Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. In the United States, the best-known type involves putting hair-thin, metallic needles into specific body points to improve health and well-being. Research has shown that acupuncture reduces nausea and vomiting after surgery and chemotherapy. It can also relieve pain. Researchers don’t fully understand how acupuncture works. It might aid the activity of your body’s pain-killing hemicals. Another theory is that it may affect how you release chemicals that regulate blood pressure and flow.
Ayurveda (i–yer–vay–da) was developed with Yoga more than 5,000 years ago in India, making it the longest continuously practiced form of medicine in the world. Ayurveda is holistic and its primary purpose is the maintenance of healthy mind, body and spirit using daily practices and seasonal routines including diet, breathing techniques, meditation, therapeutic massage and herbal preparations that balance our selves with our environment. Ayurveda seeks the cause of disease and focuses on the unique qualities of each individual for treatment. Individuals seek Ayurvedic therapy for all health related concerns, including digestion issues; insomnia; auto-immune disorders; headaches; depression and anxiety; allergies; diabetes; and skin disorders.
Chiropractic is based on the notion that the relationship between the body’s structure (primarily that of the spine) and its function (as coordinated by the nervous system) affects health. Treatment often involves manipulating (moving) the bones of the spine to correct medical problems. Although practitioners may use a variety of treatment approaches, they primarily perform adjustments (manipulations) to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems, alleviating pain, improving
function, and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself. People seek chiropractic care primarily for pain conditions such as back pain, neck pain, headache and extremity problems.
Some of the ideas that form the basis of homeopathy go back to the ancient Greeks, but the “modern” version is credited to the German physician Samuel Hahnemann of the early 1800’s. The principle of similars (or “like cures like”) is a central homeopathic principle. The principle states that if large doses of a substance cause a symptom, very small doses of that same substance will cure it. Homeopathic remedies are water-based or alcohol-based solutions containing tiny amounts of naturally occurring plants, minerals, animal products or chemicals. People use homeopathy for a range of health concerns, from wellness and prevention, to the treatment of diseases and conditions such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, digestive disorders, ear infections, headaches, and skin rashes.
Responses to the stimuli of life are a reflection of how we view ourselves and the world in which we live and develop. The subconscious mind is a reservoir of information, storing the cumulative data of our lifetime experiences. All that we have seen, heard, smelled, touched and experienced are housed in this warehouse of data collection. This “software program” runs in the background of our minds and has an effect on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Hypnotherapy allows the client, in a safe and relaxed environment, to access information in the subconscious mind that offers clarity to why they think and react the way they do. This type of therapy has proven to be very successful as it often provides answers to questions that the conscious mind cannot access, which can ultimately result in profound healing and personal transformation and growth.
In general, massage therapists press, rub and otherwise manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. They most often use their hands and fingers, but may use their forearms, elbows or feet. Massage is recommended by some health care professionals as a complementary therapy. Supporters believe massage can help reduce stress, anxiety and pain in people who have serious illnesses such as cancer. Many people find that massage brings a temporary feeling of well-being and relaxation. Massage is also used to relieve pain and stiffness, increase mobility, rehabilitate injured muscles, and reduce the pain of headaches and backaches.
Meditation is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions. There are many different types. Generally, a person who is meditating uses certain techniques, such as a specific posture, focused attention and an open attitude toward distractions. Through meditation, a person learns to focus attention. Some forms of meditation instruct the practitioner to become mindful of thoughts, feelings and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way. Meditation may be practiced for reasons such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness or to enhance overall health and well-being.
Naturopathy — also called naturopathic medicine — is a medical system that has evolved from a combination of traditional practices and health care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century. It is guided by a philosophy that emphasizes the healing power of nature. Examples of naturopathy include nutrition counseling, herbal medicines, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, lifestyle counseling and physical medicine, such as therapeutic massage, joint manipulation and exercise therapy. People visit
naturopathic practitioners for various health-related purposes, including primary care, support of wellness and complementary treatment (used in addition to conventional medical treatment) of chronic illnesses as well as acute conditions such as colds and flu.
Nutritional counseling is a type of assessment that analyzes various health needs in regard to diet and exercise. A nutritional counselor helps people set achievable health goals and teaches various ways of maintaining these goals throughout their lifetime. Sessions include a health risk assessment; a personalized nutrition plan; introduction to new foods; recommendations for healthy cooking; and food preparation. Advice in choosing appropriate supplements, herbs and homeopathies is also provided. Benefits of
nutritional counseling include increased energy; healthier lifestyle and food choices; better quality sleep; reduced symptoms of disease; less drastic range of emotions; possible increase in longevity; strengthened immune system; better concentration; and reduced risk for chronic disease.
Qigong is a Chinese system designed to enhance the natural flow of vital energy called qi or ch’i, pronounced “kee” or “chee,” in the body. The process of working toward a regulated, smooth flow of qi is called “gong” (pronounced “kung”). Qigong can involve meditation, breathing and movement with the goal of helping the flow of energy through the body. Internal qigong consists mainly of meditation, physical movement and breathing exercises that people can do on their own. External qigong involves skilled masters who claim to use their own qi to help heal other people. A typical qigong session might have a person sit or stand quietly while thinking about the qi flowing through his or her body and doing slow, focused and ontrolled breathing and movement exercises at the same time. Qigong can also be used to target specific areas of the body where problems may exist. In addition to the type of qigong used for healing, there are two other forms: spiritual qigong, which is used for self-awareness, and martial arts qigong, which is used for self-defense. In the United States, it is used as a form of relaxation and meditation in some health clubs and fitness centers.
Reiki is a healing practice that originated in Japan. The word “Reiki” is derived from two Japanese words: rei, or universal, and ki, or life energy. Reiki is based on the belief that spiritual energy can be channeled through a Reiki practitioner to heal the patient’s spirit. This is thought to help release the body’s natural healing powers. Reiki practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above the person receiving treatment, with the goal of facilitating the person’s own healing response. People use Reiki
for relaxation, stress reduction and symptom relief in an effort to improve overall health and well-being. It is also used by people who are seeking relief from disease-related symptoms and the side effects of conventional medical treatments.
Tai chi, which originated in China as a martial art, is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation,” whereby practitioners move their bodies slowly, gently and with awareness, while breathing deeply. It started as a martial art and means of self-defense. Over time, people began to use it for health purposes as well. People practice tai chi for benefits associated with low-impact, weight-bearing, aerobic exercise to improve
physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and balance and to decrease the risk of falls. It is also used to ease pain and stiffness — for example, from osteoarthritis — as well as to improve sleep and for overall wellness.
Yoga is a mind-body practice in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. The various styles of yoga that people use for health purposes typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation or relaxation. Yoga is intended to increase relaxation and balance the mind, body and spirit. People use yoga
for a variety of health conditions, including anxiety disorders or stress; asthma; high blood pressure; and depression. People also use yoga as part of a general health regimen — to achieve physical fitness and to relax.
Sources for More Information
American Cancer Society
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Duke Integrative Medicine
Mayo Clinic Complementary and Alternative Medicine