By Hal S Blatman, MD

It used to be that massage therapy was part of standard treatment – even in hospitals. This all changed in the 1930s and 1940s with the discovery of antibiotics and, later, other medications.

CAM and Traditional TherapiesWhat we refer to as “traditional” therapies are actually a philosophy of medicine that is only 70 years old. The truly traditional therapies involve touch, herbs, plants, needles, and energy healing-but they are generally referred to as complementary and alternative, or CAM, therapies. Over the past several years, CAM therapies have become more popular for treating chronic diseases because what we are taught in medical school does not always work well for these conditions.

While many doctors used to rely solely on traditional therapies, today patients can find many who also utilize CAM therapies in their daily practices. The basic belief of holistic medicine is that the body has the capacity to heal itself. Once we realize this, the next step is to figure out how to help it along in its process of healing. This doesn’t mean you should rely solely on traditional or CAM therapies, but that you should select the therapies that provide you the most benefit.

Medications may provide comfort and sleep. Without some comfort, the pain may be unrelenting. Without sleep, our bodies cannot restore. Replacing missing hormones, like thyroid, may give you energy. Chiropractic may help with alignment so the body can function better. Acupuncture may change body energy or relieve spasm of trigger points.

Electric therapies may relax the mind and the muscles. Massage, re­flexology, Reiki, healing touch, laser therapies, and others all have their place. Some choices may be immediately helpful; others may hurt a little at first. Still others will prove to be a bad idea. To protect yourself, be cautious.

More and more practitioners are thinking holistically.


You can begin to help yourself by focusing on nutrition, sleep, and exercise.  Nutrition has two important angles to remember: provide yourself nutrients to heal, and avoid substances that cause harm.

Now you have to read and learn. Learn which artificial sweeteners cause harm and why. Learn how wheat and sugar grow yeast in your body, sapping your energy. Read about what nutrients your body needs, like magnesium to relax muscles, stop spasm, and promote normal bowel movements. These basics are incredibly important.

Sleep is vital. Read about herbal treatments and perhaps try them, but ask your doctor about medication, too. Try different ones until you find what works best for your budget and your sleep.  Exercise has been proven to be effective for treatment of many chronic symptoms; too much, however, can lead to several days of misery.

When you start, stay within your capabilities and remember that you are dipping your toes into the water of a new idea. Then learn about taking a detox bath with a cup of sea salt and a cup of baking soda so you are not as sore the next day. (Indeed, 10 minutes in this mixture can reduce your pain for several hours.)


Start to question what you think you know. Read about new therapies, but also read and learn about the medications that have been prescribed for you-that you take for granted as good ideas and important for your treatment. There may be healthier alternatives to some medications you depend on.

For example, medications that stop the stomach from making acid may relieve indigestion, but unfortunate­ly they also decrease absorption of vitamin B12 so the nervous system doesn’t work as well; decrease absorption of minerals like magnesium and calcium, leading to osteo­porosis and muscle spasm; and decrease acid and ability to digest protein, leading to some degree of malnourishment.

Fortunately, you can look for alterna­tives like L-glutamine. This supplement is the most important body source of nour­ishment for the lining of the stomach and small intestine. In 1957 it was shown to cure ulcers. It can be introduced to your body, and perhaps a month or two later the stomach medications can be reduced or even discontinued.

Some medicines are helpful, and others keep us from healing. Questioning and education continue to be important. You are your best and most important advocate, and you will need to trust your “inner physician.”


The best way to balance CAM and traditional therapies now becomes a process of learning about your choices, and then considering what will help your body heal itself at this point. Your primary care provider must become your partner in this endeavor, helping with your education and prescriptions for medicines and therapies. Remember that you are your best advocate, and you are paying the bill for your choices. Don’t choose your doctor by your insurance company or by your loyalties.

You need someone who you can work with, someone who listens to you, someone who is interested in examining you-someone who cares. Don’t worry about stepping on toes. Be polite, be respectful, and stick up for yourself. You are only stuck if there is just one doctor in town-and even then you could go to a different town. Remember that you will get what you are willing to put up with, and that might not be good enough for you.

If your doctor says there is nothing he or she can do, say “Thanks,” and leave. Do not confuse this statement with the idea that there is nothing that can be done to help you. More and more practitioners are thinking holistically and balancing all the choices.  Education can prevent your being taken advantage of, and there are more resources today than ever.

The internet has made education available for most of us. Don’t give up your power of self, and remember to say no when something does not feel right.CAM and tra­ditional therapies to help with sleep

Hal S Blatman, MD is the author of The Art of Body Maintenance: Winners’ Guide to Pain Relief, the medical director of the Blatman Pain Clinic, and president of the American Holistic Medical Association.