5 Popular Alternative Healing Modalities
There is no question that the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is growing substantially. Current statistics inform us that four out of every 10 adults in the U.S. are using some form of CAM therapy. These therapies can be used in a complementary (alongside conventional medicine) or alternative (instead of conventional medicine) manner and include many of the topics I’ve covered in previous posts, including diet-based systems, yoga, meditation, breathing, massage, energy healing, etc.
Today, I’d like to give a brief overview of five practitioner based modalities that may offer healing support for those who either prefer a natural approach or who have not always had success with conventional approaches on their own. The idea with most of these therapies is that the body is holistic in nature and that the mind and body are connected.
This practice originated in China thousands of years ago and is an integral part of Chinese medicine. It has grown substantially in popularity in Western cultures during the past several decades and is most frequently used to treat chronic pain. Considered by acupuncturists to be a complete healing system, appropriate for the prevention and treatment of any disease or health condition, acupuncture involves placing thin needles in specific points along the energy meridians that exist throughout the body. The belief is that by doing so, the energy flow is rebalanced, allowing the body to naturally heal from disease or pain caused by imbalances.
Even though there are a vast number of studies backing up the effectiveness of acupuncture for pain, scientists are unsure as to why exactly it works. Some Westerners believe that the needles stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissues, increasing blood flow, releasing endorphins and encouraging painkiller activity. Regardless of why it works, there is evidence stating that acupuncture may be more effective than standard conventional pain treatment.
Founded in Germany in the late 1700s, homeopathy like many of the alternative healing methods described here relies on the body to self-regulate and heal itself through mild intervention. The main idea with homeopathy is that like cures like. Therefore, by administering a very diluted concentration of the active ingredient at the source of the illness or health condition, the body’s natural healing system becomes activated.
These remedies usually come either in pill form or as a liquid mixture. The belief is that the diluted form still contains the memory of the active substance and works effectively without being harmful to the patient (which would be the case at higher concentrations). Finding the right remedy among the thousands that exist requires a well-trained homeopathic doctor who conducts a thorough health analysis of the patient at all levels of wellness - emotional, mental, behavioral, physical, etc.
Chiropractic care is based on the belief that our bodies have an innate ability to heal themselves and that through slight adjustments to the joints and tissues, the proper mobility and communication between the brain and body is restored. In contrast, when blockages are present in the spinal column, destruction and disharmony occur first at the cellular level and later inside of the tendons and organs. Without clearing these blockages by receiving regular chiropractic adjustments, health, vitality and wellness are compromised and the body is less able to perform its normal functions properly. Chiropractic care is a complete holistic system, in which diet and lifestyle are essential to the healing process.
In this type of therapy, the patient is guided into a very relaxed, trance-like state that allows him/her to reach a heightened state of awareness. In this state, the patient and therapist are able to work together to explore hidden memories as well as the source of negative thought-patterns or habitual behaviors. This can be particularly effective for those with chronic fear, anxiety and stress related problems. Since stress is a root cause of many physical ailments, it can also be an effective treatment for diseases and other chronic health conditions. Through the process of suggestion, the therapist can support the patient in developing new thought patterns and behaviors, and to relieve the symptoms associated with both mental and physical pain or distress.
This alternative treatment method teaches you how to self-regulate the functions of your body, that normally operate automatically. Initially, you will be connected to a monitoring device that will give you instant feedback on changes to your skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate or blood pressure. Exercises include meditation, guided imagery, visualization and relaxation in order to control the functions of the body. This can be helpful for treating a diverse number of mental and physical disorders and health conditions.
 (n.d.) Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/news/camstats/2007/camsurvey_fs1.htm#therapy Park, A. (2012, September 11). Acupuncture may offer real relief for chronic pain. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/11/acupuncture-may-help-reduce-chronic-pain-after-all/
 (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/homeopathy-topic-overview
 (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/biofeedback-topic-overview
Kara wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Food & Nutrition.