The Great Debate Between Western And Alternative Medicine

Today, most Americans live an overly complicated life. There’s too much pressure to live up to, and not enough time. Add to that a schedule that’s jam-packed with work, family life and unpredictable everyday stressors, it’s no wonder it is easy to get run down and eventually, sick.

Adding to that stress, once someone finds themselves sick, comes a decision that many people are facing. Which path does one take to wellness…the western medical approach or the alternative avenue?

The answer to which type of medicine one is more likely to seek can be found in how people perceive their individual worlds. Not so simply, it boils down to spirit vs. science. A more spirit-based individual will look for a holistic approach to health, as alternative medicine treats body, mind, spirit and emotions wholly. A more scientific-centric individual will trust western medicine and the many 21st-century, technology-based advances that have been forged through these type of treatments.

Comparing both western and alternative medicine, there’s benefits and drawbacks to both.

Looking deeper into alternative medicine,  notes that rather than determining which genes are responsible, the practitioner considers how individuals contribute to their health through individual beliefs and lifestyle choices. While this burden of responsibility can be difficult for a patient to accept, this individualized view of health care also assumes the patient has the power to cope, rehabilitate, adapt and recover. Alternative medicine offers that ability to heal the entire body during treatments and at home without the use of standardized medication.

The Large Drawback | Alternative Medicine

A large drawback for alternative medicine is the lack of insurance coverage. Holistic health care may not be covered by insurance plans, or treatments may be reimbursed on a case-by-case basis. The standards for care and the quality provided by holistic practitioners may be variable. Although interactions in the traditional Western medical system may be constrained by complications in the health insurance industry, there may be a more consistent standard of care due to federal regulations, according to For some, making lifestyle changes, which are often a part of alternative medicine treatment, are difficult. As are multiple return visits for treatment, which are also often a part of alternative medicine.

On the other side, the goal of western medicine is to intervene with effective measures of eliminating the source of disease, thus promoting healing. Medicine in the west breaks down every aspect of the disease or condition that may be occurring in the body, and doesn’t fully look at the individual’s contribution to said disease. Therefore, it directly targets the disease, encouraging rapid healing. Western medicine also incorporates the use of modern technology and equipment, like the ones found at  Mountainside Medical Supplies . With this integration, western treatment has the ability to become more innovative.

According to a study conducted at  Milligan College, a drawback of western medicine is that in order for authentic healing to occur, both the logical mind and the intuitive mind must be integrated. It can also be a challenge to find a practitioner of western medicine who will look at the whole body as a unit and not just treat a single ailment. Thus, less time spent with a practitioner, and the less likely you are to form a relationship, which may aid in healing.

Overall, western medicine focuses on pathology and curing disease while alternative medicine focuses on the health and healing of the person.

For both treatments, the majority of concern comes from general misunderstanding and a lack of compromise from both sides.

The Best Treatment for Alternative Medicine

When opting for integration, we’re seeking the best alternative for treatment of disease. Collaboration optimizes the outcome for healing. With increased education for both the practitioners and patients, western and alternative medicine could make for a very happy pairing.

Though it may seem daunting for medical professionals to begin integration of western and alternative medicines, it’s possible. And this helps, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that over half of the 125 medical schools in the U.S. offered classes in alternative or complementary medicine.

Simple steps that practitioners can begin integrating in their treatments according to, include dietary changes, incorporating exercise, guided imagery or meditation exercises, and direct treatments with acupuncture, herbs, or massage for both western and alternative practices.

Health is universal. It’s a human right, not a privilege. Both western and alternative medicine have strengths that would grow stronger when used in harmony. It would prevent disruption during the healing process as the patient wouldn’t need to visit many different clinics and doctors, and it would encourage a feeling of safety and true health care for all.

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Blair Shackle

Blair Shackle is a health and wellness writer based in Minneapolis. More posts by Author

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