In Part II we talked about Naturopathic doctors and Chiropractors.
In Part III we’re going to talk about acupuncturists and secondary providers
Clarifying – What do I mean by primary provider?
In these articles I’m using the term primary provider to mean a health practitioner who can manage your overall care. For example an ND or integrative MD (primary provider) might recommend you go and get massage therapy. The massage therapist would be a secondary provider, providing a therapy for you but would not be managing your overall care.
Mostly a secondary provider – Acupuncturists(LAc’s = licensed acupuncturist, DOM = doctor of oriental medicine)
Acupuncturists come out of a tradition of primary providers, when people were sick in pre-modern Asia they went to an ‘acupuncturist’ (really a doctor of Chinese medicine). Today in the United States however, most acupuncturists are secondary providers and are focused on providing therapy and not overall management of the person’s care.
Good – Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have excellent success in treating a variety of conditions. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) approaches health and disease from a different perspective than Western medicine and this different approach can be very useful in understanding conditions that don’t respond to conventional care.
Bad – Most acupuncturists do not have adequate training in Western medicine to help manage your care. Some acupuncturists train solely in needling, while others use needles and herbs which are a huge part of traditional Chinese medicine, so their effectiveness in treating various conditions will vary. Most acupuncturists do not have access to lab testing.
Bottom-line – I generally do not recommend you seek out an acupuncturist for your primary care. There are, of course, exceptions so it’s important to understand the individuals education and experience. I have personally found acupuncturists work exceptionally well in combination with a primary provider like an MD, ND, or DC in providing Natural Medicine and refer to them often.
Secondary providers – a short sample
Most medical providers the world over are not ‘doctors’ with official degrees or licenses but receive training through unaccredited education, apprenticeship, initiation, self-study and personal experience. There are many, many secondary practitioners and the following is a short list of common Natural Medicine secondary providers.
Herbalist – treat with herbal/plant medicines
Homeopath – treat with homeopathic medicines
Nutritionist – treat with diet changes
Hypnotherapist – use hypnotherapy to help resolve mental/emotional blocks and issues
Traditional naturopath – (as opposed to a Naturopathic doctor or Naturopathic physician) treat with herbal, homeopathic and nutritional therapies but do not have medical training
Bodyworker (many, many types) – treat with therapeutic touch and/or therapeutic exercise
Intuitives / Muscle testers (many types) – treat by accessing non-conscious information
Shamans / Energy healers – treat by accessing spiritual information
Good – Most secondary providers are well intentioned and highly skilled at their therapies. Their single focus often allows them to be extremely knowledgeable about what they do. Many of the therapies are effective at treating a variety of conditions. Many secondary providers, not limited by a medical education, think outside the box which can be very helpful with issues that defy standard treatment.
Bad – Most secondary providers have no standard training which means that many have insufficient training. Many have a limited knowledge especially of conventional medicine. This unfortunately can create a situation my colleagues and I see far too often: not aware of what they don’t know, too many of these practitioners are overconfident and think they can take on a primary role or treat things they are unqualified to treat. One of the primary purposes of education is to teach you how much you don’t know and many of these providers don’t understand how shallow their education is.
Bottom-line – Definitely use these practitioners, but understand what they can and can’t do. Understand their education, training, and skills. Many are very knowledgeable, humble, and skilled, beware the ones that aren’t.
We will continue this article in part IV – The Bottom-line and wrap this series up.
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