The term “alternative therapy” is basically any health treatment that is not standard in western medical practice. Technically, “alternative” treatments are used in place of conventional medicine; but when used alongside standard medical practices, alternative approaches are referred to as “complementary” medicine.
The field of alternative therapies is very diverse: It can be practices spanning diet and exercise changes, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustment, biofeedback, homeopathy, acupuncture and so much more.
I love this style of medicine because we can all try any or all of them and see what works best for our own self. Nobody will have the same experience, so it is important to figure out what works best for you. For example, I have a chiropractor that I like to see when needed, but my husband prefers another chiropractors way of practice – the great thing about this situation is that we both have someone in the field of alternative medicine that helps us get our mind and/or bodies to a healthier place, in a natural way.
Below are some of the Alternative therapies that I have tried or had my family use for one reason or another.
In “acupuncture” you may immediately think of needles. The super small (you can’t even feel them) needles are placed in the same meridian channels throughout the body. Meridians are channels that carry life energy (qi or ch’i) throughout the body. The reason is that illness can occur when one of these meridians is blocked or out of balance. Acupuncture may also add some electrical stimulation, which doesn’t hurt at all and has been known to be very helpful when needed.
One of my favorite parts of acupuncture is Cupping. Imagine glass cups that get suctioned to your body. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue and even migraines.
Acupressure is similar in practice to acupuncture, only no needles are involved. Practitioners use their hands, elbows, or feet to apply pressure to specific points along the body’s “meridians.”. Acupressure is thought to relieve blockages so energy can flow freely again, restoring wellness.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils (concentrated extracts from the roots, leaves, seeds, or blossoms of plants) to promote healing. The oils can be inhaled, massaged into the skin or taken by mouth, and each has a specific purpose: Some are used to treat inflammation or infections; others are used to promote relaxation. There are so many oils, with such a variety of healing purposes. They are great to have on hand and use in your home to diffuse in the air. Just make sure they are pure and plant based – the synthetic ones have zero health benefits and can cause harm when applied to skin or inhaled.
4. Ayurvedic Medicine
Ayurveda, also known as Ayurvedic medicine originated in India and has been around for thousands of years. Practitioners use a variety of techniques, including herbs, massage, and specialized diets, with the intent of balancing the body, mind, and spirit to promote overall wellness. This can be a way of life. I have dabbled in this, but I look forward to learning so much more. There is so much involved in this way of life and medicine, so it will require its own blog.
Biofeedback techniques allow people to control bodily processes that normally happen involuntarily—such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature—in order to improve conditions including high blood pressure, headaches, and chronic pain. Patients work with a biofeedback therapist to learn these relaxation techniques and mental exercises. In initial sessions, electrodes are attached to the skin to measure bodily states, but eventually the techniques can be practiced without a therapist or equipment. Relaxation seems to be a key component, as most people who benefit from the practice have conditions that are caused or exacerbated by stress. Couldn’t we all use some Biofeedback?
Homeopathy functions in much the same way as a vaccine: It’s based on the principle of treating the “like with like,” meaning a substance that causes adverse reactions when taken in large doses can be used—in small amounts—to treat those same symptoms. This concept is sometimes used in conventional medicine, as well; for example, Ritalin is a stimulant used to treat patients with ADHD. Homeopaths gather extensive background information on patients before prescribing a highly diluted substance, usually in liquid or tablet form, to jumpstart the body’s natural systems of healing. I used this with my kids a lot when they were young and I did find it helpful.
Reiki is a form of energy healing based on the idea that a “life force energy” flows through everyone’s body. According to this philosophy, sickness and stress are indications that life force energy is low, while energy, health, and happiness signify a strong life force. In a Reiki session, a practitioner seeks to “transfer” life energy to the client by placing their hands lightly on the client’s body or a slight distance away from the body (Reiki can also be performed long-distance). The purpose is to promote relaxation, speed healing, reduce pain, and generally improve the client’s wellbeing.
Hydrotherapy is the use of water, both internally and externally and at varying temperatures, for health purposes. Also known as water therapy, hydrotherapy includes such treatments as saunas, steam baths, foot baths, contrast therapy, hot and cold showers, and water therapy. According to proponents of hydrotherapy, cold water causes superficial blood vessels to constrict, moving blood flow away from the surface of the body to organs. Hot water causes superficial blood vessels to dilate, activating sweat glands, and removing waste from body tissues. Alternating hot and cold water is thought to decrease inflammation and stimulate circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Chiropractors diagnose and treat disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system through a drug-free and hands-on approach, with an emphasis on spinal manipulation. Chiropractors are also trained to recommend therapeutic and rehabilitative exercises. Chiropractic care is pretty widely accepted in our medical community. The practice focuses on disorders and pain in the back, neck, joints, arms, legs, and head. Chiropractic adjustments of the affected area are intended to restore mobility and loosen the muscles, allowing the tissues to heal and the pain to resolve. This work can be done manually or with instruments. The instruments are less invasive and mostly used on babies and children.
Network Spinal Analysis is new to me. In fact, I am currently getting this care on a weekly basis to learn more and see the benefits it brings to me. Network Spinal Care is a lesser known method of chiropractic care that focuses on connecting with the nervous system in order to free the tension around the spine that is causing misalignment. Network Spinal Analysis differs from traditional chiropractic treatments because it focuses on the tension that is being caused by a malfunctioning nervous system. The tension is typically in the root of the problem, so Network Spinal Analysis is effective at working on a cure, not just masking pain. More to come on this one.
Reflexology involves applying pressure to specific areas on the feet, hands, or ears. The theory is that these points correspond to different body organs and systems; pressing them is supposed to positively affect these organs and a person’s overall health. For example, applying pressure to a spot on the arch of the foot is believed to benefit bladder function. A person can either use reflexology on her or his self or get help from a reflexologist. A lot of people around the world use the therapy to complement conventional treatments for conditions including anxiety, cancer, diabetes, kidney function, and asthma.
There are so many other alternative therapies out there, but these are the ones I have had experience with, in my life. I find it fun to explore different methods and learn to see how they work. Post below and share your experiences with us. What has worked or hasn’t worked for you? What symptoms do you have that is making you curious to try different therapies?