We are, for the first time, celebrating National Complementary Therapy Week from March 23rd to March 29th 2020. To some, complementary therapy conjures up a vision of therapists practicing woo-woo therapies, alongside a misconception that what we offer is an alternative therapy.  However, complementary therapy is anything but a replacement to conventional modern healthcare treatments, it is actually quite the contrary. Although many people have in fact called certain complementary therapies ‘alternative therapy’, it actually serves as a useful tool to assist people along with their conventional medical treatment, not instead of.

An example of complementary therapy would be using massage as a way of aiding and improving the recovery of a cancer patient, it offers a non-invasive therapy to help with a clients’ associated symptoms that can be caused from the treatment as well as the disease. The general goal is to help patients to be more comfortable and feel more supported before, during, and after conventional medical treatment. Think of it as a wellness package, be it nutrition, exercise, medications, it’s about finding the right balance for each individual to not only have their needs met, but exceed them.

National Complementary Therapy Week will be sponsored by The Complementary Health Professionals of the United Kingdom, and the aim is to raise awareness of the health benefits of taking a more varied approach to traditional health practices. A well rounded treatment process takes into account a multitude of different factors that affect the patient’s comfort levels. 

As a complementary health professional myself, my goal is to help healthcare professionals achieve the best results and bring complementary therapy back into the forefront of healthcare. This means working alongside the NHS to create solutions and stressing the need for complementary therapies and what they have to offer.

The reason for National Complementary Therapy Week is really to shine a light on all of the different methods that are out there and educate people on their benefits. Massage therapy, aromatherapy, and reflexology are some of the more highly recognised methods in the complementary health care sector, but there are many lesser known techniques that deserve attention. From naturopathy and nutrition, to reiki and sound therapy, there are groundbreaking practices founded in nature, history, and through innovation that allow complementary therapy to have an important place in modern healthcare practices.

To help support a good cause during the week of celebration, the Complementary Health Professionals are raising funds for complementary health services. For this year’s first annual event, they are raising funds for oncology services at the Mulberry Centre at the West Middlesex University Hospital.

Not only do traditional healthcare practices sometimes bring great discomfort to patients, but this discomfort can go unaddressed or misdiagnosed leading to further issues down the line. Complementary therapy needs to be seen as an essential addition to healthcare methods that can help to reduce the burden on the healthcare system overall. Prevention of health issues through proper wellness treatment programs can reduce the number of hospital visits a patient might need in their lifetime. 

Let’s talk about nutrition – everyone knows they can eat better, but do they know how much better it will make them feel? How many hospital visits each year are due to the food, beverage, and medication that we put into our bodies? Complementary therapy helps us tackle this issue at the root, by finding what works for the individual and going from there. Finding the causes of discomfort before the discomfort takes over helps patients lead an easier life.

We don’t quite know to what extent emotional and mental well being has on our physical health, but we do know that it can make all the difference in a patient’s life. Many cancer patients use complementary therapy, such as massage, to help reduce pain, anxiety and aid sleep.

Another form of complementary therapy whose popularity is ever growing is the therapy dog. Having a companion that is there for a patient through difficult periods can provide a much needed emotional support that can be extremely beneficial to a patient’s well being. My dog, Dexter, is always a welcome addition at all of my oncology massage courses.

Over time, our access to medicine and medical treatment has gotten better and better. With modern technology, we have developed medical miracles that are able to treat humans effectively. So why do we keep having so many issues? The healthcare industry as a whole isn’t placing enough of an emphasis on the importance of a well rounded approach to well being. 

Without looking at the different things that can be affecting a patient’s comfort levels, mental and emotional well being, and physical health, how can we properly treat them? Complementary therapy needs to be used in conjunction with modern medicine and technology to achieve the highest standard of healthcare in history. With all of this information at our fingertips, we need to raise awareness about the need for complementary therapies and the benefits that come along with them.

Susan Findlay
Susan Findlay

My name is Susan Findlay and like most of the people I teach, I came to sports massage & remedial soft tissue therapy by way of a journey.

My journey began with classical dance and gymnastics back in my home country, Canada. When your body is the tool that you work with, you learn to take notice of it and it was this interest in the human body that led me to retrain as a nurse.

After working for the NHS, I made the choice to be my own boss. Still in the health and fitness field, I worked with GPs and health centres, setting up different schemes for a range of clientele. Holding 20+ classes a week and running multiple health programmes, I discovered a love of teaching and enjoyed the rewards of helping clients reach their goals.

I retrained in 1996 and gained a Sport Massage and a Remedial Soft Tissue Therapy qualification that helped me to bring all my skills together. This eventually lead me into teaching and writing a book.  As life would have it my focus evolved into becoming a specialist in oncology massage, long before it was trendy and not considered a contraindication.  I now teach a program nationally that offers certification for therapists to offer a much needed and appreciated therapy.  

Although I am the director (and senior lecturer) of NLSSM, I have never given up the practical side of the profession and I still run my own clinic in both North London & Wales. 

Keeping up with the real world helps to keep me inspired and that helps to make me a better teacher.

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