Alternative Therapies

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Guide to Wellness Forum Health-Approved Alternative Therapies

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Naturopathy is the use of natural means to build and maintain health – it focuses on non-invasive and non-toxic ways in which to restore the body to homeostasis. The best definition I have seen of the philosophy of naturopathy comes from an article written by Nicholas Calvino, a chiropractor and Master Herbalist candidate. He outlines the basic tenets of natural medicine as follows:

  • Biogenesis – means that only life can beget life. In other words, a substance ingested into the body that does not contain a living principle cannot heal. Therefore, only living food can sustain a living organism.
  • First do no harm
  • The healing power of nature – the physician’s role is to facilitate this with non-toxic therapies. Dr. Palmer, the founder of the chiropractic school that bears his name, stated that “the body needs no help in healing, just no interference.”
  • The healing power of food.
  • Discover and treat the cause. Symptoms should be viewed as the body’s natural attempt to heal, and therefore should not be suppressed. Rather, the underlying cause of the symptoms should be identified and interferences to healing removed so the patient can then heal.
  • Treat the whole person. Disease is multi-factorial, and involves spiritual, mental, emotional and physical dimensions, all of which should be considered in treating disease.
  • The physician as teacher. The physician’s role is to educate, empower and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health.
  • Vitalism. The body is a self-healing, self-regulating mechanism. The power to build and maintain health lies within each person, who must take responsibility for achieving a healthy state.
  • Prevention is the best cure.
  • Wellness- centered care. Health is more than the absence of disease, but rather a state of total emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.
  • Patient-centered care. The characteristics of a patient centered approach include self-healing, respect for the patient’s values, beliefs and dignity, and involvement of the patient as a partner in health promotion.
  • Illness vs. disease intervention. Disease is defined as a biological event characterized by pathology in the structure and/or functioning of bodily organs and systems, while illness refers to the patient’s subjective experience of a disease. Patients can determine the degree of dysfunction and their illness-related behaviors in relation to their subjective experience of disease. Both social and psychological variables affect perception, interpretation and reporting of illness-related dysfunction.

As you can see, this description is quite different from the western medical model, which focuses on symptomatic relief, short amounts of time spent with physicians who tell people what to do, the use of toxic, synthetic substances, and dealing with individual body parts as opposed to the whole person.

Note that the patient has to take the principal responsibility for the building and maintaining of health, which is a major paradigm shift for many. And, note that this model focuses on the building of health, not just disease treatment, which is ultimately where everyone should aspire to be in order to maximize quality of life.

Ayurvedic medicine
Ayurveda, first described in Vedic religious scriptures dating from 1200 BC, is considered the traditional medicine of India. Central to Ayurvedic philosophy is the belief that optimal health consists of physical, mental, and spiritual harmony. The pathway to harmony depends on the individual’s predominant dosha, or constitution. Ayurvedic practitioners interview new patients in great detail about their personal as well as medical history. The four pillars of Ayurvedic health maintenance are: (1) cleansing and detoxification, (2) palliation, (3) rejuvenation, and (4) mental and spiritual hygiene. Diet is an important concern in Ayurveda, but specific dietary recommendations depend on the individual’s body type.

Traditional Chinese Medicine
The system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated from Taoism some 4,000 years ago and, like other traditional systems, goes beyond prevention and treatment of disease. Health care is viewed as one of several means to a good life–defined as the individual’s harmonious interaction with the community and with the physical and spiritual environment. Includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, acupressure, qi gong, and oriental massage. The most striking characteristic of Chinese medicine is its emphasis on diagnosing disturbances of qi, or vital energy, in health and disease. Diagnosing in Chinese medicine involves the classical procedures of observation, listening, questioning, and palpation, including feeling pulse quality and sensitivity of body parts.

Acupressure is an ancient Chinese technique based on the principles of acupuncture, and involves the use of finger pressure (without the needles) on specific points along the body. Chinese cultures believe the points to be junctures of meridian pathways that carry energy called chi (the Japanese call it ki). Acupressure massage therapy stimulates and activates the body’s own energies to help fight illness and restore harmony. Some of the Acupressure points are significant as they relate to a specific part of the body while others are more general in their effect.

Bach Flower Essences
Taking the essences of specific flowers to help with a wide variety of emotional issues.

Healing Touch
Healing Touch is an energy-based therapeutic approach to healing. Healing Touch uses touch to influence the energy system, thus affecting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and healing. The goal of Healing Touch is to restore harmony and balance in the energy system to help the person to self-heal. The quality and impact of the healing is influenced by the relationship between the giver and receiver.

Contemporary Western homeopathic medicine, based on the work of the German physician and chemist Samuel Hahnemann some 200 years ago, aims to stimulate the individual’s innate healing processes through the administration of minute “homeopathic” dilutions of specific remedies. Derived from the Greek homeo, meaning same, and pathos, meaning suffering, homeopathy essentially treats “like with like”. The patient describes his or her symptoms in detail, with equal emphasis placed on both physical and psychological symptoms. The practitioner then prescribes very small, nontoxic doses of a selected substance that, at higher doses, would produce the same symptoms in a healthy person.

Polarity Therapy
Polarity therapy is a comprehensive health system involving energy-based bodywork, diet, exercise and self-awareness. It works with the human energy field, electromagnetic patterns expressed in mental, emotional and physical experience. In polarity therapy, health is viewed as a reflection of the condition of the energy field, and therapeutic methods are designed to balance the field for health benefit.

A form of massage in which pressure is applied to certain parts of the feet and hands in order to promote relaxation and healing elsewhere in the body. It is a science based on the belief that each part of the body is interconnected through the nervous system to the hands and feet. Stimulating specific reflex points in the feet can bring needed nutrients to poorly functioning areas of the body. This can help restore balance throughout the body.

A therapy based on Eastern concepts of energy flow and the seven energy centers in the human body. The purpose of treatment is to heal emotional, spiritual, and physical, pain through the transmission of universal life energy, called “ki” in Japanese. It is believed that “ki” flows throughout the universe, and that Reiki connects humans in a more direct way to this universal source. Reiki is used for the healing of animals as well as people.

A non-invasive method of body-mind movements to break and release deep- seated physical and mental problems that restrict the range of motion of muscles.

Hypnotherapy processes interact directly with inner consciousness to find core issue causes of problems in a client’s life. Clients can examine beliefs and thought processes that are giving rise to emotional, physical, mental and spiritual problems and make changes at the core level from which the outer manifestation originates. With changes at the inner levels of consciousness the outer projection changes.

The use of scents to promote healing, whether through the olfactory system or through topical application.

Ancient form of acupressure, used in Japan to treat pain and illness and for health maintenance. Practitioners apply rhythmic finger pressure at specific points on the body in order to stimulate chi, or vital energy. Can be used to treat stress, circulatory problems, depression, asthma, headaches, diarrhea, bronchitis and many other disorders.

Also known as structural integration, rolfing aims to restore balance to the body and realign its structure. Rolfing is a form of deep massage to work on the body’s connective tissues and improve posture.

Alexander Technique
A therapy of massage and manipulation combined with verbal instruction. This physical re-education can be used to improve posture and movement to help alleviate muscular-skeletal tensions.

Craniosacral Therapy
Developed originally by William Sutherland and developed further by Dr. John Upledger, CranioSacral Therapy is a manual therapeutic procedure for remedying distortions in the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord, the bones of the skull, the sacrum and interconnected membranes. It is used to treat chronic pain, migraine headaches, TMJ, and a range of other conditions. For decades, various forms of CranioSacral Therapy have been used to improve overall body functioning.