This article was brought to my attention today and I feel that it warrants the response of a practitioner from the natural therapies community.[i]
I have been in the massage industry since 2003. I started initially as a Massage Therapist, studying further to become a Remedial Massage Therapist and then an Advanced Diploma to become a Myotherapist. Recognising the need for higher qualifications in the natural therapy industry, I am now studying a Bachelor of Health Science Myotherapy to really deepen my understanding of my profession and to assist me to work more with conventional medicine practitioners.
This article seems to label my industry (massage) as alternative which I disagree with. Myself and many of my industry colleagues work in complement to and alongside main stream practitioners for the benefit of our mutual patients.
Main stream medicine is the rock star of medicine available today and rightly so. Every day conventional medicine practitioners save lives through life saving surgeries and prescribing medications to help people overcome illness or manage a disease. As new scientific breakthroughs were developed such as the germ theory, enhancement of the microscope and the creation of vaccines communities around the world were spared from the epidemics such as small pox, Cholera, Syphilis, Polio and many more outbreaks. Today’s communities cannot comprehend the devastation that many of these outbreaks had.
Many people don’t realise that Natural therapies have existed since the beginning of time with many discoveries from Ancient Egypt and Greece still being relevant in healthcare today. Main stream medicine was born of natural medicine but as science wowed us with new breakthroughs, and discoveries, conventional treatments were given preference over natural ones. Communities that had been empowered to treat themselves at home for common ailments with garden herbs or traditional approaches were now becoming more reliant on prescribed medications and diagnosis. This trend continues today where people are reliant on a government health care system that cannot longer support the demand and people are not taking responsibility for their health.
Let me be clear on one thing. Some people do need prescription medication and/or surgical interventions to overcome illness and disease or simply to manage a health condition.
There are many people however that could benefit from a natural approach for simple health issues that don’t need conventional treatments. For instance, as a Myotherapist, I see many people who have neck and back pain, who may sit at a computer for much of the day in a stressful work environment. They may have frequent headaches, sleep disturbances, muscle pain and fatigue. This type of person could go to the GP for assistance and may be given medication to reduce pain. If the root cause of this patient’s complaint is not addressed then they may not improve and may wind up injuring their body further, and potentially needing more doctor’s visits, more medication and even surgery. Someone presenting like this may need assistance to improve their posture, they may require soft tissue therapy to reduce tension in muscles overworked by poor posture, be prescribed exercises to strengthen weaker muscles, have questions asked of them about their work station set up, nutrition or sleep habits. These issues are not always adequately addressed by main stream medicine but a natural practitioner often has more time to offer a holistic treatment incorporating these facets.
Many patients that I see feel empowered that they can do something to help their own health and are amazed at the health outcomes they can achieve from a natural approach. Natural approaches are not expensive – simply improving your posture has no cost involvement yet reaps major benefits.
As the article states claim for natural therapies has increased but the author has not explored the reasons why this is, other than to state that it is putting more of a strain on the Government’s resources.
Sean Parnell is happy to advise readers the outcomes of Labour’s review into Natural therapies, highlighting that little evidence regarding efficacy of treatment was found. He does go on to say that the report stated that the review found ‘numerous opportunities for future research in this field.’ The reason there is not a lot of research for natural therapies is due to a large degree on cost. Conventional medicine treatments are reviewed using a Cochrane system review which is a model that does not adequately fit a natural therapy treatment session. You can research the outcomes of taking a pill or not talking a pill or giving someone a pseudo pill thinking it is an active tablet. In contrast a Myotherapy session for example is a treatment designed to the unique individual’s presentation. A Myotherapy session will include assessment of the condition, soft tissue therapy, exercise prescription and many more techniques to reduce pain and improve movement for that individual. You can’t isolate one exercise or one soft tissue technique to determine efficacy of the treatment. So many other factors may be involved with recovery, including working with a team of practitioners from main stream or natural therapies, a patient’s adherence to an exercise program or other factors.
The good news is that the natural therapy industry in Australia has recognised the need for increasing research. The Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative (PRACI) has been set up to develop high level research for the industry. PRACI is the largest national-based research network for complementary healthcare practitioners in the world. I myself are taking part in to a research study for chronic low back pain for PRACI in 2017.
Natural therapies claims have increased for private insurance but many natural medicine practitioners are treating more people with chronic pain where main stream approaches are not working on their own. Many natural therapists provide longer consultation times that complement many of the patient’s main stream approaches with a different philosophical approach from conventional medicine – one that is usually more holistic.
Many countries around the world like China, India, Germany and many others combine conventional and natural medicine in their national health care scheme so that their citizens can benefit from both. I would like to see this happening more here in Australia too.
People should choose a practitioner who is qualified, insured and a member of an association such as in my case Massage and Myotherapy Australia. My association are pioneering a certification scheme, which will see therapists have the option to be externally audited to call themselves a certified therapist. This will help to ensure that the qualified, professional practitioners stand out from those who are not.
Charlotte Bosson is a Myotherapist and owner of City Haven Massage Therapy which operates two clinics in Mont Albert and Parkville offering Myotherapy, Remedial and Oncology massage. Services are provided to the general community including local nursing homes and work places.
 PRACI – Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative. 2015. PRACI – Practitioner Research and Collaboration Initiative. [ONLINE] Available at: https://praci.com.au/. [Accessed 17 January 2017].
[i] The Australian. 2017. The Australian – Natural therapy insurance booms. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/natural-therapy-insurance-booms/news-story/b347b8fe3ae87c6c92a77827cd5f25a2. [Accessed 17 January 2017].