What are complementary therapies?

In recent years, complementary therapies have been used alongside conventional medicine in order to improve the quality of life for many patients. What does it consist of? What are its benefits?

Many people have become interested in complementary therapies in the hope of improving symptoms of different conditions. Often, they are used in conjunction with conventional medicine to improve health, promote quality of life, and make some conditions more bearable. In fact, there is research supporting its use.

Although they should not be seen as a first-line treatment or a substitute for the therapeutic options recommended by the doctor, they can be an adjunct to mitigate the physical and emotional symptoms of different diseases. What does it consist of?

Complementary therapies: what you should know

Complementary therapies bring together a set of therapeutic resources that offer a different approach to conventional medicine. However, in recent years they have been used alongside conventional therapies due to the positive effects they provide on patients.

It is important to clarify that conventional medical treatments are based on research, where tests are carried out to determine their efficacy and safety. It is also known as evidence-based medicine and is the first option when treating any disease.

Meanwhile, although complementary therapies have also been the focus of scientific research, the results regarding their use are mixed and remain insufficient. Due to this, they must be applied under medical supervision, by professionals in the field.

Complementary therapies and alternative medicine: are there differences?

It is convenient to clarify that complementary therapies are different from traditional or alternative medicine. The latter proposes to replace conventional medicine, while complementary therapies are used precisely to complement medical treatments.

Regarding alternative medicine, there are divided opinions, since it has defenders and detractors. In any case, it is not accepted in conventional medicine, as it lacks scientific support and may put patients’ health at risk by suggesting to abandon medical treatment.

How to choose a complementary therapist?complementary therapies

To apply for complementary medicine properly, it is essential to choose a certified therapist who is registered with a professional body. Some healthcare professionals are trained to perform this type of therapy, which may be safer.

It is good to ask the therapist how many years of experience he has in the area, what types of techniques he uses and what level of training he has according to the condition he wants to treat. A doctor can also advise on which complementary therapy is best according to the disease.

Some options, such as yoga or tai chi, can be practiced from home, but it is advisable to have professional guidance during the first sessions. Bad practice of these disciplines can reduce their effectiveness and lead to ailments or unwanted effects.

Types of complementary therapiescomplementary therapies

There are many types of complementary therapies that can serve as adjuvants to improve health in certain conditions. As we have discussed, the choice between one option or another depends on the type of disease and the patient’s preferences.

Let’s see below the most used, according to information from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Acupuncture involves inserting needles at specific points on the body in order to stimulate nerve impulses. It is one of the most researched complementary medicine therapies and is used, above all, to relieve pain.


This therapy makes use of different essential oils through diffusers, massages or baths. Inhaling the aromas produces a relaxing effect that can help reduce states of stress and anxiety. Even studies suggest that it can help calm ailments, such as headaches.

Massage therapy

In massage therapy, a therapist presses rub and manipulate the soft tissues of the body to induce relaxation and promote general well-being. In some cases, they are used to reduce muscle tension and calm ailments.

Other therapies

  • Homeopathy
  • Osteopathy and chiropractic
  • Reflexology
  • Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Qi gong (internal and external)
  • Biofeedback

Always consult with a professional

The success of complementary therapies depends largely on how they are practiced. Therefore, it is important to do it with the help of professionals. Any questions in this regard should be resolved with the doctor. Also, before choosing any option, it is better to determine the current state of health. Under certain conditions, these therapies are not recommended.

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