, once you have had the problem you’re always going to be particularly susceptible of it happening again.

Because people with back problems don’t always get all the help they would hope for from conventional medicine, it’s not surprising that many of them eventually turn to practitioners of alternative medicine. There are many reasons why this should happen, but these are the main ones, according to a recent survey: Patients often feel that their family doctors do not treat them with the seriousness that they feel their symptoms deserve. In fact, once the possibility of any dangerous underlying condition has been eliminated, doctors can be somewhat dismissive of what they consider to be ‘minor’ back problems, saying, more or less, that it’s up to the patient to take the recommended steps to avoid the symptoms. Many of these recommendations are, however, sometimes a whole lot easier to offer than to follow, and a patient may well feel that his doctor has ‘abandoned’ him after offering the minimum advice.

While specific attacks of sciatica or other symptoms of back trouble occur because of a direct cause at the time, there is nevertheless often little obvious reason why the problem should be so much worse during one period of time than another. As we’ve already discussed previously, this ‘waxing and waning’ can be at times directly attributed to greater or lesser stress. Conventional Western medicine is by no means always terribly successful in dealing with ongoing and changing personal problems that exacerbate physical problems, leaving sufferers to wonder whether they might fare better with other therapies. Busy family doctors, especially in today’s over-worked National Health Service, tend to look primarily at physical causes, and patients may feel that a better overall solution to their problems may be found by alternative practitioners because they usually focus their attention on what they call the ‘whole person’, and not just the particular complaint being presented. Another prevalent reason for seeking alternative help is because the patient may be desperate for improvement. When this doesn’t seem to be forthcoming from conventional medicine, despite his having tried all it had to offer, he will then quite reasonably also look elsewhere for help.

Some patients also turn to alternative medicine, especially to those disciplines that preach ‘mind over matter’, for help in complying with some of the health recommendations they have

received from their doctor. For example, a patient may find it easier to lose weight when supported in his attempt by some alternative therapies, especially those that concentrate on developing the power of self-suggestion.

Other reasons why alternative or complementary practitioners can help include:

The mere fact of consulting an alternative practitioner can in itself make a patient treat more seriously the recommendations he receives that way. It’s a fact that when you have to pay for advice, you tend to listen to it more carefully than when it comes free. The additional motivation this effect can produce may at times be enough to allow a patient to do all that’s needed to bring about an improvement, such as taking the right kind of exercises, losing weight, and so on.

One more important reason why alternative therapy may at times be more successful than conventional medicine is that many of the techniques commonly used by alternative practitioners are specifically devised to increase a patient’s confidence in himself and his own ability to take the necessary steps to bring his condition under control, or to, at least, be less affected by the symptoms when they occur.

While there’s a great deal to be said in favour of alternative medicine, it must be pointed out that patients would always be well-advised in being extremely cautious in deciding whether to follow this course and, if so, how to go about it. These tips will guide you:

Before seeking help from other sources you should always see your own doctor first to ensure a proper diagnosis is made initially. This is absolutely vital, if only so that other possibly more serious reasons for your symptoms can be safely excluded. It might also be useful to ask your doctor whether he believes that one or another form of alternative medicine could help you; not all doctors have closed minds about the possible benefits of alternative approaches to treatment.

Should you decide on a course of alternative therapy, you should immediately consult your doctor once again if any new symptoms were to develop or if your existing ones were to become more severe or frequent while you were being treated by someone else. What’s more, it’s also a good idea to check out with your doctor the safety aspects of any alternative treatments you’re offered. As far as choosing a specific therapist is concerned, do make sure

that it’s a properly-trained and reputable one. These suggestions will

help you do just that:

Make sure that the alternative practitioner of your choice is a fully accredited member of a professional body whose standing is generally recognised.

While medical doctors usually aren’t keen to recommend alternative practitioners, it’s quite possible that your family doctor may be willing to do exactly that, but you may perhaps have to read somewhat between the lines of what you’re told. The positive contribution that alternative practitioners can make in some instances has received wider acceptance from mainstream medicine in recent years.

Personal recommendations from people whose judgement you trust are another excellent guide.

Which particular alternative therapy might be worth a try is largely a matter of individual choice, each and every one of them having their ardent supporters. Here to help you make your choice are brief details of the main ones most likely to be able to help with sciatica or other back problems.

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