The Use of Alternative and Complementary Therapy in Wound Care Protection Status

By Paula Erwin-Toth MSN, RN, CWOCN, CNS, FAAN

Bloggers usually do not begin their discussion by admitting they are not well versed in the topic they have selected for their blog. But I openly admit my relative ignorance on the history and indication for use of alternative and complementary therapies, especially in the prevention and management of acute and chronic wounds.

yin_yang.jpgThe modern definition of homeopathy is credited to the establishment in the late 18th century of an American school of homeopathic healing by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. His philosophy included using therapies designed to help the body heal itself by introducing substances related to the ailment itself. In modern parlance homeopathy is frequently applied (quite erroneously) to a variety of non-traditional medical therapies. Osteopathic medicine was founded in the late 19th century by Dr. Andrew Taylor. Interventions were based on the need to balance and enhance the body through manipulation, nutrition, as well as medical and surgical interventions.

For many years physicians with a DO (doctors of osteopathic medicine) and the more traditional physician credential MD (doctor of medicine) rarely collaborated let alone practiced at the same hospital. Now MDs and DOs practice side by side with little of the friction seen in earlier times.

The use of natural herbs, ointments, massage, acupuncture and other interventions long predate modern medicine and in many regions of the world are the only types of health care available. Naturopathic approaches to a variety of health conditions have in recent years worked their way into mainstream health care under various titles including complementary medicine and complementary therapies. Among the first non-traditional interventions to enter the realm of U.S. hospitals in the late 1980s and early 1990s was Guided Imagery where a person was assisted in relaxation techniques to help reduce pain and anxiety. Presently Chinese herbal medicine clinics are being offered at major health care institutions.

Traditional Medicine And Holistic Care

Many countries have a long history of traditional medicine based on concepts that pre-date modern medicine by hundreds and in many cases thousands of years. Ayurvedic medicine has its roots in ancient Hindu traditions and Native American medicine embraced a wide variety of traditions that differed in the wide array of tribes. A recent publication in WOUNDS featured an overview of plants and their use in wound care in traditional Iranian medicine.

Common characteristics of traditional native medicine are the inclusion of more than the physical. Inclusion of the mental and spiritual components of health and illness has always been part of the approach to care. As odd as it seems, modern medicine has been comparatively slow in embracing an holistic approach to care.

Evaluating the Efficacy of Alternative Therapies in Wound Care

One of the challenges health care professionals face when incorporating complementary/alternative therapies to wound management is the deficiency of rigorous research regarding their use. Lack of standardization of naturopathic products interferes with accuracy of dosage and can lead to an inconsistent delivery of the product to the patient. In the world of evidence-based practice, the need for us to conduct research to evaluate the efficacy of alternative/complementary to support wound healing is evident.

A long time mantra of modern health care is "If you cannot quantify it, it does not exist." As health care professionals we need to investigate and evaluate a wide variety of interventions to promote wound healing.

About The Author
Paula Erwin-Toth has over 30 years of experience in wound, ostomy and continence care. She is a well-known author, lecturer and patient advocate who is dedicated to improving the care of people with wounds, ostomies and incontinence in the US and abroad.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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