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Complementary Therapies

‘Complementary therapies’ describes treatments that are used alongside conventional medical treatments. Sometimes people talk of ‘alternative therapies’. These are used instead of, or independently of medical treatments.

What are complementary therapies?

Complementary therapies include:

  • herbal medicine
  • dietary supplements and tonics
  • creams, injections, powders
  • homoeopathic medicines
  • vitamin and mineral supplements
  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic
  • mind-body therapies
  • massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and many other therapies.

Complementary therapies can be expensive. You may be able to access these services from your palliative care or local health service. Health professionals can help you to access these therapies. They may attract a small fee or be free of charge. Private health insurance, extras cover, may also cover some therapies, such as acupuncture. Complementary therapies are available from a range of private providers as well.

You may already use complementary therapies. Some have been shown to be helpful, but there may be little evidence that supports their use. Some therapies may have side effects or even be harmful. It is important to let your health professionals know if you are using any complementary or alternative therapies. They could also interact with your other medications or medical treatments. It is also important to let your complementary therapist know about your medical treatments and medications.

Complementary therapies may not be continued if you are admitted to hospital or a hospice. This is especially true if the doctors and nurses don’t know what you are taking. It is best to talk about this with them.

Websites

Documents or brochures

  • The National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (US) provides a good overview of various types of therapies in their document What is CAM?

Last updated 31 January 2017