Many patients with painful and intractable conditions look to alternative medical therapies when more conventional treatments have failed to alleviate their symptoms.
The question therefore arises of whether alternative remedies can be more effective than prescription drugs in combating disease and the effects it has on patients in their everyday lives.
While there is still some controversy surrounding alternative therapies in medical circles, many doctors are now routinely prescribing them alongside conventional treatments for a range of ailments and in particular for pain relief.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, alternative therapies, either prescribed on their own or along with conventional medicines, can often have a significant effect on the health of the patient being treated.
Scientific research is still ongoing as to why alternative therapies seem to have an effect in some patients and none in others.
Among the most common alternative therapies prescribed to patients are fish oil, also known as omega-3, and glucosamine.
Omega-3 works as an anti-inflammatory agent in the treatment of arthritis, fibromyalgia and heart conditions.
Glucosamine is used to repair cartilage in the joints. It is a naturally occurring substance found in shellfish, flaxseed and echinacea flowers. Flaxseed itself is now being used by some people to reduce their cholesterol levels and it is also known to be high in Omega 3.
The reasons people use alternative therapies rather than conventional prescription drugs include their cost and possible side effects.
Alternative medicine is often taken to include other natural products and methods such as meditation, massage, acupuncture and deep breathing exercises.
The advantage of many of these techniques is that the patient can be taught them and is then able to carry them out by themselves at home without a doctor or nurse have to attend.
Again, this can have a significant effect in terms of affordability. It may also be of benefit to patients who have mobility problems and cannot easily access professional medical services.
It cannot be denied that modern science has created breakthroughs in medicine, allowing doctors to wipe out previously untreatable diseases. Alternative medicine is perhaps better thought of therefore as a complement rather an alternative to conventional medicine.