by Lee McCann 7/6/2021
So I've been a massage therapist for 11 years now, and "alternative health" is a word I've heard thrown around a lot. Some people think of it highly-- even as better than traditional western healthcare-- while others think of it as hokey nonsense. I've gone from using the term to describe my practice in the past, to being embarrassed about it, to not really caring if someone wants to categorize my work that way. I used to be embarrassed by the term mostly because I didn't want to be associated with unscientific quackery. There are many, many snake-oil salesfolk on the alternative medicine scene, and it can be dizzying to see through the murky waters to figure out what's worth your money and what you may as well set your money on fire for instead.
But let's be real here, people burn a lot of money on traditional healthcare to no effect also. They don't even get the warmth that a literal pile of burning paper bills would provide.
Often times, alternative healthcare is what people turn to after traditional Western medicine has failed them. They've tried several doctors with no success, and they lament of their pain until a trusted friend says "bro, have you tried acupuncture?" and gives them the number of their favorite practitioner. And people go down that sort of road to varying degrees of success. I have had many people tell me that I have provided them more relief than any doctor they have been to. And to that I'd just say: that's because just needed a massage therapist, not a doctor. That does not diminish the worth of the doctor.
If your leg's broke, I'm sorry man, I can't do much about that besides maybe provide you a trip to the hospital ( for just a fraction of the price of an ambulance ride in the US! :) ). And no amount of Vitamin B12 tablets, Chinese herbs, or whatever is going to help either. You're gonna need a surgeon.
Honestly, the school of thought in "holistic medicine" is appealing. Holistic referring to the "whole person": Body, Mind, and Spirit. The longer I'm in this field, the more I'm convinced that wellness is somewhat less of an exact science and moreso an alignment of the stars. With the stars being the pieces of the Whole Person. I also believe that practitioners in many branches of medicine, western and "alternative" alike, can help different pieces of the whole being.
I'm the kind of person who would just love it if everyone could hold hands and get along, but I know the world doesn't work that way. I hate that western medicine sometimes disregards centuries of wisdom as much as I hate that alternative medicine disregards centuries of rigorous scientific study. If medical doctors, body workers, and psychotherapists could combine their powers we'd be unstoppable, guys!
These days I like to think of myself as just... a healthcare provider. I provide a service that (typically) improves quality of life and reduces pain and dysfunction. These days, massage therapy is gaining more traction in the world of western medicine, and I can tell you why. It's because it works when what you need is a massage.
Thanks for reading!