As mentioned in the post about herbal medicine, I have recently enrolled in Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women course. While reading the first chapter from her book, Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), I discovered, not shockingly, that I am the poster child for a CAM consumer:
The average US CAM user is a well-educated health consumer, generally with at least a college education and an annual income of $50,000 or greater. Most are women between 30 and 59 years of age. Individuals whose personal values include a holistic approach to health, environmentalism, feminism, or a desire for personal spiritual growth are more than twice as likely to use CAM therapies.
The chapter goes on to discuss other reasons people might choose CAM, including a desire for fewer side effects, treatment of long-term or chronic problems, wanting a closer relationship with their provider and having a say in their treatment plan. All of these are reasons why I chose the path I did. I know the answers I would have gotten in a standard primary care provider’s office, because I’ve gotten them before: It sounds like you’re over-doing it and need to rest more. You should probably give up X, Y or Z. There isn’t really anything physically wrong with you, so it’s probably just stress. Have you tried ibuprofen for pain/inflammation? None of these were real answers for me – I enjoy being physically active – it makes my body feel good and it’s the primary way that I spend time with my partner. I also perform professionally from time-to-time, so I don’t consider taking a complete break from training to be an option. So I found practitioners whose goals were to keep me moving, to keep me training, to help make being physically active sustainable. “Just stress,” is a response that drives me a little bonkers – it’s true that my pain does not limit my range of motion and that none of my lab values or physical attributes are technically “abnormal,” but I still don’t feel well and I do limit some of my activities because of that. So I found myself a therapist who helps me learn to better manage my stress in whatever situation I find myself in. And yes, I have tried ibuprofen, so much so that I’m pretty sure (and my ND agrees) that I gave myself an ulcer. So I started reading up on botanicals and consulting my ND and the herbalists at Meadowsweet.
None of this has been cheap (but I have reached my deductible for the year!), and I know that I could have been using this money for a variety of different things. But I decided to make my health and well-being a priority in the hopes that I could eventually move on to focus on other things. So far it all seems to be working – I feel like I’m making progress and gains (why have we started spelling it with a “z” all of a sudden?), I’m happier, I deal with conflict better, I’m in less pain, I’m stronger. I find myself with energy to socialize with my partner and friends, coordinate things like acrobatic flash mobs, and even miss a night of sleep and not feel ruined for the rest of the week. I have met providers and trainers that I trust, have relationships with and would recommend to anyone. I also feel that this experience has made me a better provider – now that I have first-hand knowledge of different CAM therapies and also non-pharmaceutical/non-surgical management of chronic pain, I feel more comfortable suggesting CAM therapies to patients.
I know I won’t use or recommend CAM for everything. I will continue to take my daily Zyrtec and won’t hesitate to prescribe antibiotics for a patient’s rare UTI. But I like having a broad range of options that I can customize to fit my or my patient’s needs. Rather than pit one type of medicine against another, it feels like a truly holistic approach to health and healthcare.