Selecting a Complementary, Alternative or Integrative Health Practitioner

Written by Stewart G. Eidelson, MD

More people are looking into complementary, alternative and/or integrative health treatments to treat back and neck pain. To help you understand the differences and potential similarities between the terms, keep in mind:

Choosing the best practitioner for the treatment of your spine problem (eg, osteoarthritis, chronic back pain, whiplash) is as important as your choice of medical physician or chiropractor. You want to find an alternative or complementary/ integrative professional who is highly trained, licensed, experienced in treating your particular diagnosis, and a practitioner who makes you feel comfortable, and is willing to take time to answer all your questions.

So, where do you start?
A good place to start may be by asking your primary health care provider (eg, primary care physician, chiropractor) for a referral. Other sources include:

Credentialing, licensing and certifying are terms you may come across when learning about a particular CAM profession or practitioner. Credentials can be viewed as a catch-all term to include the practitioner’s education and where and what he/she is allowed to practice. Certification in a particular field of practice (eg, acupuncture) is often needed before a state and/or county license is issued allowing the professional to treat people. However, being certified and/or licensed does not guarantee that the practitioner is qualified.

Check your state’s mandatory licensure process for the type of complementary, alternative or integrative professional you are interested in seeing. Many states require the practitioner to register specific information about their education, graduation, training, and continuing education credits. Furthermore, your state agency can provide information that explains exactly what services the practitioner is allowed to provide (eg, provide dietary supplements).

As you review the education and qualifications of a potential practitioner, consider:

Plan for Your Visit
Although the treatment or therapy the complementary, alternative or integrative practitioner provides is considered non-medical, you still need to share all your medical history, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, allergies, treatments you’ve received (eg, surgery, spinal injections), and vitamins and supplements you take.

Be sure to share the names and contact information of your primary care physician or internal medicine doctor, or the doctor who referred you. It is very important to keep your regular physician informed about all treatments or therapies you receive.

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