The Misuse of Complementary Therapies
Published : 14/02/2021
Today, Denise expresses her continued concern about the continuing misuse of complementary therapies and and reinforces the need for both complementary and conventional health practitioners work within their professional boundaries. She says:
I continue to see some extremely alarming social media comments and suggestions on the use of complementary therapies. Some of the posts recently have included:
- A woman whose husband is in intensive care being ventilated for Covid, whose nurses agreed that it was acceptable for her to bring in an essential oil diffuser to “ease his breathing”. This is one of the most worrying incidents I have seen. Whist diffusion of specific oils may aid respiration for people recovering from Covid at home, the very fact that this man is in ITU means that he needs specialist medical and nursing care and aromatherapy is completely contraindicated at this time. Further, it is frankly irresponsible of the nursing staff to agree to this: obviously they have no understanding of the dangers of diffusing oils in an area where people are in life-threatening conditions and how they may affect, not only this man, but other patients in the unit.
- Various reflexology “professional” groups with numerous questions asking whether reflexology can “heal” particular medical conditions or what reflexology treatment should be done to treat specific medical conditions. These questions are usually followed by numerous helpful suggestions from therapists who obviously do not understand the pathology of the conditions being discussed and do not appreciate their professional boundaries. Some of the conditions mentioned are so serious that the reflexologist should not be treating them at all yet there appear to be no posts urging caution, just total amateurish enthusiasm. In any case, reflexologists are not permitted to treat medical conditions unless they have undertaken extra training, are insured and preferably also communicate with the relevant medical doctor.
- Reflexologists posting pictures of feet and asking what various changes mean, for example, lines, bulges or cracks on the feet. I have discussed this before and it worries me that these people make sweeping statements and giving supposed “diagnoses” without any knowledge of the person’s history, symptoms or other factors that need to be taken into account when treating clients.
- Certain essential oil companies advocating that oils can be taken by mouth as medicines. Again, this irresponsible publicly-available information is extremely dangerous and risks causing serious adverse effects, especially when used as an alternative to essential medical care. Oral administration is not part of aromatherapy practice and should only be advised by medical practitioners who have been trained to use essential oils as medicines.
There are several issues with these posts. First is the lack of understanding of the general public about the risks, as well as the benefits of therapies, notably aromatherapy oils. This is a continuing problem and experienced therapy practitioners, as well as conventional healthcare professionals, need to keep putting the message out there to the public.
Secondly, nurses (or midwives) who enthusiastically condone the use of complementary therapies or natural remedies without any knowledge or understanding of the potential dangers, are putting their patients in jeopardy, and risking mistakes that could lead to loss of their professional registration. This is particularly significant when people are seriously ill, since the therapies could complicate the medical condition or interact with drugs.
And thirdly, the credibility of professional therapy practitioners is seriously undermined by a few individuals who seek to overstep their boundaries. I have worked with many reputable practitioners of reflexology and other therapies who specialise in working with people with diagnosed conditions, especially cancer patients or expectant parents. They have undertaken additional training and understand how to apply their experience of using the therapy to the physiology and pathology of the person’s condition.