Make the most of your health insurance

The gap between conventional medicine and complementary therapies is blurring, as more and more people are using both – and they can often work alongside each other. It’s not uncommon these days to have a doctor who also does acupuncture, or who might recommend you do yoga or see a chiropractor.

While it’s great to have more options available, it’s still important to let your doctor know what other remedies or treatments you use. That’s because some medications, treatments and remedies can interfere with each other, reducing their effectiveness or causing unwanted side effects.

But if you’re looking for complementary therapies to help with your ailments, or to simply feel better, here are some of the most common that may be covered by your health insurance.

Physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy

Physiotherapy can help restore movement and function if you have an injury or physical disability. Physiotherapists employ a range of techniques to help improve mobility and reduce pain, these include massage, TENS therapy, splints and braces. They frequently also use targeted exercises to help re-educate and strengthen muscles.

Like physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths have university-level education – usually a 5-year degree. Chiropractors and osteopaths look at the health of the spine and the ligaments, nerves and connective tissue that surround it – taking a holistic view of your body and health[1].

While chiropractic and osteopathy are similar in approach, chiropractors use a range of techniques to adjust and align the spine and extremities, compared to osteopaths who focus on treating the soft tissue by moving, stretching and massaging a person’s muscles and joints[2].

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture

TCM is an ancient system dating back to 200 AD[3], which uses herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat the whole person.[4] Acupuncture involves inserting fine, sterile needles into sites along the body’s meridians to unblock energy and allow the flow of ‘qi’ through the body[5].

There is evidence this therapy can treat a range of illnesses, and like many complementary therapies, illness prevention is an important focus. Acupuncture has been shown to be particularly effective for treating inflammatory conditions like tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Massage

Feeling stressed? According to research, a massage, may give you relief from anxiety, muscle tension, and headaches[6].

It’s one of the oldest therapies, practiced by many ancient cultures, in Thailand, India and Egypt. There’s a range of different styles of massage available – but to claim on your health fund, you’ll usually need to go to a Remedial Massage practitioner, who has undergone extensive training.

Yoga

Yoga isn’t just for the young and supple. There’s yoga to suit all types – from the purist ‘Iyengar’ style to the gentler hatha yoga. And whilst in India, its country of origin, there’s a spiritual or religious context, this often isn’t the case here in Australia.

Yoga is often recommended to help improve your flexibility and as a regular practice to help reduce stress.

Naturopathy

If you’re looking to reduce your use of conventional drugs, or increase your wellbeing, naturopathy may be for you. A naturopath will look at your diet and lifestyle, and prescribe herbs or nutrition to promote wellness and healing. In many cases, recommendations from a naturopath can be used alongside conventional medicine, but always tell your doctor and naturopath of the medicines or herbs you are taking.

Important

[1] Chiropractors’ Association of Australia

[2] Osteopathy Australia

[3] International Journal of Health Sciences, Complementary and Alternative Healthcare: Is it Evidence-based?, Syed Amin Tabish, Jan 2008.

[4] International Journal of Health Sciences, Complementary and Alternative Healthcare: Is it Evidence-based?, Syed Amin Tabish, Jan 2008.

[5] Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd

[6] Better Health Channel, State Government of Victoria.